26 February 2007

Me, again!

This is a short post---possibly the shortest i have ever written! Enjoy!

I have this talent, or curse, depending on your outlook. I have the innate ability to adjust to new places. With in a few days I feel at home somewhere—the new culture, language, food, the look of the area, cars, people, etc. Things quickly become normal to me, or daily grind—or something. I’m not sure how to explain it. It’s a talent, b/c within a few days of moving somewhere I feel like I’m at home, comfortable. Because of this, I can get down to normal, doing my job, going to work, my daily life. However, it’s a curse in that the excitement and magic of new places, new countries, and new continents quickly fades. Within a few days I stop noticing the differences between my old life/place and new place, and everything becomes ordinary. It makes it very difficult to write home about my new homes, because after three days it all looks and feels the same to me. I can’t discern between what is new and would be weird, exciting, or interesting to people back home. I just forget that what I experience daily is possibly odd. I COMPLETELY think my life in Ethiopia is normal. Everyone experiences life like I do in Addis, like I do in the field. Right? I can’t even give you examples of what I mean, b/c I think my life is normal. I only know it’s true when people visit me and point out things I haven’t noticed since my first week in country. This happened in Moldova and now here in Ethiopia. I know, it sounds crazy, but possibly it’s how I’m able to do my job. I am sure I could live and work anywhere, just give me 3 maybe 4 days to assimilate. Okay make that anywhere in the developing world. I can’t guarantee I could assimilate to life in San Diego, Chicago, or even NYC. Too easy maybe or maybe I find the developing world too easy.

My point in all this is I am in a new place—and thus the magic is back. Coming to Kenya has ignited my excitement and realization; I live on the African continent. Africa! The place you see and hear about all your life in America; like it’s a myth, a place that doesn’t really exist, except in movies and the news. You only see it on globes in school, and hear about it like it’s a place that used to be. It’s surreal. Even books about the area include the words, ‘lost,’ ‘vanishing,’ or ‘what was before.’ The place civilization started, Africa. Here I am in Nairobi. Capitol of Kenya, located in East Africa in the famous Rift Valley. Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately it is nothing like you imagine. Nairobi, or Nairobbery as it is nicknamed because of its high crime rate, is a bustling city with anything and everything you can imagine. Major Hollywood pictures playing, sushi restaurants, J Crew stores, Mercedes, everything. To be honest, I have seen very little of Nairobi, but the little I have seen is exciting. The people I have met, mainly GOAL Kenya and GOAL South Sudan staff are great. The South Sudan program is currently managed from Kenya, but they are working on opening an office in Juba. To be honest, Nairobi makes me feel like I am in NYC. I know all my NYC friends and family just groaned in disgust, but if you had moved from Addis to Nairobi, you’d feel the same way. Actually, I met an American today who is married to a Kenyan from Nairobi. When they went to the US for the first time, the only place he felt like he was at home was NYC, thus validating my opinion. Right? In short, Nairobi is more developed then Addis—not nearly as many people as NYC or tall buildings, but the diversity of people is more like NYC then Addis, plus the plethora of shopping centres and restaurants. And, in case any of you had any doubts as to my complete nerdiness, the best part so far? I found WHOLE OAT oatmeal at the local grocery store. YUMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hope to see more in the next few weeks, possibly the ‘real’ Nairobi; not where all the expats live, where Kenyans live. I plan to visit the project areas of GOAL Kenya, including street kids programs. It’s my third day here, and by yesterday it seemed normal. It’s just like every other major city in the world. Hopefully when I get out into the rural areas and other parts of Nairobi I will see and learn more. But for now, Nairobi is just a big city with lots of people from all over the world.

Okay—back to Ethiopia. Hopefully I will have more stories in about a month—keep your fingers crossed. My job has various side effects, good and bad. I live with a stomach constantly unsure of it’s status. Is it sick? Is it well? It doesn’t know. I don’t understand 80% of the conversation going on around me. Is it about me? Nice? Mean? I don’t know and have to learn not to care. I get to see countries most people will never visit on a very personal level. I get to understand on a household level, a country most of the world assumes is one big desert with people always in a famine. I get to see the beauty, culture, and absolute lushness of Ethiopia—everyday. One of the side effects that has both positive and negative effects is my time in the sun. I do believe I am my tannest I have ever been in my life; even including my 7 years at 7-Peaks (a water park in Utah for those unaware. I worked there until through HS and college!)! It’s fascinating how tan my skin has become, I didn’t know it could do brown. Okay, not really brown, but definitely NOT white. However, everything comes with a price. My tan is what I like to call a reverse-trucker-farmer tan. Meaning, my legs and shoulders are whiter then the day I was born (remember I work in a conservative society, no shoulders, nothing above the calf, etc), but my neck and arms are brown. AND, what is distinctly noticeable is the fact that my right arm is MUCH darker then my left. (I call it the reverse trucker, as it is on my right side b/c I am the passenger, not the driver). I am told even the right side of my neck is darker then the other. Nice, very very nice.

Okay—I need to get back to the work of getting back to Ethiopia. I hope you are all well. When I have seen more of Nairobi I will fill you in, but for now I can only tell you the Paneer Tika is delicious, the grocery store has jiffy peanut butter, and Diet Coke is available.


Clare said...

Hi Jess,

I love reading about your time in Africa and understand about the things becoming routine. I am now living in Cambodia. Been here for about a month. Last Saturday night I went out to dinner with Van Nelson (who says HI). He just opened up PC here in Cambodia. First group of volunteers to be sworn in very soon! And Molly Lamphear who has FINALLY left Moldova and was here visiting. Also Patricia, who was not a volunteer but in Moldova at the time we were. Anyways, I have photos up on my page of the encounter. Amazing how small the world is.

Jenny said...

Hi Jessica,
your mom just sent Broadie, who sent me an email abut senior missionaries turning down calls to Africa... I was floored! I would much rather go to Africa than Boise, too, lol. Heck, I'd rather go before I was a "senior". Like, just as soon as Matt's done with school, the Army, and our kids are a bit older.

Oh, and I'm with you on the sheep... yuk. I eat meat, but won't touch sheep.. double yuk.