Archive for September, 2010

reading boxes

Instructions are such strange things, as are expiration dates. I noticed today that my vitamins are over 3 months expired, but what does that even mean? Best by…, so they’re still pretty good after. I throw the moldy ones out, but that happened even before expiry.

This afternoon, I decided to clean out the corner of the program room where chaos and frogs have taken over (seriously). I threw away trash, avoided stepping on frogs, and discovered some long lost purchases for the girls, including a 500 piece puzzle and animal shaped bracelets. I decided it would be fun for the girls to be able to work on the puzzle over the weekend, so I cut the box open.

Inside, there were four separate plastic bags with puzzle pieces. My only thought was, “This place is so funny about packaging”, which is true. I cut each bag with relish and dumped them back in the box. I brilliantly thought to put the top on the opposite way to straighten out the smashed corner, which is when I saw the picture on the front. Or should I say pictures. Four of them to be exact. My stomach dropped as I thought, “No, it’s not possible.” But there it was in English and French, “Four 500 piece puzzles”. Four 500 piece puzzles? One 500 piece puzzle would be a challenge for girls who have never completed a puzzle before, but 2,000 pieces from 4 similar puzzles mixed together? My only consolation is that they weren’t of winter scenes.


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The normal rules by which I am accustomed to humans and insects living don’t seem to apply here. Spiders stay in the corners of rooms. Ants come if there is food left out. Mosquitoes remain outdoors (for the most part). It’s just these little laws, these little structures around which I’ve built my perception of normal and my expectations of appropriate insect behavior. Spider on the neck=not appropriate. Cockroaches up the pant leg=nightmarish. Mosquitoes that live in toilets=unnatural and violating. I think most people would agree. There are just some places more convenient for discreet scratching than others. I remember discovering the toilet dwelling mosquitoes for the first time. I lost some piece of innocence that day which can never be restored. I’ve mentioned it a few times, but there’s a rage that rises up inside of me when insects behave outside of what I would consider appropriate boundaries. Cockroaches on my bed, mosquitoes in my toilet, centipedes in my bedroom. Not where they belong. It’s like those Highlights magazines in the dentist’s office. What doesn’t belong? I would pick these out in a line-up of spades and rakes any day.

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culture shocking

(written awhile ago, but sort of still relevant…)

I did fairly well when I first came here. Nothing really bothered me about living here, besides the obvious things like the poverty. I actually genuinely enjoyed life, and pretty much from the beginning, I’ve wanted to extend my time here. Then June happened.

Apparently, culture shock is the worst at three months then again at around eleven months, and probably goes on from there. I couldn’t understand why I was struggling so much, why everything was bothering me when it never had before. It seemed if I was going to struggle with the culture, it would have happened early on. I guess not. Since everyday life is looking very different now, I’m also being exposed to a greater level of cultural differences, which probably isn’t helping the issue.

If you ever travel, use the following to help gauge your level of culture shock.

I have this crazy commute that seems to draw all hope for a brighter life right out of my soul. All that before 8:30 in the morning. Ok, to be honest, the morning commute really isn’t that bad. It’s long, but I enjoy the short naps I get in the back of the autos. It’s the ride home after a long day of cultural and lingual miscommunications that either crushes me or significantly depletes my emotional reserves.

The horns. I don’t even know where to start with them. Every variety of rhythm (you may not have known that they can be installed with programmed melodies…just for future reference), volume, and length. I thought I had fantasies about destroying them when I first moved here. Now, I have to actually restrain myself sometimes.

The number of men I’ve seen urinating is distressing. The median, really? I miss being ignorant about some things. Dead or dying animals, the horns, the exhaust in the auto, the halted traffic, the horns, the exhaust, the horns.

The good thing about culture shock is its normal. I felt really guilty for the first few weeks. It felt like somehow I was betraying my friends by struggling with life here. If I was meant to be here, if I was connected to God’s will for my life, then I should love everything all the time with a smile. Not so. Sometimes loving something, even a place, is a choice. Sometimes, I have to breathe deeply five or six times and remind myself that the man driving my auto is not trying to be the last person I ever see on this earth, he’s just trying to make a living, and quickly. The bus driver that jerks and halts suddenly is not hell bent on making me fall over, he just had his brakes replaced (okay, that one is a bit of a stretch). The horns are not directed at making my life miserable, but just something to be ignored, or drowned out. (there’s a challenge for Bose) I have to force myself at those crucial moments of near cracking to pry open my eyes and look at the world around me again. See the prayer flags. Notice the funny political graffiti. Watch the chubby children in school uniforms walk with their moms. Imagine all the different forms of hovering air crafts you could invent.

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