So much has happened in the past three years . . . I've learned a new language well enough to build friendships, work, and live in a new place . . . I've begun learning another new language so that I can better understand the culture where I work . . . a small empty room was transformed into a multi-service physical therapy department . . . a new profession was introduced to a big village, with a strange name, situated between two speed bumps along Niger's Main Street . . . I've witnessed the birth of babies, and the last breath of the sick . . . I've logged countless miles in planes, trains and automobiles . . . I rode a camel, ate a horse (and snails, and rabbit, and pirana eyeballs, and more types of cheese than I can count) . . . I've said goodbye to friends and made new ones . . . I've lived in three countries on three continents . . . and all of that is just on the surface.
This road I find myself traveling has had twists and turns and bends that I could never have imagined . . . most I haven't felt fully prepared for . . . and some I wasn't sure I'd get through 'still standing'. I have learned deep things about myself, my faith, my beliefs, my God.
And as I stop to process and weigh through things . . . figuring out what I'm feeling and how to communicate it . . . I find myself at weird junction between Africa and the States. Somewhere between then and now . . . between what was normal and what now is . . . and while I'm still not sure about the deep stuff, I'll break the silence with a few of my first impressions:
- I forgot that it's okay to drink water straight from any tap.
- Stores have choices, lots of them.
- It feels weird to eat with my left hand.
- Everything is green . . . from the grass on the ground to the cleaning products on the grocery shelf.
- Fruit has fixed prices . . . and it's considered invasive and rude to ask the vendor how his work is going, and how his health is, and how is family is doing, and how his house is.
- Buildings have stair cases inside . . . and some even have elevators.
- I like wearing pants.
- I hate wearing closed shoes . . . and I really don't like socks.
- Cheese and chocolate come in multiple varieties and don't cost a small fortune (nor do they taste like a semi or the inside of the grocery store).
- It's okay to be more interested in the cracks on the sidewalk than the strangers walking past.
- People walk dogs . . . they don't ride on donkeys or camels.
- No one notices when I get on the bus . . . and small children don't hide or cry in fear when I walk by.
- There are such things as movie theaters, shopping malls, cafés, and train stations.
- Sleeping with warm blankets beats fans and air conditioning.