Friday, November 15, 2013

A Chronicle of Something Good

Ok, it could be Friday night euphoria talking (I made it!), but it dawned on me during my drive home, that of late, I haven't been focusing very much on the good things here in Malawi. It's been a tough week. Nothing I couldn't handle, but none the less.

I had a discussion with my friend Deb before departing for Malawi about happiness. She was wondering when she's ever be "Happy". I mentioned to her that my thinking on the matter had changed over the years. Happiness isn't a static state; it's more of a fluctuation. One doesn't flatline at happiness; you hover above and below it, like a sound wave or a a frequency. The net effect - the average - is happiness.

With that in mind, the troughs are easier to take because it's only a matter of time before you hit a peak. The problem is that we really only take time to mark the troughs (Ugh! My day was so crappy! My boss did blah blah blah, I feel so fat, etc, etc). So, when we look back at the days, weeks and years, we have a negative reporting bias rather than the average hi's and lo's.

In the spirit of more positive reporting - and just in time for Thanksgiving - here are my positive things about my life in Malawi thus far:

  • I have really, really enjoyed re-learning how do cook things from scratch. Hummus, pumpkin pie, salsa, local chicken (with neck and feet stuffed into the rib cage). I am Martha Stewart ON FIRE. I can't wait for Thanksgiving, because I"m planning a huge feast for 12 of my friends. My table is going to be full of fresh flowers from trees in my garden and mismatched plates. It will awesome.)
  • The food here is more 'fresh' and 'local' than any hipster could ever dream of. If you don't eat your produce with two days, it will start to rot. Tonight I made salsa from tomatoes that were still warm from being outside, green chili peppers pulled from my friends garden, and coriander/cilantro that still had dirt on it. All the while, chickens were clucking outside my back door. It was the best damn salsa I've ever eaten.
  • I love the way things are MacGyver'ed (yes I made up a new verb) around here. It reminds me of being on the farm. Don't have the right size screw? whittle a stick down to the right size. Don't have the right screwdriver? Use a coin. Don't have a bed net frame? Make one out of bamboo. Yeah, the net effect is a little like living in Swiss Family Robinson and usually works only half the time, but it makes me feel so capable. I'm using parts of my brain I never knew existed. I am also really missing duct tape.
  • Constant battle with bizarre bugs where I WIN. Last week it was cockroaches, recluse spiders and scorpions. Just two seconds ago, an African centipede (an inch thick and twelve inches long) wandered onto my porch. After freaking out, I deflected it into my garden with a pillow. I am terrified, I am still bigger than these bugs. There's something to be said about constantly facing your fears, and winning (atleast in the bug wars). 
  • Instant Community. Expats and Malawians alike. I've met some wonderful people who have accepted me with all my homelessness, larium induced hallucinations and poop stories. There are some co-workers who also don't suck. It's a pleasure to get to know these people, and create a community of my own here.
  • The smells. Ok, so I still don't understand how a place with so many flowers can always smell like urine, but for the most part, I enjoy the rich, heady smell of the outdoors.
  • I love that it gets light at 5am here. I often get up early and go for a walk. The fact that it is cold and snowy in Minnesota right now isn't lost on me. 
  • I am thankful that I my family and friends have been so supportive of this move. I've learned a ton about myself and what it takes to run an office (officeS) in Africa. Growing is painful, but atleast now I know how to fix a generator.
A co-worker of mine back at HQ once said to me, when he first started, "I feel like I should be more busy." I told him not to worry, he would be. Taking the easy days as they come (instead of second guessing them and trying to find busy work), makes the days where you are dogpiled a bit easier. Today wasn't a true "easy" day, but it was "easier." No matter, I'll take it. And now I have a record.

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