Monday, February 18, 2013

Random Pieces of Learning

I had a meaningful conversation just this morning with a local friend regarding the subject of excuses. Businesses here are obsessed with the excuse, almost to the point of loving having a reason to not get things done...

"Sorry. Couldn't answer your email.  The power was out."
"Sorry. Can't come today.  Flat tire from a pothole."
"Sorry.  We got tired of restocking shelves, so we're not selling anything that people buy too quickly."
"Sorry. We are closed today because we are not open." (Seriously-just saw that sign on the door of a pharmacy yesterday.)

Very normal.

So here is my excuse.  I was electrocuted this afternoon.

Very abnormal. 

But seriously.  I was electrocuted this afternoon.  (Picture Timmy on Jurassic Park, minus the blood coming out of his ears.) And while I sit here giving our security fence the stink-eye, grateful it wasn't our three-year old or my right arm, I am thinking I’d like to say that this excuses me from producing a quality blog today.  I have such a hard time writing this blog on a normal day, let alone ones in which high voltage has gone through my brain.

Don't get me wrong; I love writing this blog on most days.  But I find myself tiptoeing on Well It's Africa much of the time, which makes it difficult. I am constantly challenged to communicate our experiences without stepping over the line of what is allowable for me to say while we're at the whim of our host country.  And I still feel ignorant, which just won't do when I am attempting to be as accurate as possible without making generalizations.  I avoid the subjects I feel too ignorant to speak upon; but after posting even simple thoughts on Well It's Africa, I still go to bed nervous that I've said too much. I learn what Africa means every day in some new way, and recognize I am moving forward.  But it's slow. 

In the meantime, despite my list of excuses, please be entertained with silly fluffy things, like observations about big spiders and fascinating bird beaks, as well as some of the harder subjects I skim, but wish I could expand upon more, like the complexities of being an affluent white American girl in a culture that is… different.  

Here are some more random pieces of learning, while I recover from my "shocking" afternoon:

-Speaking of fences, metal and plastic objects are often used on fences around game parks and farms to keep wildlife from walking or stampeding into them. 

-B.Y.O.V. ... Never assume how anything is done here.  Two weeks ago I made an appointment at the doctor's office, where Kurt and I were to get the final dose of our Hep A vaccination, right on schedule.  Except that after sitting in the waiting room for a while, one important detail was clarified.  We were supposed to bring the vaccinations.  Doctor's offices do not keep vaccinations because of power outages.  You buy them at a pharmacy first, then take them to a doctor to inject. I missed that one.

-Pudding is a funny thing in Africa... When the hostess at a Christmas Eve party we attended went inside to "get the pudding," I was surprised to watch her return with brownies, cake, cookies, and well, more cake. (They love their cake in this country!)  "Pudding" is a term that can be used to describe any assortment of desserts.  Pictured above is what you get if you specifically order a dish of "pudding" in a restaurant... cake covered in a sweet sauce.  Jonas is having to re-adjust his definitions...

-You can get ice cream in Africa.  In fact, a local market here even sells Haagen-Dazs… only $17 for a small container. Other prices for luxuries: 
Small package of diapers- $25
Container of make-up foundation- $35
Small bottle of sunscreen- $30-$40
Container of contact solution- $30

-Life does not stop for child-care. Here are how almost all Shona babies are carried in our country: wrapped in a bath towel, legs stretched around the back of their caregiver.  One can tell if a woman is slightly wealthier, because she will be wearing a towel that matches her clothes.  It does not matter if it is over 100 degrees; babies are bundled to their chins in these for hours a day, sleeping with their heads hung sideways, lulled by the motions of their carrier.  It is cute, but it results in many bow-legged Shona babies who get little time running around.