life as it is

March 14, 2008

In case you are tempted to suspect that life here in “paradise” is too good to be true, I thought perhaps I should take the occasion of this day’s events to illustrate that life is life wherever you happen to be living it. In doing so, my intention is not in the slightest to put a damper on my desire to embrace all that life here on the island has to offer; rather, I would simply like to make note of the fact that we must embrace the negative aspects of life as well as the positive: it is only in living through the muck that we can survive to enjoy the goodnesses.
That said, a bit about my day . . .
It began in a usual manner—if one can have a “usual” after only 9 days of life in a new country. At any rate, my usual so far is, of course, a long run, listening to my current podcast. This morning it was a speaker on a popular Christian radio series.
After running a load of laundry, making a few logistical phone calls about the funeral, choir practice, and youth group meeting, I headed out to walk into town for groceries. En route, a friend passed and asked if I needed a ride. Turns out she was also headed to the grocery store, so I hopped in with her and her young niece. As we drove we talked a bit about some of the food costs and the ways that we are learning to save here and there so as to manage the escalating prices. I was saddened as I listened to her, with the weariness evident on her face as she spoke of how difficult is was to make ends meet. I almost worried about our conversation’s appropriateness for 7-year-old Devonia. But then I remembered that I don’t like the idea of censoring “real life” conversations from children—for the most part, that is ☺ Arriving at the store, we made our respective purchases, chatted with neighbors there, and headed out again. I thanked her for saving my kingfish filets from a hot walk home, and they headed back to Sports Day at school.
Next on my agenda, after lunch, was a walk back into town for a quick stop in at the bank—which was really an excuse to take the route passing the beach, which already has a rather powerful pull on me! As I walked I heard a shouted “Hey!” from the workers on the construction site I was passing. Now here I must interject an aside for those of you not accustomed to much traveling or moving around: as a woman, I have developed a thick skin when relying on walking as my means of transportation; I have learned to walk with a stubborn single-minded gait, and with ears that are quick to feign deafness.
Consequently, I immediately assumed the need to pretend I had not heard, for the sake of conserving the small amount of time I had left in my day before the next appointment. I listened carefully as I walked, however, in case I were to hear a valid reason for turning my head. I did not. What I did hear, after several more shouts of “Hey! You!” was a rather startling call of “Whitey!” It took me a moment to process this call, but once I had, I spent the rest of the walk into town and back wondering exactly how I felt about this name. It occurred to me that I was actually a bit hurt on one level. Thankfully I have a “family” here, in the church I am a part of, and in the children and youth I work with. As a result, I am not as easily wounded as I would have been in some of my international stints. But it was a thought-provoking event all the same, making me ponder the ways in which living abroad makes one face a certain amount of prejudice simply by nature of being an obvious foreigner. What I mean by this is that being different in an external way makes you labeled in a manner that local folks simply are not—you lose a certain amount of individuality by nature of having an externally obvious “mark” of difference, as it were.
Once home, I dressed and composed myself for the funeral. This was my first public event where I would be up front for more than just my own church, as this was going to be a pretty well attended funeral for the community. Our song went well [it better have, after a practice that lasted until 10:00 pm the night before!], and the funeral was a simple, tasteful affair. I had never met the deceased, but his 86 years of life were paid good tribute to by his children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. As they always are, the ceremony was a helpful, needed reminder of the necessity of living a mindful life, focused on the long-term and on the truly significant things in a culture that beckons us to be waylaid by all manner of pressing trivialities.
And now my day is done—and I am glad. It is a sweet thing to be back in my peaceful home, alone with my thoughts in a house that is blessedly devoid of any noise save that of the passersby in the street and the roosters next door. It is strange how easy it is to adapt to the quiet of no TV or radio when so recently I was surrounded by that hum in most areas life required me to be at any given moment of the day!
But like I was saying, at the beginning of this post that is turning into quite a wordy one, is that life is the same messy life here in paradise as it is anywhere where life exists. Such is the human experience. And I would not trade it for anything—except perhaps the life that is to come, the life that this present messiness hints at, with tantalizing glimpses and dreamlike moments . . .

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