Sometimes I miss having electricity. Surprising, I know. But on nights like tonight when it’s getting dark and the kitchen is dirty and I’m behind on dinner (and just about everything else) because I have typhoid and Andrew has a fever and the only light I have to use is a headlamp – sigh, I miss it. On nights when the simple flick of a switch could save my candle-lit dinners (and candle-lit face!) from the barrage of kamikaze praying mantises and moths, it’s hard not to wish for a little western comfort. When I’m skyping with a friend and my internet runs out in the middle of our conversation, so I plug in my dead phone to my computer to call her back but then my computer quickly runs out of battery and my phone shortly follows suit – it’s easy to miss the luxury of a wall outlet.
Sometimes I miss having a bathroom. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty laid back kind of girl who doesn't need much in the way of luxury, but every once in a while…I’d rather not have to walk out to the latrine in the middle of the night, blearily scanning for snakes with my headlamp and squat over a too-small too-square hole in the cement floor while hoping a cockroach doesn't crawl out onto my foot. I used to love the idea of using a squatty-potty full-time, I really did, but that was before my knees started to pop. Oh, and don’t even get me started on out-door basin baths in the rainy season. Polar bear swimming, anyone?
Sometimes I miss having clean feet. It may sound strange but it’s true. Coming from the world of sterile apartments, carpeted floors, and closed toed shoes more than half the year, my feet only got good and dirty when I wanted them to. But here, my huts are anything but sterile, all my floors are cement and impossible to keep clean (not to mention we don’t wear our shoes in the house) and my feet don’t even know how to fit into closed-toed shoes anymore they've been in Chacos for so long. Out here a person’s feet won’t stay clean 5 minutes after being washed. It’s like a law of the universe that only applies to Africa.
Sometimes I miss life without mosquitoes. No mosquito net on your bed, hemming you in at night, making you afraid you’ll jut out an elbow in your sleep and get gnawed on through the net. No nasty smelling mosquito spray at night to keep the thirsty buggers off your ankles. No more malaria! Sometimes I could really do without the whole, “Gee, I feel great this morning. I think today’s gonna be a great day.” Fast forward one hour to me in bed feeling terrible with a fever, backache and killer headache. The malaria strikes again! That’s not to mention typhoid (which I’m currently not enjoying) or brucelosis or tuberculosis or a whole host of other crazy illnesses this place is harboring. The whole lot of tropical diseases are just plain evil if you ask me. I’d take a gold ol’ fashioned American cold virus any day over one of these.
Sometimes I miss Colorado and the mountains and the change of seasons. I miss the family and the friends I've left behind, as well as the opportunities I've lost to be a part of their lives. I miss the privacy of western culture and the anonymity I have when I am not merely a rich white skin framed by a country black and poor. I miss being blissfully unaware that the medical treatment, medicine, food, water, transportation, housing, clothing – basic rights – that I completely take for granted are heart-breakingly out of reach for so many people in the world. Sometimes I miss the days when these people weren't coming to my house everyday asking for everything I have and they don’t, while I debate whether or not giving it to them will make them come back tomorrow for more. I miss the days when giving to the poor was simple. I could donate to a distant charity; I didn't have to deal with a real person, like an AIDs sufferer who lies about needing medical treatment just so he can get 5 bucks for booze or a friend who has a well paying job yet throws it all away to become a witch doctor. I didn't have to deal with people lying to me, cheating me, manipulating me all to get something from me.
Sometimes it’s easy for me to get discouraged on days like today, when I’m tired or sick or dealing with other people’s drama. It’s all too easy for me to miss “home” and miss the “easy life”. On these days, I have to remind myself that my life is not about my comfort, but about my Father’s kingdom. I must remember that it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. My Rabbi did not come to seek and to save the found, but the lost. On days like today when my flesh balks at the discomforts and difficulties and disappointments of this life, I press all the more into my Rabbi’s words:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”