Friday, May 3, 2013

Six Month Blues

Yesterday was my six month mark in Kampala.  This gave me some pause to think about being 25% done with my tour and to reflect on what the last few weeks have been like.  I am well-acquainted with the various phases of culture shock - I loved using the roller-coaster analogy and talking about this with Saudi students right before they left for studies in the U.S. since it gave us all a chance to laugh at cultural differences - and am not naive enough to think I am immune to the ups and downs.  But it still sometimes takes an external event or anniversary to make me think critically about how the length of time I've been in a place affects my mood and outlook.

I've traveled relatively little in the last six months, which is unusual for me.  And I haven't left this continent, which is even more unusual. Trips to Ghana and Kenya, while amazing and wonderful, didn't exactly give me the break I need from the few things that try my patience here.  And really there aren't too many of them.  But, right around the 4.5-5 month mark I started getting slightly more irritated with the little things.

You all know what I mean.  These are the things that you thought novel and quaint when you first arrived.  "Oh, isn't it sweet how the boda boda drivers weave their way in and out of traffic!"  "Oh, look at that perfectly-formed pothole!  Why it's big enough to swallow a car whole!"  "Oh look, there's no butter at the store for the third week in a row!"  "Oh, isn't it efficient for the cars, bodas, matatus, pedestrians, school children, goats, cows, and chickens all use the road at once in such a perfectly choreographed dance!" 

Right about now I would write those sentences quite differently.  And I think you can spot the pattern - my major frustrations come from driving and sitting in traffic.  I absolutely love driving in general, but I've grown to dread it here.  I really need to hire a driver.  This has been a terrible week for road accidents around Africa, and the dangers of the road are pretty apparent to me right now. 

On the other hand, there was butter and cream at the grocery store last weekend, so I count that as a win. 

I feel lucky that I don't have any big culture shock complaints, and I don't feel dreadfully homesick, as I sometimes do at this point in a tour.  That said, I was pretty disappointed to learn yesterday that I didn't get into a training class that would have brought me to DC for a week and then NH for a week of leave.  I'm consoling myself, though, in that I am now free to spend some time in London with one of my best friends and a whole host of other friends!  I booked the flights today and now have a light at the end of the tunnel.  The Tube.  Borough Market.  High tea.  Walking for hours and discovering amazing things.  Marks & Spencers food hall.  Orderly queues.  Museums and parks and monuments and more.  ATMs.  I can't wait!  It's not quite the same as going home, but it's a direct flight in premium economy class with wonderful people and one of my favorite cities at the other end.  And it's a chance to reset, regroup, and return with a fresh perspective.