Friday, July 13, 2012
Today's picture is from 1862, and shows a family arriving at home, and unpacking.
Well, I am happy to say that I arrived safely back home. I am sorry I did not post the last couple of days, but was in transit, and now am rested and back on the job. I am certainly happy to be home, and it was wonderful to see the lovely Mrs. PJM once again, but I must admit that I left a large part of my heart in Africa. It is hard to describe, but everything just seems more "real" there. The risks are real, the dangers are real, and at the same time there is an incredible sense of taking great pleasures in the small things in life. In my time there I grew accustomed to unpasteurized whole milk right out of the cow. I am not sure I will ever adapt to that white colored water they call milk here. Even sugar there tastes better. Here, our highly refined sugar is simply sweet. In Africa, the sugar is made locally from locally grown sugar cane, and it is hard to describe it, but it actually has a rich flavor to it besides being sweet. The bananas, pineapples and mangos are bursting with flavor and unlike anything you can get here. The breads are made from fresh, locally produced flour, and have wonderful flavor.
Besides the food, many other things just seemed more real there. First, I immensely enjoyed the fact that there is no TV there. So, people spend much more time interacting. I developed the habit of walking to town every day and having lunch at a local cafe. Even though I was there a short time, I made many friends. On a typical day, it would not be unusual for me to run into a dozen people I knew on my walk to town, and each person would stop and take the time to chat with you for a while. A very enjoyable experience.
I will not lie to you though, many aspects of things there are difficult, and you must adapt to. First is the constant threat of illness such as typhoid and malaria. You have to be extremely careful to not get typhoid or various strains of food poisoning. You have to constantly be on guard for mosquitoes as one bite can mean a nasty bout with malaria. If you are careful, and diligent, you can stay healthy.
You also have to adapt to a new lifestyle when it comes to eating. The biggest thing for me had to do with meat. Here, it is not unusual for meat to be the largest part of your diet. There, you simply can not get beef or pork, and at best you might be able to find a little chicken. Even with Chicken, the meal would be LOTS of rice or Ugali, and just a little bit of meat. For a typical chicken dish, you might get the equivalent of a chicken thigh or wing. The meat ads flavor to a meal, but is not the main course. For beef, you simply can not get it. I tried for several weeks, but found that at best the meat was so tough and so much gristle you could not eat it, or even more likely, the beef was rotten. You see, the electricity typically goes out every day there, and it is not unusual to be out for 24 hours at a time, so even if the beef is in a freezer, it is constantly being thawed and refroze as electricity comes and goes. So, I had to get in the habit of eating more grains and fruits, and maybe having just a bite of chicken a couple of times a week.
Another tough thing is the issue of showering. There are a lot of things that combine to make showing not so much fun. First, there are not hot water heaters. At best, the shower heads heads have a small electric heater built in. They are called "Suicide Showers" because the shower head heaters plug directly into 240 volts, without a GPS or other circuit breaker. So, if any small thing breaks in the shower head, you get zapped. The best way I could describe it would be that it is like stepping in the shower holding a toaster that is plugged in and on. The shower head does not really heat the water, but just makes it where it is not bone chilling cold. Not by any means a hot shower though. Then, the water pressure is very low, so you just get a dribble of water. Then, the water is very soft. So, between the low water pressure and the soft water, it is very hard to get the soap rinsed off, and almost impossible to get shampoo out of your hair. Of all the things I notice about being home, the one thing I most appreciate is a good hot shower.
So, that is a quick summary. I will say that I am already making plans to return to Africa as soon as I can. Stay Tuned!
Saying Good Bye to Georgie