TIA Tales – cabin fever
Why is the grass always greener on the other side?
Well for an ex-pat I think it’s fair to say we swing wildly in a bizarre cycle of brimming joy at where we are and homesick despair, trying to decipher if we are more at home amongst the lush green grasses of the Western world or the yellow sun-drenched swaying ones of the African continent. When I first came here I knew the answer – it was Africa. Now it’s still Africa, but the green green grass of home does seem very… well, green sometimes!
Part of the problem is that as a ‘Western’ child (no I don’t mean the kind with cowboys and Indians!) you are presented with all the spoils of the Western world – and don’t get me wrong I am unendingly thankful for that. I’m not talking about jewelry and smart cars, I’m referring to theatre, art, history, culture, restaurants from all around the globe, fashion, literature, music and multiple events put on for our selection and our entertainment. We are taught to extend aspects of our personalities, to try things, to develop multiple skills. And then we come to Africa.
At first we wonder at the beauty of the simplicity, you even get used to not having access to certain foods, to modern culture. But then suddenly the sheen wears off and
Small niggles can escalate to cabin-fever delusions of a desperate need to get out of Mwanza.
It all started on Sunday where we woke, hungover again, and watched TV… all day. When it got to 6pm and I was determined to try to actually do something with my day I realised there really weren’t any choices. Almost everything we do around here revolves around drinking or television. The only reason I hadn’t noticed that is because I am constantly creating a project of my own – an article, a novel, a craft fair, the charity ball, and before all that a 6th form with lesson plans and marking and a school play, a survival weekend, a fashion show, you name it I’ve done it. This is the first time since I moved here that I’m not doing ten things at once and in the eye of the storm… it’s boring! Because if you don’t make something happen, nothing will happen. I miss there just being things to do.
‘Only boring people get bored’ I used to tell the kids I teach. But actually it can be tough to be self motivate 100% of the time.
Anyway, I just so happened to email a friend who is currently away about all my moans and her response made me smile. Even as I was writing to her I was thinking – I sound like a spoiled ex-pat with no idea about what’s really important. And I did. But I thought it was ok because I was writing to a fellow ex-pat who would understand. What came back was precisely what I needed to hear – I won’t quote her precisely but here were her points – after just a few weeks she had begun to be overwhelmed by the: massive consumerism; sickly advertising; people’s small issues getting blown out of proportion; expectations that she wear the right clothes, have the right gadgets, drive the right car; debt; politics; the weather.
In Mwanza we have great friendships with room for people of all kinds; a lifestyle that means we can sit beside Lake Victoria any evening, pop to the Serengeti when we want to; share our lives with people who will show you every day what is important; travel; grow. But you have to be tough like that African grass if you want to get the best of it.
She’s right of course. We live under the African sun, it’s mango season and it turns out… it’s all good!… I was just coming down with the flu – that’ll always explain a bad attitude!
Now I’m off to visit some mining camps and drive about the country for a couple of days taking photos ☺. Plus I know I’m getting my ‘fix’ pretty soon when I visit the UK for Christmas – no doubt then I’ll be complaining about the cold and the consumerism, blah blah blah. I must just remember that I just like the grass wherever I go and I’m so privileged that I get to try so many different kinds (and not in a weird pot-head kind of way!).