Thursday, March 17, 2011

Making Memories

To my surprise, March has started out being much hotter than February. The other day, I had to go into town for groceries and mail. After finishing all my errands I went and sat on the curb in the hot sun for an hour waiting for a taxi to come. I was not alone, there were approximately 75 other people also waiting for a taxi to take them home. Normally, in the afternoon there are 4 or 5 taxis lined up waiting to go, but that day was pension day, meaning the taxis were busy else where. As I sat and waited, I was plotting how I was going to get a seat on the taxi when it arrived. What you have to first understand is that, when there are more people than there are seats on taxi, courtesy falls by the wayside. It's every man for himself, as twenty people try to pile into the taxi before it has even come to a complete stop. It often becomes brutal as people push and shove, there's hair pulling and yelling as people fight for a seat. Another taxi pulls up as a throng of people attempt to get aboard. I was in no hurry to get home, so I sat and watched as the mayham went down. After several taxis had come and gone, someone walked up to me, grabs my second bag of groceries and says, 'Nokuthula, we are getting on that next taxi.' And like all the people had done before us, we had the door open and we were climbing into the taxi before it had come to a complete stop.

So there I am, stuck sitting in the worst seat, the back row, squished between two voluptuous African women with my two big bags of groceries on my lap. The taxi, aka 'the death trap,' is flying down the road. The door is about to fall off, there's dirt blowing in my face and I fear that the seat underneath me is about to collapse under the weight. Despite the wind blowing, the sun was shining right on me, I could feel the sweat rolling down my face and back as the sweat from my neighbors drips down my arms. The driver has the music up so loud you can't hardly hear yourself think. All I could think about was how miserable I was at that moment. But then I took a step back and looked at the bigger picture - 'I am in Africa!' A big smile came to my face as I thought about the fact that just over a year earlier this was exactly the kind of experience I had imagined. When else in my life am I going to get the opportunity to be completely immersed in another culture. I only have to do this for two years where as everyone else has to do this their entire life. What was a miserable experience a couple seconds earlier evolved into an experience that I will forever look back upon and smile, because twelve months from now this will all come
to an end and I will return home to a life of 'normalcy.' These will just be distant memories, stories from a different lifetime, a different world. As hard as it is at times, I am trying to make this a positive experience, an experience I can share with others years down the road.

(The picture to the right is of a women carrying firewood on her head. Electricity is available to most in the village, however, many people can't afford to pay for such a luxury. Thus, they must collect wood everyday for cooking.)


Ash said...

A letter to you is on its way!!

Flint said...

Erin, well said. Life's oddities when taken into perspective can always provide you with great memories and even better stories. As hard as it may be now, you will miss a lot of it when your no longer there.

Heather said...

Erin, how far do people have to travel every day to get wood? I would think that it would be sparse over time? Since you shared the taxi, do you all pay the same amount? I cannot tell you how many years I have wanted to be a teacher overseas. It is a dream come true! But this school is just sucking the life out of me and I have never worked so hard in my life. I hope to take away a new perspective and a stronger sense of self. That is what gets me through the rough patches.. hell, they aren't "patches".. it's more like trekking through smelly mud.

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