distractions

{During the move from the old website to this one, I came across this post. I drafted it a few months after our return from Tanzania – back in 2011 – but for some reason never posted it. Rereading it I can tell you that I still have these feelings: of missing time. Missing the boredom that came from having fewer distractions. Missing Africa.}

A few months before my return to the states, a friend- a wise friend- told me that the transition to “normal” life back home [in the US] can often be harder than transition to life in [insert foreign country here] and that the ways in which my time in Tanzania impacted me, changed me, might not become obvious for many months. “It has changed you,” she told me, “there’s no way it couldn’t have. But you might not know how, exactly, for a while after your return.” On some level I knew she was right, but at the time I couldn’t see how. As I was leaving Tanzania (and I know that I’ve said this before) I couldn’t wait to come home to all those things that I desperately missed living oversees- things including the services and amenities that developed countries offer, the company of family and friends, my favorite foods, anything other than the same 3 pairs of pants I brought with us to Arusha- that I couldn’t see beyond my excitement of returning to those things. I couldn’t see that enthusiasm eventually wearing off, and coming to terms with what was left behind, in Africa.

Now, some 8 months later, I find myself going back there. Often. My memories and thoughts turn to Arusha several times a day and I am filled with sadness. A great sadness that lately is difficult to shake. It seems my wise friend was right.

Interestingly, what I now miss being away from Africa is far more powerful than the longing I had for any of those things previously listed. What I miss most is time.

There were so many days in Tanzania where that’s really all I had. Time.

We didn’t have radio. There was no TV or streaming TV. There was no no Netflix or Hulu or even reliable internet for mindless surfing. We had fewer friends, which meant very special and distinct times were set aside to be with them. It was a treat, not a chore.

And there was time to think. Time to read. Sometimes it was all you could do. And sometimes you couldn’t even do that because there was no power. So instead you went to bed- at a reasonable hour- or prepared food for dinner, or went grocery shopping or to a friends house or just played outside in the yard, again. Sure, it was frustrating and boring at times, but the alternative (which I find myself engaging back at home) is exhausting: now there is always something else to do, always the option of something else to do, that is seems like we should always be doing. And it leaves me feeling empty.

The difficulty I’m having is recreating that physical, distraction-less environment here at home. It takes real willpower. Willpower which I apparently don’t have. Not yet anyway.

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2 thoughts on “distractions

  1. What a great post, Kiyah! I’ve never lived in Africa, so I don’t have that contrast in my personal experiences, but I do find myself sometimes wishing there was less in my life – just LESS. Yet it is hard to let go of the distractions when the people around us are caught up in them too. They somehow start to feel necessary instead of optional.

    I think one small step in the right direction is simply starting each day with some conscious thought given to "how do I want to spend this day?" or maybe trying to carve out one day a week to unplug and not have anything scheduled. (I say this, but do I actually do it? Not so much…)

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    1. Ellie,Thank you for reminding us that you don’t have to have lived oversees, with less, to want less in your life. And I think your idea to start each day with a conscious thought given to how you’d like to spend each day, and even what you’d like to get accomplished and how you might make time for not accomplishing anything (and defining for yourself what that actually looks like!) is certainly a step in the right direction!

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