Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Still Cliff-Note'd It

"How could it be the BEST of times AND the WORST of times...at the SAME time!?" I can recall exclaiming to no one in particular my disdain for Charles Dickens. I would complain to my 9th grade English teacher that "A Tale of Two Cities" was the bane of my existence and that no matter how vivid his description of the "rosy fingers of dawn" were, I could not fathom such an antithesis as his opening sentence. That was many years ago, and I'd like to think that Mrs. Meinke would be pleased to know that at long last I've come to appreciate the aforementioned realization. How I've come to understand the juxtaposition of the pains and joys of my daily life. Sometimes it is impossible to classify a day as "good" or "bad" when, at this emotionally strenuous time in my life, my mood shifts like the bay winds and I can cry at the drop of a hat. It's frustrating when my coworker guilts me into giving him phone credit and when another takes advantage of my typing skills to write up his curriculum vitae and neither of them says thank you. But when I see Tina jumping excitedly in her chair after she'd just learned how to copy and paste or when I see the boys outside laughing and wrestling in the sand, my earlier frustrations do not seem to matter. I've written of the rollercoaster of less than desirable events and unexpected pleasures of my life. However, I'd begun this entry citing an author's simple-yet astute-observation of a people going about their lives as best they can despite extenuating circumstances. That is what life is like here. The poor, huddling masses exist here, and no matter how many social scientists, aid/developent agencies or doctors come here to explain away the problems, the bottomline is that most Mozambicans (and indeed, most Africans) have been given the short end of the deal. I get asked for money, food and drinks on a constant basis. It can drive a girl mad. But I, like Chuck Dickens, have to come to my own realization as well-everyone's just trying to get by. Everyone's just trying to survive the worst of times by downing a few cold ones to have some best of times, and if that means asking a stranger for a few mets, so be it. I went to a lecture once in which a professor from Côte d'Ivoire responded to an audience member's question about the plight of the poor in Africa by saying, "They have a lot of joy." Well, yes, and that's evident in the hearty laughs I hear each morning, noon and night coming from my compound. But these smiles cover the worried minds that think about how to feed families and how to protect homes. Wait, is that not what every person wonders, African or not? I guess, Mr. Dickens, as much I hate to admit it, suffice to say that you stand to be right centuries after your book was written.

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