If you are an avid reader of this blog, you will know only about three things about me. My name is Jacob. I am in Africa. I love my job and helping people. (and that I love parentheses…) Well, in this issue I will let you know a bit more, just for the fun of it. I am going to attempt to share a bit about me and life by myself on a different continent, without talking too much about myself (and make it worth your while to read my little post).I could talk about life in Zambia and water and all that stuff for days, but you would be bored after the second sentence. Instead of telling you all that’s going on and what I am doing, I will focus on the three questions I am most frequently asked regarding my new life (and how these questions could relate to you one day): how long did it take and how hard is it to adjust? What do you miss the most? What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen? (totally not sure how to punctuate that last group of sentences. Shameful.) How long did it take and how hard is it to adjust? The adjustment from life in America to life in a third-world, African nation can be a bit tricky. In fact, it’s almost hard to compare both lives because they are so utterly different. For example, here, you can be stuck waiting extraordinarily long periods for the most mundane things. A friend from the States posted this week that they were tired of waiting at a fast food restaurant after 10 minute. A 10-minute wait is cause for celebration here. If you need to check on the status of a processed order or permit, you don’t get to hop online and search for your name. You have to go to an office and wait in a queue (line) to inquire. Time is not valued as a commodity here. It’s completely expendable. Getting used to that is not an easy task. Cultural differences also play a role in the adjustment phase. They are too extensive to bother you with here, but needless to say a new person here has to put forth a good amount of effort to be aware of cultural issues. In fact, I think I will continue learning these for years. It’s not something you can afford to get wrong many times. Just being without the normal comforts of life definitely takes an adjustment. Take a clothes dryer for example. Or nice, smooth roads. Or electronic banking. Or household air conditioners. Or unlimited cell phone contracts. Or “safe” neighborhoods. Virtually all of these are nonexistent here. None of them are particularly awful on their own, but doing without all these plus more takes some getting used to. And finally, the hardest thing to adjust to is not being with family and friends back home. I have made lots of friends here, but the thing about friends in a developing country is that most all of them are short-term people who come and go. It’s fun and depressing at the same time if that makes any sense. How does this impact you? Not really sure, except that you could keep in mind that your friends or people you know living overseas are probably all going through similar things and would always appreciate a letter or fb note to help ease things. On to question #2 (sorry if you’re bored already. The others will be shorter). What do you miss the most? Dr. Pepper, my kitchen knives, the availability of any kind of spices for food, potable tap water, free refills, comfortable temps while sleeping and working, and hearing from friends and family. Yeah, I know these are simple things, but life without them plus more isn’t quite the same. Oh yeah, and reese’s pieces. How does this pertain to you? Ummm… don’t take the small stuff for granted. It’s super easy to swing by the drive thru and enjoy your whopper in your Accord and not think about how nice every aspect of that is. So just stop and enjoy the small things. Every day. What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen? I see amazing things almost daily, so it’s hard to say. If you go check out my fb page, you will see the pictures I just uploaded from Namibia. THAT was an amazing place. Should be on your bucket list. Seriously. In Zambia, I have seen some waterfalls and mountains and rivers and wildlife and people stopping to help strangers dig out of the sand and Victoria Falls (one of the natural wonders of the world). Yet, nothing compares to the faces of the people whose lives are going to be just a bit better because of my little life. Those kids’ eyes that are searching for hope. The old ladies who can barely walk, but still must carry 40 pounds of water up steep hills. When we come with a message of hope, their faces light up and the glimmer of hope can be seen in their faces. That beats anything I could see or do. What’s the take away here? Seeing the most beautiful things the world has to offer scarcely compares to empowering other people to help themselves in a way they didn’t know was possible. You don’t have to move to Africa to feel that.
Just do yourself a favor and read “Toxic Charity” by Robert D. Lupton before you go help. Prepare first and make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Then experience life’s most amazing joys by lending a hand. For more on the adjustments, you can head over to these L IKS to read my 5 lessons in adjusting to life here and dealing with a polychromic time structure (google that). Thanks for reading my post. Sorry it turned out to be so long. Cheers, Jacob.