not quite a year
Eight months is an odd length of time. It’s not quite a year, but it is sufficient to feel, in certain moments, like a lifetime. When people ask me how long I’ve been here (this question is usually the instant follow-up to introducing yourself in ex-pat life), I’m often compelled to say “month and a half, but feels like three years.”
It’s not that I don’t enjoy my time here, because quite honestly, there’s no where else I would rather be and I’m incredibly fortunate to have an opportunity to explore my passions and the world simultaneously at such a young age. It’s just that when you’re in a place for a predetermined amount of time, it’s easy to be very conscious of the date, of how much time has passed and how much is left.
After arriving in Kampala, I struggled between getting comfortable in a place that was temporary (I am constantly battling my desire to buy a blender and insisting that eight months is not enough time to buy appliances, which is ridiculous) and living in the moment in a place that, like it or not, is my home for the next little while.
Recently though, I’ve found myself saying home and not meaning Ottawa, not meaning Canada, but meaning my home atop the little hill in Mengo, Kampala. In this revelation, I started recognizing things I have been doing that, despite my “home is Ottawa” mindset, distinctly mark an established routine and well, life, in Kampala:
1) I bought a bed set: I feel the need to emphasize how huge this is by indicating that I spent my first month here in fear of the blanket I was provided with (it was brown.. and not naturally) and shivering under the thin piece of fabric provided by Ethiopian air.
2) I can give directions: Albeit, not greatly. But I can direct a boda driver to my home, or a taxi driver to my favourite breakfast place. When driving, I no longer feel like I’m passing through a sea of unknown, instead, there are fleeting moments of recognition.
3) I go grocery shopping: Initially, I maintained my stand point that I would eat corn flakes and soy milk everyday and that would be that. Who needs vegetables, or you know, nutrients? Not me. Recently, I’ve established a routine of actually buying food that will maintain my health, and caring about what I’m eating. As someone with a million and ten food allergies, it’s been a vicious battle and often times I lose, but it’s a learning process that has led me to some incredible finds like all natural peanut butter (there is a god) and home made salsa! I have yet to use my stove (fuelled by a huge gas tank in my kitchen), but this is mostly out of fear than inconvenience and cooking with a kettle is surprisingly versatile.
4) I played hide and seek with a cockroach, and won: Okay, more accurately, my security guard won. I screamed like someone in mortal danger, equipped with a bottle of bug spray and a plastic cup (my hope was to trap the monster underneath and drag it out of the house) and jumped every time it so much as flinched. After I opened my front door, my security guard nonchalantly dragged it out of the house and stepped on it (I should mention all while laughing hysterically at my expense). Note: spraying inordinate amounts of bug spray in a small apartment where the windows are barred shut may lead you to think you’ll die of toxic inhalation by morning.
5) I went to zumba: After weeks of “yeah, yeah, let’s check it out next week”, a few of us finally made our way to Cheza which is a beginner’s zumba class in the city. It was hilarious, and fun, and… a place of self discovery. Like, maybe, just maybe, I’m not a natural hip shaker, especially when the instructor yells “shake it harder” over and over and the only thing this inspires is shaking from laughter.
What I’ve been thinking as of late is that it’s okay to be conscious of time in a place that is strange and feels innately polar opposite of home. It’s easy for your mind to wrap itself up in counting days and concerns about what to do next. Something my lovely friend Savannah reminded me about, though, is that a year ago, we would have killed for this opportunity and now here we are in it, living it. This is what I have always wanted to do, so while it feels like eight months is too short of a time to call a place home, it’s also too long of a time to do anything but live in the moment.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape.”