I want to write more often. Really I do.
The thing is, I think people like to read light, humorous, type writing – The kind of writing where the writer see’s everything through a sepia tinted ‘find the good in everything’ and ‘filter out all the gloom’ kind of lense.
And there’s our problem. I don’t generally do filters.
I think people want Tigger. Not Eeyore.
Yet so very often Africa brings out the Eeyore in me. Eeyore unfiltered.
Friday is grocery day. I start Friday grocery day with yoga deep breathing, because I hear that breathing deeply is what calm people do. So I breath very, very, deeply and I think happy thoughts, because apparently that will also help me to be a calm smiley person.
I drink tea, and make a shopping list.
My shopping list has three columns.
The 1st column is my ‘ideal nutritious food for the week’ column.
The 2nd column is my “Cant find ingredient, need to be flexible’ column.
The 3rd column is my ‘Hate living in this God forsaken country,’ column.
Column 1 consists of imported goods like breakfast cereal, yoghurt, and butter. I mean really, I’m not talking quinoa and ‘Green and Blacks’ chocolate people, I just want regular old cornflakes and spreadable butter. Please.
Column 2 consists of ‘plan B’ generic branded imported items, which do not ever ever taste the same, but hey, it’s not a bad thing to go without the things we like and to practice flexibility. After all we are not in Africa for the excellent cuisine, are we. Column 2 also will consist of ‘plan c’ items, where there is neither the ideal nor generic brand and therefor one must make the shift from thinking ‘cous cous’ to thinking ‘rice’. Again.
Column 3 consists of no food names, but rather just the words Hate hate hate hate.
Column 3 represents getting to the chicken freezer and finding the choice is chicken feet or crocodile steak. Or getting to the cereal isle, and finding the choice is 10 rows of generic all bran. Only. Or getting to the cold meat counter and reaching out for smoked ham to discover that what is labeled smoked ham is actually sliced cow tongue. And sliced cow tongue ain’t happening in my house.
So, I ‘yoga breath and think happy thoughts’ through my shopping list and head into town.
4 ATM’s later I resign myself to the fact that, once again, the person whose job it is to fill up the ATM’s with cash, clearly has forgotten that its his job and is most likely asleep under a tree somewhere.
I can’t fill up my car because fuel stations only take cash, and so breathing deeply and thinking happy thoughts, I head to the office to swap cars with Bails, because Bails always has fuel, whereas, because I have some weird self-destructive inability to notice the fuel gage on my car, I always have none.
Armed with full fuel tank and my cheque- book, I head to the grocery store.
What follows, is entirely dependant on which column I am being forced to operate in.
Operating in column 1 consists of happy breathing tinted with just the tiniest bit of smug delight that I got to the store on the day after delivery day, coupled with frantic texting to all my friends to share the wonderful news that on the shelves I see not only balsamic, but also (dear God, can it really be true…) apple cider vinegar.
Operating in column 2 commands deep breathing through slightly flared nostrils and clenched teeth as I frantically scan my list, and run down isles, throwing non-generics into my cart before someone else wipes out the shelves and praying for anything. Anything, that won’t cause dinnertime melt down on a nuclear scale.
Operating in column 3 usually entails breath control that is verging on hyper ventilation accompanied by the under breath mutterings of many four letter words. I would like to add that if I find myself in this third state, I am never alone. There will be at least 20 other ex-pats in the store who are also managing the strong emotions associated with borderline psychotic hysteria.
Then comes the cash register.
Have you ever stood at a cash register and watched the check out girl putting in the details of your cheque by hand…
One. Freaking. letter at a time?
With 5 second pauses between each letter?
And 12 whole minutes later, after she has put in every single letter and number, including full name, full amount, full account number, full telephone number and full bank address… she suddenly, in-explainably, accidently, deletes the whole lot? And has to start over.
One. Freaking. letter at a time.
You have no idea of the focus needed to sustain deep breathing and happy thoughts through that.
And trust me, just because the store has a sign which says ‘visa accepted here’ doesn’t mean jack.
Cos if you are ever fool enough to actually believe the sign, you can guarantee that Check out girl will ring up your entire shopping and then turn to you with a slight tilt of her head and tell you “The networks down”.
And when you humbly explain that you have no cash because every single ATM in the country is completely empty and that when the cheque book that you ordered at the bank 4 months ago finally arrived, they had forgotten to include your name on it, basically rendering it completely useless, she looks at you, sucks her teeth and shrugs her shoulders.
Or even worse, you get to the till, she rings up your shopping, and when the machine rejects your card due to ‘network down’, the check out girl who looks like a perfectly respectable, nice person changes into ‘Crazy Jesus lady’.
And you know I’m all about Jesus. He is my rock. But standing at the till, with 5 people all in line behind me, listening to the check out lady loudly commanding the visa machine to ‘work in the name of Jesus’ has to have been in my top 3 most surreal experiences ever. And she wasn’t taking no for an answer. I offered to pay by cheque and she called for another machine…
So here’s the thing. Even the most determined Tigger, even Tigger after 3 hours of lotus, followed by 3 hours of meditative happy thinking thoughts, can find themselves in a state of chronic Eeyore-ness, due to one trip to the grocery store.
I want to write about how the African sunrise creeps like the blush of a first kiss… about the birds in my garden whose colours are like the rainbow…about the wind in my hair as I look out across lake Malawi’s sun kissed waters at the mountains of Mozambique, and take in the sheer awesomeness of it all…
And then BAM.
Generic rice for dinner.
And Yes its true. I am a self – consumed grumpy old bag who really should be grateful for every, tiny, grain of rice that goes in my stomach, especially based on my context. I live a life of exceptional blessing in a country where most people are point blank hungry.
I know that.
But here I am. Unfiltered. Breathing deeply. E. x