Last year, I spent many of my hours teaching seventh and eighth graders: drama and play production, persuasive writing, literature groups. My days are very different now that I’m a stay-at-home mum, caring for our baby. Reuben is growing up fast and keeps me occupied! Days float by in a haze of play, laundry, washing the dishes, changing nappies (diapers), emails, cooking, and did I mention laundry?! Reuben likes to get out, so we often walk down to the store (there’s only one here), go to a friend’s house, check our PO box (we love receiving mail!) or just take a walk round our little Ukarumpa world. It’s a small world to be honest, but most days I am content … most days.
It’s the small things that catch me out and accumulate until I feel stressed, emotional, tired, or all three. For example, about a month ago the store ran out of washing-up liquid. I had a few spare bottles, so I thought it would be fine. But as the weeks passed, I worked my way through our supply. I began to wonder what to do and gradually got more and more worried. I dreamed about the household aisle in Tesco back home in the UK. Dreaming about washing-up liquid? I knew it had to stop!
The local mission community has an intranet ‘General Wanted’ forum. Ashamed that I had not planned my washing-up liquid stash better, I reluctantly posted my request to purchase some washing-up liquid. The problem is that Americans call it “dish soap”—perfectly sensible, but different. It took a bit of explaining to clarify what I wanted.
Lots of people offered me spare bottles, so I was left in the surprising position of having to choose my donor. Where do they all get it from?! I felt relieved, but tired. I felt awkward because I could not make myself understood. I felt awkward that everyone else had washing-up liquid and I didn’t. I felt awkward because I had been so concerned about not having it. I wished I had bought more before I went home for Reuben’s birth. But, in the midst of all the awkwardness, I also realised I had much to be thankful for! In spite of supply problems and cross-cultural misunderstandings, I experienced generosity and the start of a new friendship—all because there was no washing-up liquid in the store. God provided what I needed and more.
Food shopping and meal planning are very different here in Ukarumpa as well. Most of the time I can get the basics in the store, but we live in a remote place and I can’t always count on being able to find everything I want. I have had to be more flexible about meal plans and often have Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. (I haven’t yet reached Plan D.) As you can see, my expectations have had to change and some days I cope better than others.
In contrast to my dreams about the rows of multi-coloured washing-up liquid in Tesco (I’m still not over it, I see), Duncan, my helicopter-pilot husband, is out and about.
Recently, he came home and excitedly showed me photographs and video from his trip that day. He had taken some dignitaries to a village where their company had funded the construction of new school buildings. There was dancing, singing, traditional dress, stunning scenery and, of course, the helicopter. His eyes were bright, and he was full of stories.
Meanwhile, my day had been rough. Reuben had screamed for no apparent reason for much of the day, and I was struggling with mild flu. I tried desperately to focus on his stories, but to be honest, I was thinking about the amount of washing-up dinner preparation had generated! You see why I need washing–up liquid?! Sorry … FOCUS!
When it was my turn to share, all I could think of was how many naps Reuben had taken, the number of nappies I had changed, the games we played, Reuben’s long crying spells, and what I had bought at the store. What very different days we experience!
I believe we are both doing important stuff. In spite of an occasional rough day, I am so thankful for this special time with my gorgeous son. Most days I love it, and every day I love him and his jet-setting dad.