Patience is not one of my virtues. Nor is it one of Jason’s which might explain why we had a rough adjustment our first year of marriage. Well, that and our different family backgrounds and our complete and utter insistence that we are both right, at all times. I digress.
But patience is required in life. At least if one hopes to live one’s life without existing in a constant state of annoyance and irritation. God really showed me my need to trust Him and be patient after I had Annikah (be patient with her, with myself, with Jason, and in trusting Him). But I have much more to learn. I think that is one of the many reasons He brought us here.
Yes, God has been teaching us a lot about patience since living in a much less “instant gratification” culture. The thing about patience is that many times it really is a reflection of an inner calm and peaceful spirit. If I am feeling that impatience rise in me my first thought is to look to the outside, to what is the cause of my irritation. Instead, I am learning to ask myself: in this moment what does God require of me? To be kind. To wait. To be humble. To get over myself. To love. Even if the world is “one my last nerve” so to speak. It is almost as if time and time again through various situations God is asking me “can you show kindness?” “can you learn everything is not about you?” “can you laugh at the situation and yourself?” “can you follow my Word and “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” (Phil 2:14-15). I fail a lot. Especially in the complaining department. I may not always complain with my voice to others but I very often complain in my heart. Again, I am a work in progress, again and again. Always.
There are two recent incidents that served as a lesson in patience… and are too funny to A.) forget or B.) not share.
About a month ago we finally had to apply for our Tanzanian driver’s license. We had an international permit from the states that would expire after 6 months. As a side note I do not think international permits should be handed out so easily especially since the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car AND they drive on the opposite side of the road. Our first few weeks of driving here were a bit….. adventurous, shall we say. Driver’s license….Our team leader helped us by gathering the necessary documents early which we promptly filled out and brought to the office. Now, by no means is waiting at the DVM stateside my idea of a fabulous afternoon out but at least I have a clue as to what was happening….(ie. this government employee who hates his/her job is irritated and many people are in front of me). But here we had no idea what was happening. We waited in what could never be described as a line. More like a mass, a crowd, a mob. When Jason kindly asked in Kiswahili who was next he got the most bizarre looks. We also suggested we wait one by one to which many people laughed. After about 1 1/2 hours of Jason standing in the blazing sun and me trying to prevent Annikah from running into the traffic meanwhile accomplishing nothing we decided we should give up the battle for the day. But not the war……we returned the next day, this time taking Annikah to school so at least we knew we could wait “as long as it takes.” This time we had high hopes because we got into the first office rather quickly and after greeting everyone had a very nice women actually type our information into a computer and take our picture; this was progress! She instructed us to go next door and wait for the license. We were feeling pretty good so we walked next door and attempted to get in the door that was crammed with men waiting. The women who occasionally opened the door to give us a glimmer of hope told us “subiri kidogo” (wait a little). Now this phrase is an often used phrase here that in our experience can mean “wait here for 5 minutes while I check the price for you” or “wait here 2 hours while I see who has cheese today.” You never know but I am bolding suggesting a change to the Kiswahili language “subiri for as long as it takes” and then “pole sana.” The worker came out periodically to call some one’s name from amidst the crowd. Luck. It seemed it did not matter when you arrived and as we sat there trying to search for order in the seeming chaos we were going nuts. Instead we tried to enjoy watching the whole thing unfold and chatting with others while they waited. Then we really had something to laugh about; the power went out. After we had waited over 2 hours no power, no printing the licenses. The outage was followed by about 20 minutes of everyone discussing if it would come back at all, should people come back tomorrow, etc. Again we asked and we were given a”subiri kidogo.” Someone came down to start a generator and with a very grinding loud noise it turned on and gave us hope, and then with an equally impressive pop it blew out and stopped working and crushed our dreams. After some more waiting and a fundi coming to fix the generator it seemed as though the power was on and more of the chosen few people were getting called into the “office of love.” Hope restored. After some more time we noticed a woman come in and by pass the mob of men standing outside the door. Jason then decided I might be our golden ticket. We pushed past everyone and I asked the women myself about our names. At least this time it seemed as though she checked and said again, “subiri kidogo.” So after waiting the entire morning we finally had figured it out. Women get to go first (Jason is very excited about this discovery and gladly will send me on the next government errand). Our licenses were finally given to me and we headed out to the cashier to pay for everything where again, there was no line, just what seemed to us shoving, cutting, and general chatting. Jason elbowed his way in and we were out of there in only a few minutes, licenses in hand. Victory!! We were sure to get the 3 year one so as NOT to have to renew next year.
The next exercise in patience (and chaos) came in trying to take our intermediate language course this month. After taking the beginner back in November we are ready to move forward (even though we are still learning everything from the beginner!). As soon as we returned from our trip to Kenya Jason went over to our school to sign up for the month long class and arrange the details so we would be all ready to go the first Monday of the month. Or so we thought.
Monday morning we had a crazy morning getting out of the house by 7:50am, drove to town and dropped Jason off first (I always am a few minutes late as I have to take Anni to school and we cannot drop her off until 8:15am), I took Annikah to school and drove back to our school only to discover that we cannot attend school because the school now wants all the money up front for both of us for the whole month. Last time around we paid weekly but according to them there was a change in policy (which was never communicated upon registering). Of course, there is no way we had that much money in hand let alone even in our account so Jason had spent almost an hour “discussing” proposed alternatives all which were rejected. We called it a day and tried to come up with the necessary fund-age that night (which included draining our account, borrowing money from team mates, and asking for an advance). The next day we showed up still a bit short but able to at least pay for the entire course for Jason. I headed to drop Annikah off at school again while Jason explained that he would pay all that we could right now and then either return at the end of the week to pay the difference or take the course solo until we had the money for me (in the next couple of days). After I parked and started taking Anni to school my phone rang and Jason said, completely defeated, “just come back with Annikah, we cannot take the course.” After I explained to a now sobbing Annikah who wanted to “play with me friends” that she could not go to school even though she was now 20 feet from the door (we have limited days left for her school and need to save them for when we are in school) and returning to town Jason explained to me that it was because we did not have 2 passport size photos of ourselves. Seriously!?! Even though there were 2 pictures of us from a few months ago on the wall of the office. Nope, those would simply not do and we needed new ones and no one can start school without them. The next 1 1/2 hours were a blur as I tried to keep Annikah from destroying the office we were in while discussing with at least 3 teachers and administrators our “dilemma.” Finally, at the end of the madness we had agreed to return the next week and take a shortened version (2 weeks) of the intermediate class because we were now starting late and would not finish in March and since the school would be closed in April (again a surprise to us and especially our team members who had been planning to take class in April) we need to finish in the next few weeks. Also, we would not be able to get books since there “are too many mistakes printed in them” and they need to be redone. It almost seemed like they did not want to take our money or teach us. Every new solution we came up with was met with a change in the game. Bizarre. So at the end of a morning spent in serious discussion and negotiations we agreed that we would return the next Monday and start school on time and that we would be the only 2 students in the class. We also made sure to get receipts for everything and ask to see a calendar to make sure no random days off would be taken during our short class, everything seemed sawa (ok) or at least as sawa as it was gonna get at that point.
Jump to this week of school. We do love our teacher, he is kind, helpful, and hilarious (he loves to act out everything which keeps us entertained) and no doubt we are learning a lot and reviewing what we already know. But of course, on Monday he tells us that there will be no school on Tuesday because it is a holiday for him (the prophet’s birthday) and everyone on the island gets the day off. Hilarious! Then when we returned to class on Tuesday we were introduced to 2 new students that joined our class! At this point we MUST laugh as it s really our only option. Cannot wait to see what is next for this week….It would be nice if things worked a bit faster, if we understood the reasons behind the policies but then it would not be Africa. At least we can already laugh at these stories, that is a good sign, right? Yes, God is teaching me a lot about patience. Apparently I need it.