Tuesday, February 01, 2005

That's reasonable.

Sailing lessons these past few weekends have been a really nice, fun change to the monotony of the usual 'lie by the pool/go out for dinner/go to a bar' routine of most weekends. (Wow, that sounded really obnoxious. All I can say is this: that routine actually does get monotonous, and you’ll just have to trust me on that.)

Sailing has provided a really nice excuse to get out of the city, meet new people, do something active, and acquire a new skill. Not that I have so much acquired it, as I have provided a reasonable facsimile of that skill when viewed from a distance. But, I've always been pretty inept when it comes to activities that require me to manipulate my limbs with various pieces of equipment in a coordinated manner. (By using that description I’m trying to include virtually all sports, and possibly driving, although that part is a relatively untested theory.) So, knowing this about myself, and knowing that sailing is an activity that does require limb/equipment coordination, I set my expectations for myself pretty low: don’t be embarrassingly bad, or 100% incompetent, and do decide that it’s okay to need lots of practice to meet the competency level of ‘normal’ people. And, well, I have exceeded my own expectations! I capsized fewer and fewer times on each subsequent day! Each day’s infliction of bruises became progressively milder! And although I came in dead last on Sunday’s race (I think it’s pretty amazing that we could all race on our fourth day of sailing), I came in last in a NOT COMPLETELY embarrassing kind of way! (i.e. I didn’t end up off course, I didn’t crash into anyone, I didn’t capsize. I just went very slow.) And besides, SOMEBODY needs to come in last. Might as well be me!

Sailing also provided me with that stomach-flipping brain-flash where suddenly OMIGOD YOU ARE IN FUCKING AFRICA just randomly bolts through your head out of nowhere and you’re left feeling momentarily nauseous with excitement and nervousness. (You get over it in about 30 seconds and go back to what you are doing.) Suddenly, on Saturday afternoon, sitting in my Laser in a bay of Lake Victoria, watching the sun start to set, that feeling jolted through me. And the main thing I thought afterwards was ‘I haven’t had that feeling in a really long time’. And I’m not sure if it's because my life here has become more boring, or if I’m less excitable, or if I’ve just gotten used to being here. And then I started thinking about this blog, which is more or less representative of what I’m thinking about and noticing, and I thought about how little of what I currently think and write and notice involves “whoa weird strange different Africa” stuff anymore, and that it has become much more of (to me at least) just a ‘regular blog’ that I happen to be writing from this particular place, than a ‘travel blog’, which is more how I originally intended it.

After more than a year, I find it hard to remember that no, I did not always find it normal to see women carrying baskets of bananas on their heads, and toddlers begging for change is not normal to me, or white people aren’t treated with preference or deference by most people they meet in my own country. I can’t believe how quickly I’ve gotten used to so many things that 14 months ago I thought I’d always find strange. And I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.

Some of the things that now seem innocuous to me now are, in fact, innocuous. (And in this I include the on-the-head portability, the urban livestock, the crazy driving and traffic, the Ugandan food, etc.) But a lot of the things that don’t even strike me as odd anymore are not innocuous at all. The precise division by race of whites, Indians, and Ugandans into managerial, mercantile, and labourer classes for instance. (Obviously there are exceptions to this - there is a small but highly visible portion of the Ugandan population that is very well educated and professionally employed - but on broader, sweeping scales, it is seems to be true.) Or the subservience of wives to husbands. Or the subservience of employees to bosses. Or the grinding grinding poverty that so many people live in. Or the pervasive corruption. Or the almost complete segregation of expats from locals in social situations. Almost none of these things strike me as odd on a day-to-day basis anymore, and I can’t quite figure out what to do about that.


Post a Comment

<< Home