Anytime an islander talks about the future, they end their thought with the phrase, “God willing” roughly translated in either Arabic or more often local language. Even a simple, “See you later,” is met with the fateful response, “God willing.” The longer I stay here, the more I understand why this is so common.
I have been on my island for 6 months now- without leaving. I have a flight scheduled on Tuesday. Two days ago I heard a rumor that airport employees were planning to strike the day before my flight. Even now when I think about it, my palms gets sweaty, my heart rate elevates and my breathing becomes shallow. A minor panic attack begins to set in. I am suffering from full-blown island fever and the thought of being stranded here for an indeterminate amount of time is enough to push me right over the edge.
As I contemplate the severity of my physical and emotional reaction to this news, my logical mind is quick to analyze why. There are a lot of things I miss and that I’ve been looking forward to when I get to Kenya including: a pedicure, movie theater, Dominoes pizza, Java House, iced coffee, milkshakes, cooler weather, faster internet, not having to wear a sheet draped like a toga around my body every time I leave the house. While I very much look forward to these things, I can obviously survive and even thrive without them.
So why do I have such bad island fever? Why do I feel that if I’m prevented from embarking the expected day, that my world and sanity with crumble around me? The last year and half and even the last six months have been full of firsts. Understanding a little of how ‘out of the ordinary’ this experience has been might shed light on why I feel that I need a change in scenery.
If you’ve been a good friend of mine in the last 10 years, then you probably know that I love the game “Never Have I Ever.” I hate small talk but I love playing games, so this is a way to get to know people in game form without having to endure the doldrums of mind-numbing small talk. In honor of my love of “Never Have I Ever” I present to you a list of things I can no longer say while playing this game:
Never Have I Ever spent 168 days straight in a 4-mile radius of my home.
I teach in a school that takes me 5 minutes to walk to and another that is 2 miles away. The furthest place I go in the capital city is 2 miles from my home in the other direction. Twice in the last 168 I have ventured a whole 9 miles from my house to visit a beach. Nine miles! In 6 months.
Never Have I Ever gone 172 days without a glass of wine.
My mom won’t like this one but it deserves to be mentioned. Jesus drank wine too, mom! To respect the local customs and beliefs of the people, we have chosen not drink any alcohol here.
Never Have I Ever gone 465 days without sipping on a delicious, refreshing Dr. Pepper.
Along the same lines, I have been drinking Dr. Pepper for over 20 years. I know it’s bad for me and blah blah blah. But I love it. Once I found a can of Dr. Pepper in Dakar, Senegal in 2009. But other than that, in my travels around the world I have only found Dr. Pepper on a Marine base in the middle of nowhere Japan. It is very distressing to me that Africans do not appreciate Dr. Pepper and therefore it cannot be found anywhere!
Never Have I Ever spent 465 days straight outside of the United States.
I miss my country. We have our share of problems but if you’ve ever lived in a less-developed country, then you know how much there is to appreciate about the good ole US of A.
Never Have I Ever gone 469 days straight without driving a motorized vehicle.
Since I got my driving permit 14 years ago, I have driven all the time. I love driving. In Peace Corps I didn’t drive while in Guinea, but when I went home on vacation after nine months I drove then. Driving is such a stress-reliever for me (except in Atlanta traffic which is the worst!). Windows down, wind in my hair, blaring my music as loud as possible and singing at the top of my lungs, what more could I ask?
Never Have I Ever gone f.o.r.e.v.e.r without a date.
I’m not exactly sure the last time I went on a date. If I were to guess, I’d say it was in January 2013. This makes me seem sad and pathetic, right? I guess living on a tiny speck of land in the middle of nowhere lends itself nicely to this one. I’d don’t miss the awkwardness of first dates one bit but I do miss the companionship of that one special person.
Never Have I Ever gone 468 days straight without seeing my family in person.
This is definitely the hardest one of all. I have four little brothers and sisters in high school. They’re growing up without me. I am very lucky with the technology nowadays. I get to talk to them all the time on the phone and every so often we video chat. I did not have this luxury back in the old days of Peace Corps (2007-2009) and I do not take it for granted. But it’s just not the same as giant bear hugs, playful arm punches, cuddling on the couch or a walk on the beach side by side.
Even if I’m able to leave Clove Island on Tuesday, most of these Never Have I Evers will just continue to get longer. Going to Kenya will not solve all my problems. A change in scenery is not the answer to my occasional emotional distress. No matter where I am or how long I’ve been there, God is always there, wanting to comfort me if I will just allow him. In this I needn’t say, “God willing” because I already know he is.