Sunday, April 6, 2008

Clean Underwear, Cheerios, and Gloryland

Maputo, Mozambique

Coconut and date palms, mango trees. Smells of frangipani and cooking fires. Trucks clattering through huge potholes. Children calling to each other in Portuguese and Tsonga. Barking from Groban the dog. This is home.

It hasn’t always been home. As the fog of jetlag evaporated when we arrived last May, we had to adjust to a different language and a different culture. I treasured our rare shopping trips to Nelspruit, South Africa, about three hours away. It was a place where English was spoken and understood. It had a shopping mall. And not only were you guaranteed to find bare necessities like milk and cinnamon on the store shelves, food prices were 1/3 cheaper, so you could afford luxuries like juice and pasta sauce.

I remember when Maputo became “home.” We had headed to Nelspruit on a Friday for a rushed day of shopping, only realizing in the evening that we probably wouldn’t make it through the border in time to clear the tools my husband bought. So we settled into a B&B, and on Saturday we meandered our way to the border via Kruger National Park.

Not having a camera on this unplanned detour, we were guaranteed an exceptional day of animal sighting. It included a leopard, EIGHTEEN lions, four rhinos, elephants, hippos, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, crocs, and all the regulars.

We got to the border in plenty of time, we thought. After much perseverance, we cleared the tools on the South African side, only to be told at the Mozambican side that we needed to go back to a South African clearing agent, where we would pay more taxes and “tips.”

By this time, the South African border was closed. We were in for a long night in the car with a tiny baby. But an unlikely angel in the form of an SA police officer let us back in SA without the requisite rubber stamps or even a request for soda money, and another angel opened her B&B to us at 11 p.m.

Late Sunday afternoon, sitting in front of the SA clearing agent’s office in clothes we had worn three days straight, I told my husband, “I can’t wait to get home and put on some clean underwear.”

Home is where the clean underwear is.

Yet we don’t really belong here. We stick out in the villages. We don’t speak the language. And we can’t really be ourselves, as we’re constantly careful to avoid offense in the local culture.

Roseburg, Oregon

Home is a small green cottage on the sparkling North Umpqua River. Purrs and snuggles from Flame the cat. A mini orchard of apple, pear, and plum trees. And we’re going home at the end of this month for some R&R. I can’t wait!

We’ll see our family and friends and catch up on old times. I’ll have my hair highlighted and cut for the first time in a year. I’ll go to the Y and drop my baby at the daycare so I can have an hour of uninterrupted workout time. We’ll dine out at Taco Bell. I’ll find fabulous sales at Ross Dress for Less. And I’ll buy Cheerios and introduce them to my baby for the first time, reveling in the crunch of Cheerios in the back seat of the car, crumbs and all.

Home is where the Cheerios are.

Our friends will listen to our stories with polite interest. We’ll find out how things have changed: who has died, married, divorced, had children. We’ll realize we’re really no longer a part of their lives; people have moved on and survived without our being there. And we’ll realize that we really don’t belong here anymore. And we can’t really be ourselves, because so many in the US can’t relate to the world of extreme poverty that we've just come from.


This isn’t meant to be a theological exegesis, but I can’t help but end this by stating that a big attraction of Christianity is the hope that there is a home beyond what you can find in this world. A place that never changes yet has new surprises for you every day. A place where you can be with all your loved ones at the same time, not having to juggle them into your packed itineraries. “A home in gloryland that outshines the sun, way beyond the blue.”

Home is where you fit in; where you are free to be yourself. And one of these days, I’m going home!


Scribbit said...

This is so well written--I really enjoyed this! Nicely balanced and full of treats for the senses.

Alice Wills Gold said...

Home...cheerios...I love that thought.

GreenishLady said...

I'm so glad to have had a chance to read this piece. Beautiful evocation of the various "homes" in your life.

Phyllis Sommer said...

this is lovely. congrats on your honorable mention - well-deserved. "home is where you are free to be yourself." i like that a lot.

ShackelMom said...

I loved this article! And I could relate, of course! :-) We ladies who live 'elsewhere' have this shared experience. I remember how nice it was when my overseas home felt like home.

angie said...

Really enjoyed this. Especially the "home is where the Cheerios are" part. Hope you enjoy your trip back home.....I need new highlights, too. :) Congrats on your award!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

This was well done. You captured your "life between homes" so perfectly. I sent a link to my m issionary friend in Japan. I think she could relate.

Edwin S said...

"That's my sister!"

Nicely written Jane.

Laura said...

That is such a great post! Thanks for sharing it!

Adventures In Babywearing said...

I can't wait for that gloryland!!


Christy said...

What a great post! I've only been on short-term missions trips, but I always had that disorienting feeling when I came home that it just didn't feel quite right anymore.

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

Lovely. I could picture everything you were describing. Home is wonderful!

FrazzMom said...

Home is where the clean underwear is... Or in my case more likely- home is where the piles of dirty laundry are waiting to be washed so that we can have some clean underwear!

Loved your post...

ann said...

Thanks for reminding us again Jane, especially as our family just traveled from around the world to meet yet all couldn't come and then we had to part again so quickly. Gloryland is what we look forward to!