Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Going Quietly Crazy

This is my first blog post from my new computer.  It is a 13-inch Macbook pro.   Very pretty.  The screen is enormous compared to my netbook.  I get lost looking at it sometimes. 

Yesterday I took my meds for for schistosomiasis.  Apparently the side effects include feeling you were shat out of a large dinosaur.  That is a day of my life I am not getting back.  I had a list of things I was going to do.  Instead I ate cookies and ice cream, played video games, and tried not to move.  I had a weird sensation in my mouth that made everything taste like it was made out of cardboard, hence the diet of cookies.  Not that I need an excuse for that.  I went outside in the evening to go for a stroll around the estate.  The estate started spinning so I went back inside and read comic books.  At least I don't have blood flukes anymore.

One of the hard things about crossing cultures is that one gets lost in reality.  Or rather, the fabric of reality suddenly blooms so kaleidoscopic that it seems some existential veil is shredding.  I had this problem a lot in Togo; I have blogged about it frequently.  A fetish ceremony, a funeral, a moto ride, a conversation at a tchapka stand, any point where I was doing or seeing something so beyond the pale of my American cultural experience as to render it almost impossible to describe to you my gentle audience.  The same happens here.  Like watching a crop dusting plane buzzing mere meters over corn fields and dodging trees is an experience that most Togolese could hardly begin to imagine.  Nor is walking into a supermarket where the produce of the world is literally at your fingertips, and conveniently packaged in barrels of crude oil.  It is not so much the experience itself that renders the world suddenly strange, but rather the intimate knowledge that somewhere, on this same earth, there are people who can only begin to imagine what you are experiencing. I have a foot on both the near and far shores.

Drinking fountains are amazing.  You have no idea.  Water everywhere that is 99% likely to not make you spend the next 2 days shitting yourself is a miracle.  Why drinking fountains are right next to vending machines selling bottled water, I have no idea. 

It has been cloudy and rainy here for two days.  And cold, but that is beside the point.  I felt myself going quietly crazy yesterday when I thought about doing my laundry and I could not figure out why.  Then I realized that its because there was no sun to dry my clothes.  Then this morning I woke up, looked outside, and felt sad.  Now I have come to realize that I am like a little flower, I need a bit sunshine to make me bloom.   Thanks Africa.

I have been congratulating myself on how well I am re-adjusting to life in the US.  Then I realized that I rarely leave my parents' farm.

I love my new computer, but something about it was making me quietly crazy.  Then I changed the clock to 24 hour time and felt much better.

Yes, I spend a lot of time here going quietly crazy.  Or maybe its just a constant state of being.

Stuff has this weird way of working out.  My great aunt died yesterday.  She was 92.  In my original returning-from-the-Peace-Corps plans I would have been in the process of leaving Togo right now, and getting back to the States on Aug 2.  This way I got to see her twice before she died. 
 I finally did it.  I went grocery shopping with my mom in a supermarket.  I walked in and parts of my brain excused themselves and crawled under the bed.  I do not know which part freaked me out more, the produce section or the meat section.   I mean, the sheer quantity of options that the average American has for feeding herself is beyond baffling.   Crisp lettuce dripping water, ready-to-eat fruit oozing its syrupy guts all over the insides of plastic containers,  sterile looking egg plant glowering from a shelf, amputated king crab legs waving dismally from a bed of ice, yards of coolers stuffed with meat products at least 2 degrees separated from their animals of origin, etc. While my mom shopped I amused myself by looking at the "country of origin" stickers on things.  Pineapple from Chile (not as good as Togo), green beans from Mexico, a plethora of stuff from Guatemala, apples and things from Canada. My mom grabbed mangoes and avocados at the same time.  I felt my eyes crossing.  Neither of these are in season anymore in Togo. 

As fond as I am of refrigeration, you guys do it way to much.  Most fruit tastes better, and is meant to be eaten, at normal temperatures.

My sister ate a mango this morning from the above mentioned shopping expedition.  I tried a bit.  And was depressed. 

Another thing that has been screwing with my head is getting a cell phone.  I currently do not have one.  This is a source of amazement to most people here.  I have the choice between paying a lot for a phone, or paying a lot for an annual contract.  Both of these options can bite me. I want a smartphone, but only because I want a map app. Life here is complicated when one is not part of the system.

I took a phone message yesterday for my dad.  I wrote half of it in french before I realized what I was doing.

For most blog posts I write, I have a working title in mind as I write.  For this post, however, there seems to be a common thread that connects many of my vignettes. Hence the title. 


  1. I was wandering around the grocery store with my mom the other day, also checking out where things come from... what really struck me was all the non-food, like chips, cheese puffs, chemicals and goop and bizarrely colored packaged things. Literally like three aisles of JUNK. Sticking with the Chilean mangoes, I guess. And c'mon, it's watermelon/blueberry season. Live it up!


  2. P.S., a smartphone is totally worth it. My iPhone is crack. I have a (free) Sonic game on it, for Chrissakes.