Living presently

Living with a foot on two continents means traveling between the two places regularly, and regular travel brings the inevitable question: so what are you going to eat first when you go home?  A frenzy of thoughts usually trample through my brain each time this happens, always beginning with that incessant and tiring question ‘where is home?’ Quickly followed by the rest of the crowd: why assume food first?  Is food the thing to look forward to?  Why assume I’m looking forward to anything?  Am I really so eager to be there?  Is this a send-off?  I’m still here.

Many are taken aback when I say I’m not looking forward to anything.  The look of skeptical and sometimes pained doubt in their eyes usually leads me to clarify.  “Sure, there’s stuff to look forward to.  I’m just not thinking about it yet.  I’ll enjoy it when I get there.  For now, I’m here.” And there you have it.  A life philosophy in response to a simple “chicken nuggets” or “quarter pounder with cheese” question.

I first noticed my fatigue with the question somewhere in my teen years.  The argument over McDonalds versus Wendys struck me as odd when I realized that the scenario also meant absolutely no plantain or bisap or poulet braise with atcheke chaud. What was I missing by having my head so focused on the things I did not yet have?  Somewhere during one of those summer trips “home” I decided: no more salivating over the fence.  Enjoy the grass under your feet.

Now, whenever I get ready to travel some long distance for an extended period of time, I make an extra effort to enjoy all the things that I love about the place that I am leaving – a lot of that involves food.

Before I left Kenya for my summer travels, I drank a Krest Bitter Lemon every day, had several tree-tomato-and-passion juices, took a walk in my favorite forest, ate at several fabulous Indian and Ethiopian restaurants, lazily reorganized my apartment, and (most importantly) relaxed with good friends.  I did not spend much time thinking about what was ahead beyond the necessary logistical details.

I’m traveling through the US for the summer and, in these first two weeks back, I have spent a bit of time rediscovering simple things that I enjoy and don’t find in Kenya.  Here’s the list so far:

– Fireflies
– Sweet tea
– Barbeque
– Roads with finished edges
– Baked beans (American style)
– Cole slaw with relish
– Bluegrass on the radio
– Tasty micro brews
– Rootbeer
– Excellent icecream
– N. American birdsong (the sounds of wrens and cardinals, etc)
– Tulip poplars, oaks, and maples

A big bonus of this philosophy is that it has the added benefit of surprise nested in the delayed gratification.  When I reach the place that I am going, I am usually delighted by the unexpected, forgotten joys.  Like fireflies.  I had completely forgotten about them.  At least, the thought of them had not crossed my brain in many months.  A few days ago I took a walk around the neighborhood with two of my favorite people in central North Carolina.  The patches of forest between stretches of homes seemed to pulse green and glitter gold.  Fireflies are delightful, especially when they are many.  They caught my breath and stopped my motion for a few moments of the walk.

I have another month in the US, so I’m looking forward to rediscovering more forgotten joys.

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