Sunday, January 10, 2010

the lost chapters

They say that everyone has a story. I’ve been a bit of a bookworm since the holidays, and the more I delve into the secret histories of others, the more I’m floored by the incredible, intricate, and inspiring lives that unfold on the stark white pages of a bound 2-inch paperback. It seems so extraordinary that 40 years can be redacted down to 200 pages.

This blog began as a disjointed attempt to communicate with the outside when I was stuck in what felt like a technology-deprived vacuum. My world in Dar es Salaam relied on a strict routine that had me walking 5 miles at dawn, working ten hours, running an hour or more on the treadmill, and falling asleep to the drone of the airconditioner churning through the thick, humid air. My airconditioner was always on at night (so long as the electricity was working). It was selfish, but I would wrap myself in my warmest clothes, crank the knob to maximum, and crawl beneath my blanket, curled up in a ball, making sure all my extremities were covered so that mosquitoes wouldn’t get me. The Tanzanian mosquitoes loved me.

The longer I spend at home, the more I reminisce about the four-ish months I spent on the Eastern Coast of the continent. A time when I would struggle for stories to write home about; now I realize that just about everything, however commonplace in my Tanzanian routine, was a story worth telling. I never wrote about the people – like Maria, the housekeeper with five children and a grandchild, Enoki, the carpenter nicknamed “the captain” because of his tendencies to drown himself in the bottle, or Mario, the ex-militia overnight guard who washed the dishes and did the ironing (when he wasn’t carrying around his bow and quiver of arrows). I never wrote about the bats that awoke at everyday at dusk and took over the skies – peppering the landscape and ridding the heavens of high-flying insects. I forgot to mention my daily run-ins with lizards, mice, and cockroaches, because the shock of sharing your home with these tiny refugees wore off before I thought to start writing. My journalism professor would be appalled by the moments I let slip through my fingers. Hopefully, it’s not too late.

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