Feb 8, 2013 Uncategorized
My good friend and cousin Jillian posted to her blog this morning about her habit of complaining. She seems to connect her complaining to a fear of silence and a desire to inspire laughter, and wonders at the aggregate effect of her negativity on how she interacts with the world.
Such complaints are a subject I’ve meditated upon a lot in the last few months. While living in Tanzania there were numerous challenges and annoyances, and I frequently vented my frustration in emails to family and friends back home, as well as by complaining to the friends I made in Africa (most of whom could be quite sympathetic, because they were experiencing similar, and in many cases worse, things). I sometimes worried if I was being overly negative, and whether or not it made me a taxing person to be around. Honestly, I haven’t really arrived at any permanent conclusion in that self-evaluation, but I am leaning toward a position whereby I think of the complaining as a harmless, potentially humorous pressure-release.
So, given that Jillian has prompted me to think about it again today, I thought I would share with you the story of the day that I literally complained about the smallest thing that could have been ‘wrong.’
It was about halfway into our stay in Tanzania, and myself and my co-intern, David, had decided to make a trip to Arusha in the interior of the country. Arusha is not the biggest city in Tanzania, but it is basically the center of one of Tanzania’s two big tourist spots (the other being Zanzibar). From Arusha one can see mount Meru, and it’s a well-placed city to act as a launching point for treks up that mountain, the slightly more distant Kilimanjaro, or to embark into any number of national parks or game reserves on a safari.
And so it was that one day while sitting in a lovely western-style coffee shop, David negotiated a killer price for a safari with a tout who had followed him off the street. The next day we hopped into a Land Cruiser with our driver and guide, Aziz, as well as one Australian and one American stranger, and set off into the ‘wilds.’
It was on this first day that the event in question occurred. We had driven a little more than an hour from the city and gotten into Tarangire National Park. Almost immediately after entering the park we saw a group of twenty elephants grazing on and pulling apart a stand of trees. We watched in amazement for a short while before driving further into the park. Not long after we came across a lioness sitting in the shade of a massive tree. A little farther on there were a few giraffes. And ostriches. And a warthog. And some sort of bird of prey. And so much more.
It was an excellent morning, which ended with lunch in a designated picnic area atop a ridge overlooking yet more of the park. We dismounted our Land Cruiser and walked over to the fence. Aziz brought us our boxed lunch, and we sat on a concrete slab and watched a few trucks like ours wind around the landscape in search of wildlife to look at.
Inside the lunch was a pretty basic sandwich, a few samosas, banana, boiled egg, and a few other items. It was a perfect little meal and I ate it quite happily (especially the boiled egg since I somehow developed a great appetite for boiled eggs while I was in Tanzania). When my lunch was all but finished, I pulled out the final item: a small candy in a wrapper I couldn’t decipher. I found a garbage can, dumped the refuse from my boxed lunch, and then wandered over to the fence at the edge of the ridge. I leaned on it and absentmindedly unwrapped my candy. Co-intern David was next to me.
I popped the candy in my mouth and sucked on it absentmindedly as we looked over the landscape.
“Isn’t this awesome?” David asked.
I nodded, “It’s really cool. The ten year old in me is ecstatic.”
There was a lull, and before I could even think about it, I mused “Too bad about the candy.”
“What?” David asked.
“This whole day has been perfect until …” then I heard myself and faltered “… I mean … mine’s like a caramel thing. I like caramel, but … uuh … I just sort of wanted something … umm … lemon.” By the time I reached the last word, I had cut my volume in half, and sort of looked at my shoes in shame.
“What?” David repeated. This time it was less a question. More an expression of incredulity.
Then I laughed. I laughed first at the thought and how foolish and petty it was, and then at David’s reaction, because frankly his reaction was the correct one. There we were at one of the most beautiful picnic sites in the world, after having the privilege of driving around a game park gawking at all the animals that star in children’s wallpaper–and don’t even mention the sheer fortune that we had had just to land this internship and be in Africa at all–and I was griping about what flavour my post-lunch candy was.
David teased me about that a great deal afterwards. For the remaining weeks of our internship, I would occasionally express delight or wonderment at something, and David would agree, before adding “But it’s too bad they didn’t have lemon candies on safari,” or “But too bad about that caramel.”
I am tempted to speak a few words in my defence, but that would come off as petty.
But I really was craving lemon that day, so like, whatever.