And for once I was SuperMom

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Taking Things for Granted

I live within walking distance of four different playgrounds.
I am giddy with the luxury of it all.
One of the art lessons that I taught in Kenya involved the children drawing their favorite playground. They all drew the playground at Rosslyn, the school that they attended. I don't think that this was because Rosslyn had the best playgrounds ever, it's because those were the only playgrounds available to them. In Nairobi there were only a few parks in the city, they just consisted of grassy areas and benches. No actual play structures. I don't know if I saw ever saw a slide or swing set outside of the Rosslyn compound.
In Buena Vista we only had two playgrounds that were public access. There were more but they were connected to a school. Granted in the year that we lived there Emma was only old enough and it was only warm enough for me to use them a few times, but I was still glad she was too young to get sick of them.

I was at a baby shower a few weekends ago and a card was being passed around that had a picture of cute little clothes being line dried. One of the moms made the sarcastic comment,
“Well, of course you are going to hand wash and line dry all your diapers.” I couldn't help myself from muttering under my breath,
“We did that when we lived in Kenya.” I don't know if she heard me or not, I didn't know her and really couldn't afford to start an argument.
We did hand wash and line dry our cloth diapers in Kenya, we had no choice. We didn't have a washer and dryer, fortunately we were lucky enough to have a house worker who did hand wash and line dry all our clothes and cloth diapers. Not everybody has the option of a washer and dryer. Not everybody has the option of a house worker. I didn't want to get a house worker for awhile but our laundry situation pushed my hand. We were blessed by her help and we blessed her by providing a job for an otherwise unemployed woman. (We still hand washed all our own underwear, it felt a little more than gross to hand that over to another human.)
Sure we could've bought disposable diapers, but they were riotously expensive.

When we first arrived in Nairobi we had to decide where to live, either on the northwest side by my school or down in the center by Scott's office. We chose to live up by my school. Commuting in Nairobi is a colossal chore, taking one to two hours to go only seven or nine miles. I remember discussing this decision with a Kenyan colleague, I realized that for me asking me not only to live in another culture but to use public transportation was a bit more than I could handle at the moment. I wondered at the time if that made me sound like a terribly spoiled young woman. It may have, but I consoled myself in the fact that he didn't take the public transportation either. It took us eight months before we could purchase a car. We lived in a neighborhood where public transportation was not readily available for me to get to and from work. Scott could get to his office, but it took him about an hour and a half. My school was a forty five minute walk away. Luckily our next door neighbor also worked at Rosslyn and most days I could catch a ride with her. Having to figure out transportation was a constant source of stress for those eight months.

Up until those eight months I had begun to take for granted ease of transportation that owning your own car provides. I know that theoretically we all know that not everyone has a car or a washer and a dryer, but it's that person over there on the other side of the Atlantic or that person in the ghetto, not us or anyone we know. It's easy to forget that there are real people who don't have the opportunities, resources, and wealth that we do have. For awhile I was that person without access to a car or a washer and dryer. Not everybody, in fact, even has access to disposable diapers.

This is one of the things that I fear about living back in the states: the slow slide back into taking things for granted that I didn't know were privileges in the first place. Forgetting that thirty years ago disposable diapers weren't even an option. Forgetting that chocolate is a luxury. Forgetting that internet is not a necessity. Forgetting that so many people live without and get on just fine. I am not sure how to keep myself sharp. And I'm not sure how to not sound like a jerk to other Americans when I talk about life choices that my family has made.

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