I’m a relatively laid back person. I don’t generally have high stress levels. I think I adapt easily and quickly to any number of factors that may change in either my surroundings or my responsibilities.
But it’s been a rough couple of days.
You’d Think It Was the Newborn…
Surprisingly, having a new (and second) child is not at all the most stressful part of the last three days (even if one were to count all the sleep deprivation that is contained in a tiny, 6+ pound package). No, the difficulty has been that we’re not at home right now — and that the home we’re in is not always conducive to life in general, much less to life with a newborn. The stress comes from the uncertainty of our current living situation.
I guess most stress in Africa is due to uncertainty.
I don’t want to belittle what people living in the U.S. experience. [That's not my intention, though I'll likely do it anyway.] But I’ve heard that in the U.S. an individual generally wakes up in the morning with a stress level of 0-2 on a 10-point scale. And then, depending on his day and his job, that number can escalate — but it’s somewhat difficult to ever reach a 10. The same individual, so it’s said, begins his day in Africa at around a 5 on the stress level scale. I’m not sure if this is true, but it makes sense to me.
The reason it seems to make sense is because of all the uncertainties we experience in our lives in Africa. In the states, I never woke up wondering if the electricity was on, or for how long it would be on, or if the generator would work if it wasn’t on. I never used to hear my alarm and ask myself if there was enough water for me to take a shower. I never began my days in the states thinking about how there’s a 50/50 chance the guy with whom I’m supposed to meet will show up, or about how many hours late he’ll be if he does, or about whether the plumber who’s told me for three days straight that he’s coming in a half-hour really will this time.
In the states we flip on a light switch, never once imagining the light might not immediately follow suit. Battery-operated alarms are for camping. And I can program my coffee-maker so my addiction is hot and ready when I walk into the kitchen. There’s always water. Heck, there’s always running water!
[The last time I was really stressed, I wrote this post: culture stress (or i don't want to be a missionary anymore). It might be an interesting read -- if you like hearing missionaries complain and (in general) show how unlike Christ they are in their discontent. But then again, you're going to witness all that in this blog post, as well.]
So Why All the Crying?
Lately, in our rented house in Dar, the stress has largely been due to high temperatures. It’s 90+ degrees in Dar and our house was poorly designed. I say poorly designed — really, the house is simply unfinished. It’s intended to be a two-story home, but the second level was never built. So we’ve got a dark gray concrete slab that serves as both our roof and our ceiling. And it gets hot. Really hot. I tried to measure the temperature of the ceiling yesterday, but the thermometer only goes to 110° — it got there really fast.
We’ve got air conditioning in the bedrooms, so sleep at night is possible. It’s the living area that gets so hot. We experimented the other day, shutting all the windows in the house and running the air conditioners on high. But the air conditioners just can’t compete with a 130º, making-our-house-into-a-giant-oven, ceiling. Even if running the air conditioners had worked, though, we’d never be able to afford the electricity to do so. Hey, at least there’s a ceiling fan in the living room.
But the electricity was out during the last two days. No retreating to a luxuriously air-conditioned room for a relaxing 10-minute break from the heat. And no ceiling fan, either. Christie’s not really in a position to ride in the car, what with her stitches and recovery from delivery and whatnot. So we couldn’t leave the house. With all the windows open, temperatures INSIDE the house climbed to over 95º. But we figured we could tough it out for a couple of days (we were only able to last as long as we did because electricity came back for a time during the night, allowing us to sleep in air-conditioned rooms).
By yesterday evening, though, everyone in the house was dehydrated and without energy. Both girls had heat rashes. And all of us were grumpy. Christie was continuously feeding Harper, because there’s no other way for her to get liquids. And we couldn’t open the refrigerator to get food or cold drinks, for fear that everything in it would spoil.
So when the electricity was still out after it got dark last night (and we could no longer see to protect ourselves and our children from mosquitoes), we packed our bags (using one flashlight and the lights from our phones) and loaded the car. We called some friends of ours and asked if they had electricity, and if we could sleep at their house. They were happy to have us. Praise God for Ben and Mary Cook, and Erin Steinhoff.
So that’s where we are now. The electricity at our house came back late during the night, so I’ll head back over today to check out the refrigerator and its contents. If the electricity stays on all day today, we’ll move back in this afternoon. If not, we’ll start looking for a slightly longer-term situation than crashing at friends’ houses.
But it sure would be nice to stay in the house we’ve rented. Though I never thought I’d be looking forward to moving back into a house because it has a ceiling fan in a 95º living room.