Thursday, April 26, 2012

The New Normal

It occured to me today that I have grown used to Africa.  Things that used to surprise me, I hardly notice.

For instance, when we were running last week, we were passed by many people - men, women, boys and girls running in flip flops.  They were all running several kilometers along the beach road to get to their soccer practice at the beach.  No big deal. 

We were also passed by an older woman who was wearing a skirt, flip flops, a cut off t-shirt, balancing a large basket on her head full of fruit, and carrying a homemade broom under her arm. 

A little embarrassing that she was passing us, but nothing really to write home about.

Then we passed a guy (finally!) who was carrying an old-fashioned sewing machine on his head, and smoking a cigarette. 


That's a first.

I guess that might be something you don't see every day.  Even in Togo.

We see so much that is normal here and not normal in the United States, that I don't even know what the absolute normal is.
  • Is it normal to pee along the side of the road? 
  • Is it normal to have a family of four on a motor scooter? 
  • To dance like a chicken as a form of worship to the Lord? 
  • To eat fresh papaya, pineapple, mango, and bananas every day?
  • To buy your water in a sealed plastic bag on the side of the street, from a girl who carries it in a plastic bowl on her head?
  • To be able to speak at least three languages?
  • To carry a handkerchief with you because there is no doubt, you WILL be dripping sweat eventually?
  • To see a live goat riding passenger on a motorbike, being punched in the head if he starts to squirm?
  • To get someone's attention by "psssst"ing at them, or making a loud smacky kissy noise?
  • To see agouti meat for sale along the side of the road, and wonder who will be the lucky family that gets to have that much meat for dinner?
  • To take a bath in front of your house with a basin of water and a plastic cup?
  • To carry anything and everything in your head?
  • To do your laundry by hand and lay the clothes out on the sidewalk or sandy beach to dry?
  • To have the rightaway entering a roundabout, but once you're in, you yield to everyone entering?
  • For girls aged six and up to "po-po" their siblings or children (carry them wrapped onto their backs with a piece of fabric)?

To be able to buy anything from the car (qtips, sliced papaya, bras, tennis shoes, and cell phone chargers)?
The answer to all of these questions is YES if you are in Togo.  Most definitely yes.  So much so, that I don't think twice about any of these.

How many things that seemed overwhelming and bizarre when we first arrived in Africa don't even hit my radar any more?  Way more than I realize I am sure. 

I think we have found a new normal.  And I might like it better.

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