Sunday Morning~ Bar Harbor
August 6, 2017
Tuesday morning I started the trek back to Bar Harbor and I swear, it’s harder to travel by public transportation in Maine than it is in Malawi. Rachael and I settled into the seat on the commuter rail to North Station where I was getting the train to Portland. She said, “Uh, Mum. You can move over a little.” Crushing her against the window, I automatically expected an additional two people to fit onto the seat. I realize one year in Malawi has reset some of my default settings. The concept of personal space is one of them. The day before I wondered why a car would pull out of the intersection and drive on the wrong side of the road, before horrifyingly realizing that I had been driving on the left. I’ve looked for a three pronged adapter to plug in my phone charger, then think, “Oh! I can just plug this into the wall as it is!” I’m always pleasantly surprised to go into a public rest room and find toilet paper. In Malawi, we never go anywhere without toilet paper. It’s a routine check: got my wallet, got drinking water, got toilet paper. I am continually remarking about how clean everything is. The streets and sidewalks are cleaner than our kitchen floor in Blantyre. In fact, I walked all the way up our road last night barefoot. I had blisters from dancing at the wedding we’d been at and I realized the road was pretty darn smooth! It was much more comfortable to walk barefoot. It was about a mile to our car and my feet aren’t even dirty! Everything looks sparkling!
I went over to my house and picked up a year’s worth of mail. In the pile was a notice that my electricity was being shut off for failure to pay the $579 bill. I had been upset about how high the bill was, not understanding how it could be five times higher than a year ago. I’d set up automatic payments before I left and had no idea why that particular bill hadn’t been paid. I called customer service to be told that I had not, in fact, signed up for automatic payments. The service rep said, “You signed up for electronic invoices only.” So, I actually didn’t have a six hundred dollar electric bill for one month; that was for the whole year! No wonder it had been going up every month. So that little mystery was solved. Thank God I picked up the mail when I did.
Also in that pile of mail was notice I’d been handed to a collection agency for overdue payment at the building supply store. No bill, just a notice from the collection agency. When I went to the store to investigate, certain I had paid all my bills before I left, I discovered the charge was for purchases made in September when I wasn’t here. They had mistakenly been put on the wrong account. That took about two minutes to resolve. It would have been days in Blantyre. The contrasts always leave me a little disoriented. Some of them are pleasant surprises like the toilet paper, others more disturbing. Excess is the hardest thing for me to absorb on return. On Monday morning I went into Market Basket near Rachael’s to get milk as soon as the store opened. As I was crossing the parking lot, I wondered if they would have the goat milk the kids drink. When I walked in the store and saw the milk section I just started laughing! The wall of milk was bigger than our house. The grocery store choices just seem obscene. Who needs seven hundred kinds of cereal?
There is some discussion about re-entry shock among volunteers. It’s the counterpart to culture shock but we don’t get as much guidance with how to deal with it. I’ve been through it before, but only when I was home to stay. It’s a little different knowing we will be going back there in a short time. It’s like I don’t want to adjust too much to life here fearing the readjustment going back will be harder. When I see familiar friendly faces and smiles of recognition, when I get warm “Welcome home!”’s and embraces, I worry I won’t want to leave. I don’t take for granted how beautiful this island is, how diverse the activities and viewpoints, and how much it has given me since moving here in 1992. But that worry is very un-zen. I want to relish the present.
I’m back from church where I felt like I put on an old comfortable slipper. Familiarity is such a balm. Today we will head out to Beach Island with the grandkids for a week. I can’t wait for concentrated time with them in one of the most idyllic settings in the world. I’m living in the fantasy of One Morning in Maine, especially since we depart from Buck’s Harbor where that story took place. Now that I know my tenants won’t be out of power and I won’t be hauled off to debtors prison, I can be on vacation until I take George back to Boston in two weeks for his return to Malawi. Well, except for the talk I need to prepare for Friday evening at the library. We’ll have a little excursion for that, but it’s all good.
Off to catch the boat!
Love to all,