Well, if feels like it’s been a long time since you last read a post of mine… it has been! In these past six weeks our lives have probably looked very different. You all have had snow and Thanksgiving and Santa is back at the mall posing for 20 dollar pictures. I on the other hand, have been snuggling with cheetahs and riding elephants, with no concept of winter or the holidays or any part of normal American life like free wifi, a day without make up, or taking a whole shower without falling over because land doesn’t you know… move.
Life on board has gotten better, though some aspects are still challenging. I’ve gone (drumroll please) almost 44 days without free wifi… so ya’ll better #recognize that my facebook messages are PRECIOUS and EXPENSIVE! I’ve resorted to hand washing socks and underwear in our airplane-sized bathroom sink because believe it or not, 4 semi-working washer and dryers are hard to get dibs on when they are the only ones available to over 400 crew members. My current life goal is simply to quit gaining 10 pounds a day but Oceania is known for it’s food and the basic buffet is like a lobster crepe stuffed with some fancy cheese and a side of escargot, for example. And of course there are still the cute little old guests who fart down the hallway (we can hear you) and want their money back for the two hour walking tour they paid for because “they didn’t know there was going to be a lot of walking.” Hm.
BUT… Life on board is also really good. Like when I met a couple that are Belmont Alumni, and we got to have dinners and talk about that special place. Life was good when a precious little Italian guest who I got to know said, “Suzanna, you truly have a beautiful soul.” Life was good when I got to do my own cabaret performance on the main stage! Life is good when I’m drinking a 1 dollar Carona at the crew bar, and when I’m eating all of those amazing yummy foods for FREE. Life is good when I’m on a tour bus and I pinch myself and say, “Wait a minute… I’m in Africa!”
And that’s the bizarre thing! I’m in AFRICA. I don’t think there was any way to prepare for it. Unfortunately I have yet to snuggle with a cheetah or ride an elephant but what I have done is seen some incredible culture and magnetic cities that despite being poverty-ridden are with people who I would argue are happier and more alive than your average American with their iphone 6 and 2000 square foot home.
Maybe that’s what is amazing about what I’ve seen in Africa. The African people are proud. In America, we don’t want to host a dinner party at our house because we’re embarrassed that we don’t have the newest refrigerator. In Africa, they are beaming with pride to show this bus full of old white people their tiny shack of a house made out of sheets of metal, and sometimes even mud. I’m serious! The world out here that is such an odd and fascinating combination of modern society and tribal life. In the cities I’ve been to, the city centers have busy streets with cars and small cafes and KFC’s, but lying right on the out skirts of town are people who don’t own shoes, live on 250 dollars or less a month, and trade cows for women. Normal life for them is to not have running water, and to haev to siphon off electricity from the power lines to light up their homes- homes that still have dirt floors and no windows and chickens run around like pet dogs. But these are the children that run up to the bus and pose for pictures, the men that smile and wave, proud of their homes and families, and the women that invite you in to show you the jewelry they’ve made or the spices they have harvested. These are the people who find no shame in their life, offering it up as a living zoo for us tourists to come take pictures of. Pictures that will be posted on Facebook or printed out in a scrapbook and soon forgotten about.
I’m sorry- I don’t mean to be negative or depressing, but that is kind of the anomaly that I’m experiencing in these places. Such extreme poverty that doesn’t incite any action, or maybe can't becuase it's simply too overwhelming. What kind of bothers me most is that seeing these things that should be life-changing, usually fails to really pull anyone out of their own world for any substantial length of time. I hate to write about it publically- because of course we live in the age of offending EVERYONE (but that's another topic) but it really does get to me- the sad sort of irony of it all. To experience first hand the poverty of this world, and 2 minutes into being back on the bus, someone is complaining about the AC not working... after we just saw people living in metal shacks with no running water... I'll leave it at that- I have edited a large portion of this post in which I went into many examples of the infuriating and trivial complaints I deal with on the ship on a day to day basis. I deleted it becuase its not necessary, I'm trying to keep my job (*see "age of offending EVERYONE"*), and it's depressing. And to be honest, I don't pass the test with flying colors either; I get back on board and complain that I don't have wifi to update my blog, or that I am bored of the twenty dresses I own and have NOTHING to wear. Basically, I'm convinced that all of us much wealthier people are undeniably less happy than the little girls who have their whole day made by getting to feel my hair. In the context of having so much less, these people have so much more.
SO ANYWAY… if anything comes out of reading this, just take a minute today and be thankful for the small things in life like having shoes and wifi and plenty of money (even us poor college grads are RICH in comparison) and having windows, and floors, and heat, and deodorant, and medicine, and also that you are not sold to a man for the price of a cow. Life is good.