Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back behind the wheel... for better or for worse.

I know that this is the second blog in a row that has nothing to do with stuff that truly matters, but I'm writing about it anyway.

There's a difference between driving in Uganda and driving in Nebraska.

But, I wouldn't know a whole lot about it because I didn't drive in Uganda. However, because I'm a renowned back-seat, passenger, any-seat-in-the-car driver, I feel like I learned the ways of driving in Uganda. Either that or I just completely forgot how to drive.

I used to love driving, but prior to this week I was afraid the last year had stripped me of my will to drive. Up until Monday, I was driving old farm vehicles. Vehicles that had minor parts missing or major parts going out. Vehicles that prevented me from driving fast, being distracted or multitasking while driving because it simply wasn't an option. But, Monday I bought a new car. Used, but new to me. And, it's fun. It's fun to drive. It accelerates - quickly. It's sporty. It has a nice radio, a sunroof, and way too many gadgets for me to dink around with while I'm driving.  It's a distraction haven.

In Uganda I didn't realize it, but living in America, I'm so aware of how low my multitasking ability has become. It's actually frustrating. I used to be the best distracted multi-functioning driver in the state. It's gone.

And, you know how I know for sure? Four hours after getting my new car I hit a raccoon. The next day, I'm back in one of the old farm trucks and you know what happens? I get pulled over. I've joked with my friend Layne before about how funny it would be to get a speeding ticket in that truck because of how ridiculous it would be. I mean the truck runs well once you get it started, but very rarely do I ever reach the actual speed limit! I'm the old farmer driving in the fast lane, going ten miles below the speed limit, acting like I'm taking in the scenery, when really my truck just won't go any faster. Yet, I manage to get pulled over.

I was driving 47 mph in a 35 zone, looking at my phone, unaware of my surroundings and thinking about how quickly I could make it to my sister's softball game. I glanced up as I passed the officer. For a split second we made eye contact, and I swear I saw the disappointment in his eyes. I looked at my speedometer, and thinking the speed limit was probably around 45 mph, thought I was safe. Until the red, white and blue flashing lights came on behind me. It was in this moment that I realized how totally and completely out of the habit I am at reading road signs, spotting for police, and hitting the brakes. So, I pulled over into the turning lane to get off the road and said a little prayer that my brake lights and turn signals were working. As I drove into the gas station parking lot, the officer gets on his loud speaker and politely tells me to please pull behind the building. As if the produce truck alone doesn't get enough attention...

Fifteen minutes later and I'm off with a warning. I'll take my lucky break. However, I'm seriously considering submitting my license before I do anything terribly stupid in my new car.

When in America, it's not okay to:

  • Overtake vehicles at any split opening in traffic
  • Fit as many bodies in the car as it will hold
  • Ride side-saddle on motorcyles
  • Drive on the left side of the road
But you probably should
  • Yield to pedestrians
  • Wear a seat belt
  • Pay attention to street signs and read them
  • Follow traffic signals (turns out there are consequences if you don't and even hidden cameras to catch you in the act!)
That's all I remember for now about driving, so do yourself a favor and steer clear of any unlicensed Mazdas you see on the streets of Omaha for the next month.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back where I come from.

I've failed miserably at communicating with the rest of the world since I left Uganda and moved back to Nebraska. Turns out that re-entering your home culture is stressful. It's this strange mix of feeling right at home, and yet completely out of place, feeling guilty for feeling that way, and struggling to process all of those different and mixed up feelings.  

So in the midst of waiting to know what's next, figuring it out, and rediscovering my place in America, here's what I've been doing these days: 

Working at the produce farm.

A day of work consists of going to the farm, driving the truck of produce to the stand, unloading the truck, setting up the stand, working with Americans who come to the produce stand all day, loading the truck back up, driving the truck back to the shed, unloading the truck and going home. Not bad, right? For me, it's a day of hard work, a source of income, and a bit of sanity. 

Most people know that I don't have a car (due to an unfortunate accident that happened while I was in Uganda). And, as dumb as it sounds, it's kind of hard to live in the Midwest without a mode of transportation. I'm unable to commit to meeting with anyone or go to anything, which makes me sound even more noncommittal than I already am. Not having a car raises my stress level, continues to make me more flexible, and increases my exercise output. So instead of having my little 2007 silver Pontiac to drive around , I ride a little silver bike gets me to work and back, to some of my friends' homes, to the post office, and to the little town convenience store.

Once in a blue moon, I decide, or defer, to walking instead...

And when I'm too lazy to do either of those, my newest mode of travel is...

...hitchhiking! (Just kidding :) )

Once I make the trek to work in the morning, it's another hope and prayer to make it into the produce stand each day. The 1986 Ford truck that we drive has a few qualities that give it a character of it's own. One of those being that to get it to run, you have to take a pair of pliers, grip on to some kind of wire, and push hard, while pumping the gas pedal with persistence. Turning the key in the truck doesn't do much to make it run properly, except that if you forget to turn the key, the steering wheel remains locked (not that I've had any miniature heart attacks trying to figure out why I couldn't turn the wheel or anything...) Other than that, once you get the truck going, it works like a charm. This week, though, we've actually had this little issue with the truck fixed! And, for the first time in a long time turning the key causes the engine to run!

After I arrive at the stand, I work on getting it opened up. I sort the produce so that our customers get quality fruits and vegetables, update the price board, and begin unloading the 25 boxes and one hundred melons that are packed on the back of the truck. It's a great workout/diet plan in this 100+ degree weather.

My favorite part of working the stand is working with people. I love the relationships I'm able to make with people who return day after day, year after year. It's fun to see the change and development in people's lives over time. However, there's a whole other dynamic to working with people that stretches my patience level and causes me to take a sharp inward look at my heart. I'm blaming it on reverse culture shock.

So, I'm living in America with my fellow Americans. I hear things and I say things that sometimes make me cringe. I get swallowed up in the busy, worrisome ways of society, and it takes but a moment of stepping back to realize that the things I spend my time worrying about aren't what I was created for anyway. So in the midst of the organized - yet crazy fast traffic, hectic schedules, unlimited texting and calling minutes, and endless to-do lists, there are lots of beautiful things about this place too, and here are a few that I'm rejoicing in: 
  • Time with family and friends
  • Scooter's Coffee
  • My church family
  • Summer nights and country music
  • Sleeping in my bed
  • Running on flat land
There are plenty of others, too, including going out to eat, driving on highways and interstates, unlimited high speed internet, frozen yogurt and bookstores. But, no matter where I am, it's always the people God places in my life who make it the most enjoyable for me.