Tuesday, April 28, 2009

6:00am Buja Time, 12:00am Fort Wayne Time


I rumble out of bed for the last time, untucking the mosquito net and trying to slide off the corner of the bed without waking my wife. I’ve been waking up earlier these days. Can’t seem to sleep past six. I head over to the coffee pot to get the daily brew started. No power. Figures. It’ll kick on in an hour or two. It’ll be strange to live in a place where the use of candles isn’t ubiquitous and you don’t have to try to finish your movie before 10pm because the electricity “leaves” (as you would say in Kirundi) every night at that time lately. I stroll over to the couch. Our neighbor has a rooster that has been crowing mercilessly every morning at just that hour when you have the delicious option of rolling over and getting that extra ten minutes. We’ve fantasized about exercising our inner Colonel Sanders. This morning he’s quiet. Maybe someone told him we were leaving.

There’s a rap on the gate. Selius, our guard, walks past the window to let our cook, Emmanuel (who asks that we call him Japan for reasons that are less PC than I’d prefer), into the compound. I live on a compound. This is my last day of life behind a gate. People who live behind gates in the West usually have Beamers or gardeners. I doubt I’ll ever be one of those people. But here, you accept life behind a gate. You accept a lot of things. You accept mosquito nets. You accept power outages. You accept roosters. How long will it take before I feel entitled again? Before I decide that the world owes me air conditioning and fast service at a restaurant?

Japan comes into the living room and says, “Good morning.” His English is good, not as good as his brother’s, but we understand each other well. I hear a little more in his greeting this morning. The tone of his voice says, “Yeah. This is it, isn’t it?” For me, I’m off to the States, a car, a bank account, a garage full of stuff. For him, this is the last day of his job. Best I can tell, he doesn’t have another one yet. Karri wrote him a letter of recommendation yesterday, and we’re going to give him a little extra money to help him out, but it’s tough to find a job like this. Working for a muzungu is a bit of a coup, and there’s always the fear that your next job (if you find one) won’t be nearly as good. Japan wants to get married. Japan wants to build a house. Japan wants to start his own business. I hope he finds another job.

Karri’s up. I know it’s going to be an emotional day, and so does she. I can hear it in her voice. Maybe the power will kick on soon, and I can make her some coffee.

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