I like lists. I’ve written a list of 50 things I want to do before I turn 50. I’m currently reading a book about lists (Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gwande) and how lists insure things are done right (maintaining safety in take-off of a Boeing 757, building a 80 floor skyscraper so it won’t fall over during high winds, placing central lines with low infection rates). I put lists around our dental clinic to remind our staff where things go, when things are to happen, and who is coming.
But I hesitate to write a list about missing...because it quickly transforms from what I miss (family, church, etc) to a pity story and/or complaint machine (bad African roads, inferior medical instruments breaking down, developing nation infrastructure, etc). Woe is me! I also wanted to wait until we lived in Kenya a substantial length of time (now 17 months) to figure out what I really missed (family) and things I could live without (Cinnamon Toast Crunch). I hope this list will share what we miss (because they are important parts of our life) and not come across as critical to Kenya, its people, or culture (We are blessed to be here with these good people). So here are the 10 things we miss about home in no particular order.
10- We miss the freedom to travel at night. Roads are not marked and cars often have one working headlight...that single headlight approaching may not be a motorcycle but a Lori (I also saw a motorcycle driving by flashlight), and bandits are about... it’s just not safe to drive at night. Where would we go if we could? Maybe a movie, a coffee shop, a book store, or out to dinner..with the girls falling asleep in the back in the dark on the way home and Sara and I talking.
9- We miss the seasons. The weather is 50-75 degrees daily, usually sunny, probably a lot like San Diego. The sun rises EVERYDAY (along with Meredith) at 6:15 AM and sets EVERYDAY at 7:15 PM (we are within driving distance of the equator). I could not tell you when the best month to harvest corn or plant tomatoes is and they may be the same month for all I know! The weather is so regular around Kijabe it can get a bit monotononous! What seasons do I miss?
We miss the authentic Autumn of Ohio with school resuming, the excitement of College Football, pumpkins on the porches, piles of leaves blowing down our sidewalk, the reds, yellows and orange of the Cuyahooga Valley National Park blurring together.
We miss the winter of Central Oregon with white snow, x-country skiing to Tumalo Falls, Christmas Lights, a warm fire at home, nice turns on the Outback lift at Bachelor, and a Fir Christmas trees that smells everything like Christmas should.
We miss the Spring in Portland and Seattle as the Crocus peak through even in late February, the blooming house size Rhododendrums, the scent of NW coffee (even though I don’t drink coffee), hiking in the Old Growth Forests, and wearing a Gortex coat in lieu of a umbrella like any proud Northwestener would do.
We miss the summer of the Puget Sound as the Ferries are passing by, the lakes are prime for water skiing and swimming, the ocean is alive, the daylight that extends just when you need it most to get in that last bike ride, jump shot, or walk to get ice-cream with the girls.
8- We miss our country. I didn’t expect this at all until we were at a conference about reverse culture shock and it was suggested that when repatriating strong emotions, tears, and love for your home country can emerge; and I realized I hadn’t seen our flag or sang our national anthem in over 16 months (this also coincided with the Winter Olympics). I became sad and proud of the USA at the same time. I wanted to pledge allegiance, sing the star-spangled banner, and read the Declaration of Independence all at once. Without being ethnocentric, jingoistic, or any other ‘ic’ I have become even more aware that the United States is strong, generous, honest, free, and amazing country to call home. I’m more proud to be and American citizen living in Africa than I ever have been before. I’ll leave it at that.
7- We miss the American health care system. I know the system in America has faults. I know health insurance is expensive. I realize too many people that want to be insured are not. But once you have a condition that requires surgery in a third world setting...you will yearn for any City Hospital in America compared to the best hospitals here (no criticism intended) in Africa. We have missed the nursing care, specialization, privacy, competency, compassion, cleanliness, and excellence that the American Health care system provides.
6- We miss not being with family and friends when they need us. We are sorry! We feel helpless here when back home someone we know has open heart surgery, misses out on job sorely desired, is working things out in a new relationship, faces an unknown future of transition, has health problems, is in the hospital for pre-term labor, is redefining family, is fired from a job, has a big test, is being scrutinized, has lost their house, lost a family member, has problems with their children, isn’t being heard, wonders where God is right now. All of this and more has happened to family and friends since we have been gone. Skyping, e-mail, blogging, and mobile phones are great inventions but vastly poor substitutes for a hug, prayer, shared tear, a word of encouragement, or a cup of coffee together. We are still praying for you. Thankfully, there are no physical boundaries that prevent God’s ability to answer prayers.
5- We miss being with family and friends during the great times. The other day Meredith said, “Daddy I miss my cousins.” I wondered which cousins she was talking about as she now has 7 cousins (two new since we have left) and two other we have met just twice. The little ones (cousins and friends) are growing and we have missed countless birthdays, 2 Christmases, wedding, new births, Summer Reunions, graduations, and much more. I have heard of missionaries that have prayed that “God would take their longing for their families and friends away, to help them better serve without distraction.” Hey, we have been blessed with great friends at Kijabe and Tenwek...but our thinking is not in that camp! Our friends and family back home (YOU) are irreplaceable. And though we know the party must go on without us...we think it would be a much better party with the Friess Family present!
4- We miss being connected. They say a missionary is at best at least a season behind and at worst forever stuck in the year they went out on the mission field. That either means we are still living in 2008 (I think ‘W’ is no longer President) or at best somewhere in the spring of 2009. Occasionally I see Western visitors coming wearing rolled-up pants, big sunglasses, loafers, v-neck sweaters, collars up, and bigger hair than I am used to (is this the 80’s again)....and I wonder why are they dressed so differently? But it happened so consistently I finally realized no Malin...you are the one that is out of style (which is no big suprise). If I could just find my pegged pants, hairspray, and Izod shirts from 8th grade!
We missed celebrating together as Americans the Winter Olympics Gold Medals and Inauguration of our new President. Just the same coming together for the Relief in Haiti and even the downturn in the economy and just trying to understand the implications of the health care reform.
3- Can we each have a few superficial things we miss? Chipotle Burrito (black beans, cilantro, white rice, beef), a smooth road (for driving or cycling), street lights, pop tarts, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Cosco, March Madness, Borders Books, Nightly News, NBA Playoffs, and reliable internet.
2- And for Sara (a bit more refined)? Starbucks Coffee with friends, the convenience of Target, Panera Bread, a flat trail in which to run, NW Seafood, a great salad, and the Fine Arts (Broadway Musicals).
1- We miss our home churches? We miss worshiping with you through good music, engaging bible study, challenging sermons (Our home pastors are great and most any sermon they give could satisfy the 3AM phone call rule..Pastor what is your sermon about?...and they could give you the answer in one concise sentence!), and most of all your friendship. You are indeed glorifying God in how you worship. And also glorifying Him in your support of our family in Kenya.
Being called to be in Kenya now feels right, different, and far away from home all at once.