In the ongoing question I pose yet again in the title of this post, I have two new answers.
First, there is much more routine at Yale. I have a datebook now; I definitely did not have one in South Africa. There were no dates to keep there; everything just sort of… happened. I go to a lot more meetings of committees here. There were no committees in Itipini, praise be.
One result of this is that the time line of life here seems really strange to me. In South Africa, we knew we would never see the Kingdom of God on earth but we kept working away each day at different variations of the same problems – alcoholism, neglect, illness, etc. – knowing we would never solve everything but finding joy in what we could do and learning from when we failed. If we didn’t finish a task today, there was always tomorrow that would be largely the same as today.
At Yale, there are deadlines. Everyone works really hard preparing for midterms or papers and then when they are past, they can be completely forgotten. Each task looms large in the mind as it approaches; when it passes, it is as if it never happened and you can lose sight of how it fits into the larger picture. Life is a lot more segmented here.
(Regular readers of my blog in South Africa will know I once had a less laudatory take on the lack of routine in South Africa.)
In South Africa, when I was struggling through the Xhosa language barrier, I thought many times, “I wish we could speak English – that would be so much easier and I would understand so much more!” And that’s been true. It has been easier and I do understand so much more.
BUT… it’s not always clear that understanding more is really worth it. Sometimes – and I say this with advance apologies to my new New Haven friends who read this blog – our conversations are kind of, well, you know, boring. (I’m as much at fault for this as anyone else.) In South Africa, when I did manage to communicate with someone, it often felt pretty meaningful because we didn’t waste energy on boring stuff. Here, there’s no filter for quality control. Sometimes I wish there was.
If the wistful tone of this post doesn’t make it clear, I miss my life in South Africa.