Wednesday, April 4, 2012
On Ho Humness
There is a building on the outskirts of Burlington called the Ho Hum Motel. My family drives by it frequently and without fail, every month or so, my Dad will say something along the lines of, “You know, I sort of like that name. Ho Hum Motel. It’s not trying to be something it’s not.”
The repetition of this particular opinion has become something I simply roll my eyes at in the car. But like so many memories of home this year, it has become another random moment from the past that suddenly enters my mind while walking down some unknown street in a foreign city. In this case, on my way from the hostel to a Lusaka restaurant.
I was thinking about how I haven’t posted in a few days, and how I didn’t really have anything to say. I feel a little paralyzed this week; I'm leaving Zambia on Monday which means I have more than enough days left to prepare for my departure, but not quite enough days left to sink my teeth into more name research. It's been a bit of a week of the ho hum (which is to be expected, perhaps, after last week's safari).
I think that sometimes people hear about my year and imagine that I am constantly surrounded by loud and colorful strangers, and am weaving my way in and out of traffic, climbing mountains, and eating mysterious food. All those things have accounted for some of my year, but eight months in, I'm realizing that a lot of my year has also been taken up with the ho hum. In a year with so little structure and so many logistics to work out, I end up spending an enormous amount of time trying to plan my next steps. Sending e-mails to strangers and googling Lonely Planet hostels in Ireland and Iceland has taken up the majority of my mornings this week. Then there’s the details and questions as I prepare for a departure: do I cram everything into my suitcase or consider mailing a box home from Zambia? Is the postal system reliable? If I send it through DHL, where could I find an empty cardboard box in Lusaka? Then there’s the daily grocery shopping, trying to make the internet work, the walks to ATMs. There’s contacting a Bed and Breakfast in Belfast and a research contact in Reykjavik, there’s taking a break to play with the owner of the hostel’s four year-old son, and waiting for water to come back on so I can take a shower. There's mornings spent trying to write a blog post about names and afternoons spent buying more phone credit and some postage stamps. Some of the best advice I got along this journey was from my friend, Susannah, who told me before arriving in Rabat, “Just try to get two things done a day.” In countries where you don’t know where you're going, where lines are disregarded and time is flexible, I’ve found this advice to be invaluable.
These basics of living and of travel are things that no one really wants to read about. They’re the less interesting parts of this journey, but they're the things that make up the majority of what this year is—the background to them is just constantly changing.
This post is for the ho hum, to let you know I don't have much to say right now, but that I am here. I am living in Lusaka and doing the daily things we do to keep ourselves going and that I would be doing anywhere in the world. Sometimes the enormity of this year hits me, but most of the time, like right now, I'm just drinking tea to get over a cold, checking my Facebook page, appreciating the cooler evenings that have arrived in Lusaka, and planning a trip to the post office in the morning.
It may be ho hum, but it's not trying to be something it's not.