Thursday, September 18, 2008


When some people come back from poor countries, they sit at home in their living rooms and wonder what they can get rid of and how they can better serve the poor.

I read People magazines.

I don't know what the deal is, but whenever I get back from a really intense experience in a developing area, I go into this hyper-consumer mode and want to buy everything that I see.

Traveling back from Malawi, I went through this process in the Joburg airport. The first thing I saw when I got off the plane back in Johannesburg was a huge, shining, shimmering, sugary-smelling candy store. You know, one of those with hundreds of bins of every kind of candy you have ever seen - licorice, chocolates, gum drops, hard candy, soft candy - - pretty much anything that could possibly rot out your teeth was in that store. They had imported candy from Europe, the US, and even parts of Asia. Oh, the glory of the colors, the extravagance, the stickiness.... after the dirt, poverty and heart-wrenching reality of Malawi, this candy store stood as the beacon of all that was excessive, consumeristic and luxurious. I was in awe. I wandered into the store in a daze, and the sticky surgary smell enveloped me with open arms. I walked from candy bin to candy bin, staring in to each one for an inappropriately long amount of time. I was a pretty sight, I'm sure. I was dirty, covered in paint from the previous days of painting classrooms, and wearing dirty clothes (we hadn't had water the last couple of days I was in Malawi), and hugging two backpacks - one on my front and one on my back. And I could not get enough of the candy store. I didn't know what to pick out - there were so many choices! I wandered around so long that the store manager came and asked me politely if I needed help with anything. This snapped me out of my daze, and I quickly grabbed three bags (yes, bags), paid and left. I then found the entertainment section of a newspaper that had been tossed aside on a table, sat in a corner by myself near my boarding gate, and greedily ate candy until my stomach hurt and my teeth were fuzzy.

And that I how I dealt with reverse culture shock. I have no idea what this says about my character, but it can't be good.


Kent said...

Hey, you used to do the same thing when we asked you to mow the lawn. Your character is fine. Your coping mechanisms provide employment opportunities for dentists. Too bad you don't like watching football - it provides a similar escape (and is usually associated with similarly healthy foods and beverages). Glad you made it back to S.A. safe and sound, that you survived Tracy and Tracy survived you.
Love, Dad

jennifer said...

hahah. your dads comment is funny. i think you're funny. sometimes we need to cope in ways we dont understand. all will be revealed to us one day!

Victor said...

Hmmmmmmm, at least you're honest, candygirl.