Last year I am living in the midst of a construction site. This year I am too. But last year the walls are being built, and the roofs laid, and each morning I wake up to a worker hitting a cement mixer with a sledge hammer, breaking cement that has hardened onto the side of the mixer overnight. Now the buildings are finished, and they are painting, and laying brick drives, and fancying up the entranceways, and it’s a lot quieter.
Then I am on the third floor, above the fray, with views out toward the hills beyond. Now I am on the ground floor, with nothing but new buildings to be seen. No steps, but no balcony, and no views either.
It’s a funny feeling. When I am somewhere around the world and Karen and family are ‘home,’ I enjoy thinking about experiencing this or that with them. Now, after they have actually been here, things seem more vivid, ‘here they were with me,’ I say. Last year Karen is here for two months, and daughter Becky and husband Jon and his mother Yvonne and their children Noah and Kylie are here, and so are sister Nancy and brother-in-law Paul. There are few places around town where we do not go together.
On my first day back I am in search of a shop in the Broadhurst Industrial Area for a toilet seat (first things first), and as I drive along all I can recall is that nearby are the two art supply shops that Karen and I discover. It is easier to miss people when together we have been at places that I now see each day. The feeling overwhelms.
I have been having trouble characterizing the choices I have made in flats. Upstairs I must climb up, and once there, I gain a brighter and more peaceful view, and a TV. Down here, I have fewer steps, no view, no TV, but a washing machine. In these early weeks having a washer is already a blessing, and on balance I imagine I will be happy with my choice. But goodness, it gets quiet here. Last year I can turn on the TV on a Saturday and watch Premier League football from England, or rugby from South Africa. Or a bit of news. Now I have the four CDs I brought from home, playing repetitiously on my laptop.
Last year I move smoothly into internet access. This year I spend time, and money, getting the internet account in good shape, only to discover that the phone line has been cut. Susan Mogwera, in the diocesan office, kindly puts in a service call to Botswana Telecommunications.
Still, it’s really hard to complain about anything. The car runs, and the rearview mirror no longer falls to the floor and the tail lights now work and I have a properly-renewed road license attached to the windshield. I have shelter. Students are a delight, and I could ask for nothing more from such fine colleagues. And as we clergy greet people after the service, many people say ‘welcome back.’ Which feels good.