Waking up to a car horn blaring some 50 feet from my bedroom window or listening to a dog fight outside our gate at 3am are common occurrences that fall under the label “extremely frustrating.”
I have been harboring a lot of frustrations lately. Things that get under my skin that are simply a part of life here, yet stretch my comfort zone or even boil my blood. I get frustrated when I feel like I’m powerless to understand or change something. I feel frustrated when I experience uncomfortable interactions with regularity and no perceived purpose.
But without discomfort, challenges, and even frustration, what need would I have for the important things like patience, compassion, gratitude, self-control, empathy, etc. There is something to be said for being ok with being uncomfortable.
It’s easy for me to be sick of sleeping under a mosquito net and being woken up by dogs and cars and housemates. It’s easy to get annoyed by the endless barrage of greetings wherever I walk. It’s easy to get disgruntled by the consistent lack of organization and communication within the businesses and organizations I work. It’s easy to resent the cultural differences that don’t make sense to me and create barriers to development work and education.
In contrast it’s hard to remain humble in a culture and context so important to those within it and so different from my own. It’s hard to respond graciously to strangers when I don’t feel like engaging. It’s hard to stay positive and patient when my class schedule gets changed without notice and the kids are bouncing of the walls at the end of the day. It’s hard to stay motivated when my work feels aimless or ill supported.
I have to remember that I chose to live here. That the things that bug me are simply a part of life for many in Tanzania, for better or worse. I have to remember that by getting frustrated or worked up about the negative things, I am distracting myself from the more challenging experience of letting myself be changed.
Growth is not a painless process. Empathy and compassion surface with some sacrifice of the ego. And patience is cultivated through time spent with the unexpected or undesired.
I’m thankful for routines that keep me centered like evening aerobics classes at the gym and the 20 minute walk to and from school. I’m thankful for relationships that encourage open and honest reflection about all this that’s bouncing around in my head. And finally I’m thankful for the opportunity to live and work here, frustrations and all.