21 November 2007

day 21 :: small

I realize that the most boring possible things one can write about are: 1. food, 2. illnesses, and 3. tiredness. I’m pretty much writing about those three all the time lately. I have excuses, of course. Re. 1., I’m newly experiencing tasty food again. Re. 2., I have INTERESTING diseases. Re. 3., jet lag, full stop.

I do have other stories, though. Here’s a random one: when I was in Juba last week, I invited myself out to dinner with some people. It went approximately like this:

Colleague 1 (to me and Colleague 2): You two will have to share a car, but you are staying in opposite directions.
Colleague 2 (with friend standing right there): No, I’m going out to eat, so it will be fine.
Me: Where are you going?
C2: To eat pizza.
Me: Can I come?

This is not something I do. It is completely out of character for me. In one of my favorite books, the narrator says something along the lines of, “It was so far out of character for me that it’s possible that it circled right back around to being in character.” This was like that. It takes me a long time to invite people to do things even when we are clearly friends, let along inviting myself along with two people who I do not know and who have not so much as hinted that company would be welcome. It was in East Africa, though, and if there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that when my friends in East Africa mention that they are doing something that night, they are inherently inviting me along. If I later try to say, “But I wasn’t invited!” they just look at me blankly and say, “You knew we were going.” So I will excuse my own rudeness in inviting myself along by pretending that I was just fitting in culturally. Even though neither of them were East African.

So we went to eat pizza. And here’s the weird part: in the course of the conversation, Non-Colleague (aka Colleague 2’s friend) and I discovered that we grew up in the same town in Liberia. AT THE SAME TIME. Literally. We were both born the same year. We both moved to Liberia the next year. We both left in 1990. We never knew each other. (This is not only possible but likely, because her family lived on the base of a big international company that was pretty self-contained, while my parents were hardcore missionary types who were avoiding such luxuries. She attended school on the base; I went to a little house school. But both of our mothers played tennis at the same tennis courts. We might have been ball-chasing for our moms at the same time. And we both shopped at the grocery store on the base.) Weird, weird, weird. We proceeded to have one of those conversations that totally isolates the other person at the table. It included things like this:

“Do you remember that little ice cream place on the road to Monrovia?”

“Yes! They had the BEST ice cream!”

“It’s still there! Well, the cement tables and stools are there. It’s not open, obviously.”

“I used to feel guilty every time I stopped there, because I knew the people who owned the ice cream shop in Monrovia, but that one was so much better!”

You sort of had to be there. In the 1980s. In Liberia.

Even weirder: there was also a Liberian woman, from the town where I grew up in Liberia, in the Tiny Little Town where I was working.

As one of my favorite colleagues from this Sudan gig said in her farewell email, “The world is small and round and people always meet.” I’ve been quoting that line ever since, every time someone asked me if I was coming back. Every time someone asks if I am going back.

“The world is small and round and people always meet.”

2 comments:

Monday's Child said...

I miss those conversations :)

I'm curious... what's the book and who is the author?

KreativeMix said...

Pretty interesting!!!