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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Everything is easier in America.

I was quite surprised to have 675 people read last week’s blog, but then as a Journalism Major, I wondered if it was because I had the word “alcohol” in the title? It is with that thought in mind that I gave this weeks’ blog the title “Everything is so easy in America” (and just for the record, it’s easy in Canada too!).

I know there are many of you who immediately got your back up and thought “Janine, you have no idea about my life and how hard it is”, but calm down, and take a minute to see it from my eyes.

Internet.  Every hotel we have stayed in has FREE HIGH SPEED WIRELESS INTERNET.  In fact, every coffee shop, gas station and restaurant that we stopped at also had FREE HIGH SPEED WIRELESS INTERNET. What’s the big deal?  Well, if you do all your banking (personally and corporately) on line, it can take hours or days to simply make a money transfer or pay a bill with highly unreliable internet.  I awoke early one day this week and spent three hours working on line.  At the end of the three hours I felt that I had completed a week’s worth of work.  There is no such thing as “free internet” or (“high speed” internet for that matter) in Swaziland, but we all depend on it for day-to-day communication.  It is easier here and so much more can be accomplished (and with much less frustration).  Of course when my Internet isn’t working I do spend more time with people rather than looking at my screen in the privacy of my house.  Maybe that isn’t so bad?

Credit cards. I can use a credit/debit card everywhere I shop here.  For gas, clothes, coffee, GASOLINE and hotel.  This is not the case in Swaziland.  We live in a cash society there and can’t fill up the car with gas without cash.  I am not a good cash carrier and have found myself on “empty” digging through the car looking for coins to get a few Rand of gas to get me back to the farm.  Did you know that the average credit card debt in America is $15,956 PER HOUSEHOLD?  Total US credit card debt was $801 BILLION as of December 2011.  Maybe cash is an okay way to go?

Phones.  I used to be so incredibly dependent on my phone when I lived in Canada and the US because it was attached to my ear much of the day.  Right now we are here with no cell phone because our AT&T contract has expired and we don’t really need one on this side of the pond (and of course we have free Wi-Fi at most stops remember?).  My phone in Swaziland is really a lifeline though.  It doesn’t ring often (with the invent of texting and the high cost of calling), but when it does ring I answer it with great anticipation that it will be a Social Welfare officer calling about a child in need.  Yesterday the phone rang in Swaziland and we learned of a newborn baby who was birthed in a pit latrine (outhouse) and left to die. The police rescued the baby, arrested the young (orphaned) mother and are doing some further investigation. They believe that we will be allowed to pick up that baby next Wednesday and bring him/her home to El Roi.  I am so thankful for live phone calls in Swaziland.

Food.  There is food everywhere here.  Fast food, prepared food, good food, bad food, comfort food, cold food, hot food, lots and lots of food.  I know why I put on so much weight in the past few years and why it was coming off in Swaziland.  It is a combination of immediate access, low cost, laziness and food processing.  While I have thoroughly enjoyed more than my share of PF Chang’s, Tim Horton’s, McDonalds, Jimmy Johns, Swiss Chalet and Subway, I look forward to going home and making all sorts of things with the large bag of tomatoes that Denis and Anthony bring me each week from their kitchen garden on the farm. Yum!

Water.  I will admit that after checking in to a Holiday Inn Express I went to brush my teeth and wondered where the kettle was to boil the water.  Duh.  ALL the water is clean here!  I was thankful.  While we love our house at Project Canaan, we still don’t have clean water to drink and the entire team has been struggling for 12 weeks to get the problem fixed.  Of course we don’t have to walk to the river and collect it like most of our Swazi brothers and sisters, ours comes right out of the tap in our house and for that I am really thankful. I will also admit being surprised and excited that there was toilet paper and hand soap in EVERY public bathroom we stopped in from Florida to Ottawa.  What a wonderful treat (that I always took for granted).

What is my point?  My point is that the United States of America and Canada are wonderful places to live.  If you were born there or are living there you must be thankful for all that you have and for the people who have made it “easy” to live there.  I know that nothing is easy, but you live in countries where everything works or if it doesn’t there is someone to call and quickly get it fixed.  There is a high expectation that everything will work, and that is awesome.  Our expectations in Swaziland are lower, or maybe simpler is a better word.  And I will say with all honesty that I am thoroughly enjoying that.  Yes, I get frustrated when my Internet stick shuts down again, or when there is no TP in the bathroom that I ran in to, but life is simpler, slower and I am finally (maybe for the first time in my 48 years) taking time to stop and enjoy the view, smell the roses, enjoy the dogs, savor the tomatoes or comfort a crying baby without that burning need to rush off and accomplish more.

This is likely the most boring blog I have ever written, but it was “easy”.  I am in the comfort of an air conditioned hotel room, Ian and Chloe are sleeping comfortably and Spencer is in class at Florida State University (one of 9,000+ University/College options in the US alone). After I am finished this I will have a hot shower, make coffee in the pot in our room, pack up and get in our own car, drive to Ottawa to see Ian’s family for the night then fly back to Georgia for a day of shopping, visiting and packing before flying home to Swaziland.  On this twelve day trip back to the US and Canada we will have flown 16,000 miles (26,000 km), driven 2,208 miles (3,560 KM), been to 4 countries, 7 states/provinces, stayed in 6 hotels and eaten at countless coffee shops and restaurants.  I am thankful for all that we have had the opportunity to do and see.  I loved being able to see Spencer get to FSU safely, loved seeing my cousin Kim and her family after their tragic loss and loved seeing Ian’s family in Ottawa. But now I am ready to go home, my new home, where the rooster is up at 4AM, the sun comes up at 6:15AM, the dogs are playing by 6:30AM and the world spins much slower and maybe more deliberately.  It’s not easy, but as Ian so often says, “if it was easy, everybody would be doing it”. :)

Live from Ottawa, Ontario, I am starting my journey home.



  1. Thanks for sharing. Your comments are so true. Living in North America is a priveledge no one should forget. Those who have less there would be called rich here. You have gotten a good perspective on what it means to be born in a certain country and how it effects your life. I know Swaziland will be so blessed to have you back living there. Safe travels and much love in the name of the Lord. God is good. Elaine

  2. My hubby and I dream about a simpler life all the time... we are thankful for running clean water, plenty of food, air conditioning and reliable transportation and communication... but it does come at a price, and that price is you're constantly rushing and working and working and rushing... always sacrificing your time for money so you can afford your stuff... it's such a rat race, and the more time I spend doing it, the more I long for a simpler life. Maybe someday sooner than we think we'll take a leap of faith the way you and your family have... blessings to all of you! Thanks for the blog post.