Great No Expectations

I'm *possibly* beginning to realize that adapting to life here is all about letting go of your expectations.

I have expectations that things will just go the way that I want them to, and then, they almost never do, and that’s when I get all riled up and anxious, and then frustrated because I feel that I don’t feel like I “get it” here. Now I'm beginning to think that it’s not that I haven’t adapted to life here – it’s that I’m still not used to letting go of my expectations and just letting whatever happen – happen.

This applies to even the simpliest of tasks...

Today I planned on going and getting groceries, dropping them off at home, and then grabbing a quick lunch at the cafeteria.

Well, it all worked out, but not as I had expected.

First, on the way into town, there was a major traffic jam.

There is currently a strike going on at the port, all having to do with Rosewood. The government of MG has forbidden the exportation of the valuable wood (see the National Geographic article I found this week for more info.). According to my driver, approximately 15 people have been charged with exporting the wood illegally and put in prison. Now people are striking in protest. Basically I think it’s that they just don’t come to work, there aren’t really any protests, per se. I live about 10km from the port, so I don't see any of the action, except for today. Typically along the road to the port there are about a hundred semi trucks lined up. But today, because of the strike, there were a FEW HUNDRED trucks lined up.

On the narrow roads of Toamasina, this is a big traffic jam.

So we were diverted, it took forever, so I started asking my driver questions about what's going on. I expect that he has an idea what's going on...and I think he does. He's a new driver...and he's so brutally shy and scared of me, and seems to forget how to speak French when he's around me. So I didn't get as much info as expected....

We go to the bank first to take out some money for groceries. Again, I expect that the bank machine will dispense money..... but this one has run out of money. So we go to a different bank machine, which I expect will accept my bank card, but it doesn't... but will take my visa. I expect to be able to withdraw the equivalent to $200CDN, but the bank machine only allows transactions of up to $100CDN. All dispensed in $5 bills. Awesome. Now I have a big bundle o' money.

We get to the grocery store, and do my shopping....all the while paying attention to my watch....expecting to be finished in five minutes...

I get in line at the checkout, and there is a LONG line up. Only made up of one group of customers, but they are buying a lot. And a lot of multiple items. For example: 25 packages of crackers. The point of sale systems aren’t set up so that you can just scan the item once and then hit “25”, she must hit the button 25 times. But as she’s hitting the button, she loses count. So she has to call for help to cancel the items, have the customer unpack the packages of crackers, re-count them, and then ring them in again. I think I was standing there for 15 painful minutes watching this. (The worst part is, I can't even count the number of times I've had to watch this....)

Finally it’s my turn and my groceries are rung in without any problems. I expect to pay about $50CDN, but I always forget here - groceries - especially imported food - are pretty expensive! Luckily I had some extra cash to pay for it.

We go to drive home, traffic is backed up and we are re-routed again, this time by the police, but still because of the port strike.

The whole time, I was telling myself to calm down and that there is nothing I can do about it. The concept of “rushing” in unknown here, and me worrying about getting back in time for lunch or getting back so that I’m not gone more than the accepted “one hour” for lunch is ridiculous.

And then I started to think about things....I just have to let go of the expectations that things will go a certain way – because here – they almost never do. It’s great to make plans and everything, but getting too attached to them really becomes a fault.

One of the best (and possibly the only applicable) piece of advice I got before I moved here was, Don’t expect anything.

My days here....would be a lot easier if I could accept to not expect....

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