Saturday, February 25, 2017

My Double Life

No, I am not a spy. While Eric and I did enjoy McGyver, Alias, Superman, etc. as young people, we don’t weekly assume alter-egos that jet off to exotic places for secret missions. Yet, as we packed and prepared at the end of our most recent furlough, I did have the distinct realization that I lead a double life.

Tanzania has been our home now for over 4 years, longer than I have lived anywhere except my childhood home in Richardson, TX. Our house here is a place that we have restored and decorated as a couple. It is filled with memories, including the majority of our memories as a family of three. Here we have meaningful work and our own routine. We have a community here that we love and who loves and supports us.  Whenever we return to the U.S., we live in the homes of others, adapt to their schedules and routines, and try to squeeze 1.5-2 years’ worth of presentations, doctors’ appointments, deep conversations, and memories into a few brief months. Furlough is exhausting. However, it is also exhilarating, because the U.S. is also home. We are back in the homes of our youth, which hold a tremendous amount of wonderful memories. Suddenly we can dive into conversations in our native tongue and therefore reach different depths of conversation. We can talk with people who have known and loved us for decades. We generally have a clearer understanding of cultural norms. We blend in and are not immediately identifiable as outsiders. There is something truly refreshing about that.

Two countries--both very much home. In each place, I am myself, and yet in each place, I am also different. Sometimes it almost feels like there are two Lindas—U.S. Linda and Tanzania Linda. Let me elaborate.

U.S. Linda

Tanzania Linda
My Alias
Linda Funke in the U.S. is Linda with a short I, and Funke pronounced like “funky.”
Linda Funke in Tanzania is pronounced “Leenda Foonkay.” This Linda is also called “Madam Linda” at school or “Mama Michael” by the community as parents are also given the name of their first child. Eric is also called “Baba Michael” fairly regularly.

My Gear
As soon as we return to the U.S., this Linda digs through the bins in Eric’s parents’ basement, unpacking items that serve my American persona—blue jeans, 120-volt hairdryer, skirts that show my knees, jewelry, a variety of shoes including boots and high heels, coats, hats, scarves, etc. U.S. Linda appreciates a comfy pair of jeans and enjoys trying out new styles. U.S. Linda almost never has anything tailored because of the expense. U.S. Linda enjoys occasionally wearing heals and being closer to her husband’s height.

As soon as we return to Tanzania, this Linda pulls out dresses with beautiful vibrant pattern, handmade to fit me. Tanzania Linda also loves the freedom of long skirts. Yes, you read that right—freedom. While they may not be suitable for more strenuous activities, for everyday activities that require sitting on the floor with my son, long skirts have a lot more give than the average American jeans and don’t require a belt to keep them from riding too low. Tanzania Linda almost always wears sandals, because they are comfortable and she doesn’t want to tower over her Tanzanian friends.

U.S. Linda uses cards to pay for most everything and may look a little foolish figuring out how the whole chip thing works. U.S. Linda also appreciates how you can find a lot of what you are shopping for in one or two stores. U.S. Linda can easily pick up random items at a nearby store on the way home from the day’s activities.
Tanzania Linda pays for everything using cash (which you may or may not be able to get at the ATM that day). Tanzania Linda goes to many open-air markets and little shops looking for items and may or may not find them. However, shop keepers are also often willing to go and get something for you while you wait if they know of another shopkeeper who has it. Tanzania Linda also is a bit more organized when shopping because town is 30 minutes away and we only go once a week.

Personality and Activities
U.S. Linda tries to make the most of every opportunity to be with people, and therefore is more likely to watch TV with family, go to playdates, concerts, shows and museums, go out to dinner with friends, etc.
Communicating and recognizing cultural nuances requires more attention here, so Tanzania Linda tends to be more introverted. She makes more time for reflective activities such as reading, writing, listening to podcasts, and going for walks in the neighborhood.

U.S. Linda so appreciates being able to eat out, having many foods pre-cut/prepared, and having a huge variety of foods. Seriously, every item of food has dozens of options—vegetables, fruits, ice cream, popcorn, milk, cheese, etc. We also love being home with our extended families where we usually don’t have to cook and can enjoy the company of other loved ones in the evening.
Tanzania Linda appreciates that there aren’t a lot of hidden additives in her foods. While it takes at least forty-five minutes to an hour to prepare a meal here, most of the ingredients are extremely fresh. There are not as many options here, but much of the produce they do have is so much better than in the U.S. You have not truly seen a “jumbo” avocado until that avocado reaches the size of avocados here. I have not met a banana in the U.S. as sweet as the ones we can find here.

Worship Life
U.S. Linda travels around to many churches during our visits. During our four months of furlough, we worshipped with 15 different congregations. We enjoyed the diversity of services, the ability to have other family members help us with Michael, the ease of listening more closely to the service in our native tongue, and the beautiful music with a wide variety of instruments and intricate choral parts.
Tanzania Linda generally worships at our small church in Mwadui and is accustomed to services going at least 2-2.5 hours. Tanzania Linda loves the dancing and the beauty of the human voice in the acapella music. She also loves how everyone brings what they have for offering and the produce and goods are auctioned off after service. Here we may either be distracted by Michael or struggling with the language barrier, so we supplement with sermon podcasts in English on Monday night. Here in Tanzania I also have time for a women’s Bible study so I can dig a little deeper with a small group.

My heart is divided, which is the nature of having two homes, two lives. In each place, there are struggles. In each place, there are people we love and aspects of our lives that we treasure. Having a double life isn’t easy, but right now I wouldn’t have it any other way.