The Smell of Home

Today was rough. Well, ok, the last few days have been rough. We’ve had a few important events this week which has been demand time and energy out of many of us. I’ve been running around from 5am to 10pm (on a good day) and today unfortunately everyone else was just as stressed and irritable, which meant I kept getting in trouble. There is a part of my job that requires me to get in trouble actually. That’s what happens when you’re trying to do what your told to do, but also do what your guest would like. Because not surprisingly, those who “desires” don’t always match up. So then there’s a question of who’s right, “the client” or “the boss”. And yes, if you’re well trained in customer service, theoretically it’s the client. This means in my case, what the visitor wants (or doesn’t want) I try and fulfil even if it seems “bad” to my co-workers. Now, before I sound to rebellious, let me give an example. I’m told to stay by an American guest’s side at all times, eating with them, sitting with them in meetings to help translate, spending their free time with them, making sure they’re all taken care of. However, American’s tend to be a bit more independent, and don’t want someone by them every moment babysitting them. Sometimes we just like to walk around and explore. So, for example, today (by his request) I let my guest wander around campus a while before we left to Lima. I quickly get a call by someone who sees him out their window “Angela! Why aren’t you with him? He’s lost!” Ah… the fun of culture translation. Last night he had a slight stomach ache and asked if Peru had something like Tums. When I called to ask the office I got a “ok, we’re sending the ambulance to take him to the clinic to see a doctor.” Needless to say that was another battle I picked against my co-workers in favor of my “client.” And it was the first time I really stood up strong against anyone here. It feels good to hold my ground, but today I got a little tired of getting in trouble. It started feeling more like “I can’t do anything right”. Because even when I got to my appointments on time, I was getting phone calls 1 minute before walking through the door asking “Where are you? They need you translating right now.” To which it got tiring responding “I’m right outside the door. Sheesh!”

And as the perfect cap to my frustrating day, I took advantage of my hour at home this evening to make muffins. However, I made the kind I don’t like, specifically for a friend (who I then checked facebook and realized is gone for the weekend). And then to top it all off, I was trying to get everything in the house swept before Sabbath, and I burned the muffins. So now I have muffins which I can’t get to my friend, who I can’t give to anyone else anyway because they’re burnt. And heavens knows these aren’t going in the trash no matter how bad they are! So I’m stuck this weekend eating burnt orange marmalade muffins. Ew.

But today around 9:30 as I walked up the stairs to my house, which I haven’t seen very often or for much time recently, I got within 10 feet of my front door and it smelled like home. I could smell the sweet fragrance of muffins drifting down the side-walk. And from outside they don’t smell like orange marmalade; they don’t even smell burnt. It just smells sweet, relaxing, comforting and welcoming. As I walked through the door it made me think of how often that happens to me. How many times do I just need to walk away from a problem for a while, distance myself a little bit, and when I look back realize that actually there’s a huge blessing that comes with it? It’s not that everything is suddenly good or that all problems go away (there are still burnt muffins sitting on my counter) but I come back realizing that not everything is bad and there was possibly something really good going on I didn’t have the perspective to see. So for now it’s not time to dwell on my problems, but enjoy that fact that in the midst of my frustrations, Peru is starting to smell like home. I’m starting to feel comfortable enough to be assertive and they’re no longer walking on eggshells around me either. Why does no one publish this sort of stuff about inter-cultural adaptation? “You know you have made a step in the process of adaptation when you can successfully and comfortably yell at people in your new country.”

But I will still be making a new batch of muffins. Because sweet house perfume or not, I want muffins I can eat and enjoy! Donut muffins here I come!

One Comment Add yours

  1. rich says:

    Whenever you want to send me burnt muffins, I'm game. And always remember, home is where YOU are. Hope your weekend doesn't go as time consuming as the rest of the week.


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