I have spent the better part of the past 48 hours restoring my computer and throwing water down my toilet to make it flush.  Countless skype calls to the MAC service center and too much money spent to re-download programs I had meticulously selected before I arrived in Africa - in combination with 2AM freak outs - is enough to put a person on edge for the better part of the day.  Still, I am here, sitting, sipping away at my Nescafe elated as I type away on my lap top keys and download the latest version of iTunes, again.  

Why?  I read Josh’s last post and it reminds me of why I am here; why I chose to come here rather than enjoy a quiet life commuting, networking, and playing in DC - the city I call my home base.  Human kind has flourished by meeting challenges head on - devising solutions given a limited set of resources.  We have no fur; poor hearing and can’t see in the dark; our teeth relatively dull among mammals; and, as far as strength goes, compared to our size, we are the weaklings of this world (ants can carry up to 10 times their body weight).  As evolution goes we have two big advantages - our thumbs and our brains.

We used our brains to devise tools and our thumbs to implement the work.  We problem solve and we learn lessons for the future.  Here in Cameroon I am a IT MAC goddess capable of so much more than I knew.  Had I been in the US and my computer broke I would have immediately gone to the genius bar and watched with awe as my computer was restored.  Here, that was not an option.  I had to adapt and I did.  I learned a new lesson every time I washed my hard drive and I came to understand what needed to be done without the aid of any so-called genius.  

My life in the US is relatively challenge free - when there is a problem I can almost certainly resolve it in hours with a few phone calls and a little cash.  I create ways to challenge myself - obsessing over the right outfit, the perfect plan for Friday night, and dangerous drivers who seem committed to killing a cyclist or two on their way to work.  These created challenges can infect our brains as a culture making us fat, self righteous, and over-privileged creatures unable or unwilling to just let life be.

Here the cabs are all decorated with decal stickers and paint espousing the driver’s thoughts, “what will come will come”, “we cannot know the future”, “life is what happens”.  These would make great self-help book bumper stickers; but, here it is truly a way of life.  In Buea, as in cities all over the world, there are too many people who really cannot know what challenges tomorrow will bring; and so it makes them, I think, more grateful for the present.  The daily struggle to survive is made rich by the smallest joys:  a clean front porch, a beer, and a glance at the crazy white lady catching a cab.  Accomplishments which seem commonplace among my peers at home, like registering for college, are truly miracles to some (both here and in the US).  

I travel to and live in developing nations - not out of a sense of duty or guilt or compassion - but, to light in me the same fire of accomplishment.  Last night at 2AM when I finally had my computer working I felt as if I had traveled to the moon and back.  I affirmed my life, my self-worth, and my place in the global community by meeting a challenge head on and devising ways in which to overcome the hardship.  I reveled in my own ability to let life come at me and thrive.

I think about Walter’s and the difficult road he traveled to get to university.  I think about Erin, YAN’s founder, and the way she blazes through the world with full force - reveling in the chaos of it all.  I think about them and I am reminded that I am here to feel deeply and think critically.  I am here to exercise my brain on something other than crossword puzzles.  My struggles with computers, toilets, and cultural adjust are pale in comparison - and yet they are struggles still.  This kind of work is not for everyone - it is difficult to leave all you know and love for the promise of adventure - but, for those of us who keep crossing the ocean to ports unknown it is the best way we know to live and be free.  It is, indeed, how we know we are alive; and, even when it is hard and you want to give up, it is much more enriching to live this challenged life than to never be challenged at all. 

Even when I’m cranky and hate the world I am reminded that I chose this life to love, learn, and grow - and for that I am grateful. Now, if I can just meet these challenges with a smile on my face it will be even better!