Daily life can be filled with irritations. The technical support people who seem to know less about their product than I do and therefore offer little support. The barista who makes my frappucino in slow motion while talking in fast motion to her co-workers about her car troubles. The hidden app on my new smartphone that gobbles up data usage.
But two weeks in Africa gave me some perspective. It made me think about all the things that just happen seamlessly in my daily life that I never appreciate not being irritated by.
Every morning, I don’t really appreciate the steady stream of hot water that comes out of my shower—not cold water, not just a trickle that you’re unable to bathe with, not a wild spurting of water that soaks down everything in the bathroom. My shower at home never irritates me.
I don’t really appreciate electricity like I should. I don’t appreciate that when I flick on the light switch in the middle of the night, there is light. I don’t appreciate enough that I never have sudden moments where everything goes dark and I have to freeze in place trying to remember how to navigate through utter darkness to get to the nearest flashlight. Electricity at home never irritates me.
I don’t really appreciate the availability of wifi. I’m writing this at a coffee shop with a strong wifi signal, just as good as I have at home or at work. I don’t appreciate enough that when it shows a strong 5-bar signal, I actually have a strong signal (vs. flickering instantaneously over and over between 5 bars and nothing). I don’t appreciate the fact that wifi is free everywhere I go, rather than having to pay for it in 30-minute increments that only last 20 minutes, then having to re-log in each time by reading a nonsensical 5-point-font faded-ink password off a tiny receipt slip to gain another 30 minutes of access.
In my everyday life, I don’t appreciate enough that problems with slow baristas and fancy phone apps are first world problems that people in the developing world can’t even imagine being irritated about. They seem to accept, with a patience I find unimaginable, how to navigate life without reliable water or electricity or wifi.
It gives one perspective.