For the first time in her life my daughter, Grace, is roughing it. She’s been spending her junior year of college studying abroad. The first semester was spent in Italy with a lovely family. Her Italian mother cooked fresh meals for her every day. Grace had a beautiful room in their apartment and went on family vacations with them to the beach and elsewhere.
This semester, she is in Africa. It’s amazing that we can talk to her by phone almost daily even though she is living in a remote village in Botswana. She lives in a modest home with another lovely family. And this time around she’s missing a few of the comforts of her home life here.
Grace tells us she has been bitten by all kinds of bugs. One night she woke up to a roach crawling across her foot. I laughed when she told me. When Grace is home, she screams for me or her father to get a stink bug or lady bug she might see crawling on the wall of her room. “I guess you are no longer afraid of bugs,” I said. She told me that she has no choice but to go with the flow.
This is great, I thought.
If Grace needs to use the toilet, she has to go to the outhouse. She told me that one day she went to use it and there were bees in the hole. I think she decided that whatever she went to do had to wait until she went to town for class. Bathing requires her to go outside to heat her water and then bring it to her room to take a bath from a small bucket.
It’s so hot, she says, that sometimes all she does is sit outside to try and catch a breeze. I bet she will really appreciate air conditioning when she comes home. Meals consist of rice, beans, spam and fish cakes, to name a few of the foods she’s eaten. The kids have a maybe a ball or rope to play with.
Despite having very little, Grace says the people in the village are very happy — and she is having the experience of her life. One Saturday, for example, she went to a traditional funeral in the morning and a wedding in the afternoon.
I am proud of her for stepping out there. When we drove her to the airport at the beginning of this semester, she cried because she was afraid of what was ahead in Botswana. Now that she is there, she is adjusting, learning a lot and growing up. It’s one thing to rough it at camp, at a scouting or school trip.
This is a whole new world.
And all of this reinforces her choice, our choice and the importance of seeing the world. If your kids have the urge and the opportunity to travel like this, I say push them out the door. They will learn so much about the world and also themselves.