I’m the king of swearing under my breath. I must be since I’m not aware of anyone else who swears under my breath. Also though I’m not so sure it’s under my breath so much as it’s out-loud. Things bother me. And I make it known.
If living for 2+ years in a foreign country while forgoing previously well-enjoyed creature comforts, operating in an twisting of language and imperceptible cultural differences and generally trying to survive where no one has ever heard the words “disc golf” is not a test of patience, then nothing is. In the Peace Corps your level of patience is going to be tried like nowhere else.
And when it gets to be too much, I tend to go off the deep end a little. I’m that guy locked in his home, emerging only for restocking of ice-cream and Coca-Cola—the two items that are the sole cure for all mental anguish. But don’t talk to me on those little journeys to shop. And God help you if you’re out of ice-cream.
“Ice-cream jok,” they say.
“Well when’s it going to arrive?”
“Tomorrow, God willing.”
Why does “tomorrow” always mean, “I have no clue but I need to say something.”
It’s the little things that flare up—restaurants and taxi drivers not having change, the lady at the yarn shop refusing to give you her number so you can check to see if they have a future need in stock, the repeated no shows of students adamant they want you to teach them English, the shop owner who won’t replace a bad product she just sold you.
That last one got me.
“This shop is bad!” I stood in the entrance way and called out to anyone who cared to look my way. “They sell bad products! Don’t buy anything from here! They lie to you!” I told several friends to avoid the shop. If there was a Kyrgyz version of Angie’s List (Aidai’s List? Can we get this started, Aidai?) you can be sure I’d leave negative feedback and push as many as I could away from the shop’s doors.
“I’ve rolled with it just a little too long,” I utter to myself, “I’m not letting them get away with it this time!” It turns out making such public spectacles generally only leads to either the embarrassment of the berated, the berater, or both. Patience isn’t really a thing we ever arrive at, I guess, but rather a progression in humility. (And oh how closely that is related to “humiliated.”)
Seeing my pen had disappeared from my reserved seat on a mini-bus the other day I made an announcement to the general crowd that I had “lost my pen” and wondered if it had been seen. I then proceeded to ask a mother of a wandering child if she had it, when a young man in the back of the bus piped up and tossed me the pen. I thanked him and sat down. The end result was exactly what I wanted: I had my pen, he had confessed to a wrong, and everyone maintained their dignity.
Angry accusations are like cornering a tiger, and weak complacency is like sharpening its claws. Balancing both justice and your own desired outcome while laying the ground for future growth takes a lot of patience, a virtue often punched with holes that leaks all over the pavement whenever I need to take it out for a spin. It’s something learned along a continuum, and God willing, I’ll keep getting better.