Of Getting the Heck Out of Oz. [And the Munchkins Who Make Me Want to Stay.]

Ben with the "murse" I gave him to carry onto our plane to Dakar...full of stuff I couldn't fit into my luggage.

Can I just brag on my team?

Thursday was a hard day. The “why” is entirely irrelevant- the point is that at approximately five fifteen PM, just as I ought to have been crossing the street towards the beach for my daily run, [both the most blissfully relaxing AND the most stressful part of my day-go figure], I instead found myself laying in the middle of my bedroom floor, sweaty and dirty, crying like a small, emotionally disturbed child.


I desperately wanted to make like Dorothy, click my glitzy, fire-engine red heels together, and get the heck out of Oz. Unfortunately, in the name of practicality [and in an effort to garner some street cred after last year’s foolish packing fiasco], I left my red heels at home this time around. [Along with, for those of you that have been reading for a while, the polka-dotted rain boots and practical stilettos that once made me the laughing stock of Dakar.] It’s really too bad Dorothy couldn’t have rocked a pair of enchanted flip flops instead.

 And so there I was, as shadows chased away the last remnants of  sunshine outside my window-curled up in the middle of the floor in my puddle of proverbial lemon juice, crying crocodile tears and feeling very sorry for myself indeed.

 Not cute.

I don’t know how long I was down there, but once dusk had softly fallen and my eyes were red-rimmed and glassy, I heard a quiet knock on my door. It was Christy, who knew that something had to be wrong because I never miss a run. We’ve been living together for four years now, and it took her about a third of a second to appraise the situation and sprawl out onto the floor with me. [Note: those are the friends you keep. The get-on-the-floor-with-you friends.] Christy met my silly tears with an exquisite blend of truth and co-misery, and after about an hour she pried me up off the tile and we shuffled into the kitchen.

Cue Michelle, who understanding that sometimes you just have to eat your feelings, was channeling her inner Asian and pouring coconut milk into a steaming pan of chicken curry that made our apartment smell divine. Michelle has a way of knowing exactly what you need when you need it-and has this beautiful tendency to always put other people before herself. Seriously-she will make you feel like your trivial thoughts and imaginary problems are the weightiest, most critical things in her life.

The train station in Chicago.

Well as Michelle was cheerfully throwing curry and red peppers around our drab little kitchen, I saw Dayton quietly walk by with a hand full of tools. In typical Dayton fashion, he was fixing yet another thing we’ve managed to break in our apartment-our toilet. [Again with STINT setting me up with unrealistic expectations of marriage!] And so I found myself sitting at my computer, talking on skype, Christy and Michelle finishing dinner while Dayton clanked away in the bathroom-and all of the sudden, Ben burst through the door. “I heard you CRIED!” And then, the sweet kid threw his arms around my neck. [In a twist of irony, I told him that I really wanted to keep talking to the boy I was talking with and I’d have to catch him after dinner. To which he very sweetly replied, “that’s fine-as long as you know I want to hear about it!” Bless. Him. He’s adjusting very well to being my second favorite Dukie. ;)]

We sat around eating the most fantastic chicken curry and singing ridiculous veggie tales songs for probably an hour and a half. [Dinner theatre.] In the middle of dinner, Ted told me to close my eyes and hold out my hands-which I did with an excited laugh. It turns out that once they figured out I was having a rough day, he and Ben had run to my favorite French bakery to pick me up a chocolate cream puff. Which was wrapped in a happy pink box with a Carolina blue ribbon.

Be still my beating heart.

 What’s incredible about that story-and my team-is that there IS nothing incredible about that story. That was nothing unordinary-it’s just how those people interact with each other every single day. Where on earth do I get off pretending to have a bad day when I get to live with the five of them? There are hard things about life in Senegal-and there are days when like Dorothy, I am entirely convinced that there’s no place like home and I’d give anything to click my dirty Nike running shoes together three times and wake up in North Carolina. But, if you’re going to move to Oz, you want to move with the munchkins that I brought here with me. :) [Though I’m going to get it when the boys read this and see

Christy and I at a museum in Paris.

that I referred to them as “munchkins”…]

In other news, we’re figuring out how to celebrate Halloween tomorrow! Or goodness, at least fall-it might be hotter than six hells, but I’ll be darned if I don’t pretend that the leaves are turning [or rather, that there ARE leaves], the temperature is dropping, and it’s time for bright scarves and caramel apple cider. We’re kicking off our “fall” celebration with pancake night tonight, and Michelle and I are in the midst of a debate about how gross it would be to bob for apples in Senegal. [The verdict? Pretty darn.] I have a pumpkin spice Yankee candle that I’m dying to light, and Michelle is trying to figure out how we can sucker a Senegalese man into taking us for a “hay ride” on his trash cart. Ghetto. Fabulous. In the spirit of the season, I can’t stop listening to this song-…it’s about as Halloweeny as I get. I just stuck it into my running mix-and on that note, I’m off to run with Dayton. :)

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