It's been a month now since we've been back from Benin, but I'm still thinking a lot about some differences between Benin and Canada, or between our lives in both places. So I thought I'd write.
Difference between Benin and Canada #1: We, as a family, are more stretched here. And sometimes in not-so-good ways.
Funny thing as a side-note: stretch was the word I chose for 2013.
In Benin, we were a unit. A travel together, sleep in close quarters, unit. We spent every day together - learning, volunteering, eating, experiencing new things, reflecting on these experiences, praying, laughing, and the occasional fight.
Here, we're like strands on a spider web, stretched so thin and so fragile, waiting to be broken.
One person is at work, while the other is trying to work from home. One child is at a friend's for a playdate (HATE that word - there's another difference between Benin and Canada - they don't use the word "playdate" - how did that word even become part of our everyday lexicon?), while the other is asking which friends are home so she can go and play. And the evenings can bring much fun and excitement, but also separation. We can so often live 4 very separate lives.
Whereas in Benin, we lived one.
Part of this is the wonderfulness of being on vacation. But I know there's another part. A sneakiness to our culture that divides so often by age, and that stretches, stretches, stretches. Options like candy allure us. The workweek stretches into the weekend. Work stretches into rest. Rest becomes work. And there is no sabbath.
Three years ago, we went to France as a family for Derek's sabbatical. We spent 4 months together - the girls went to school, and Derek worked, but we didn't feel stretched. One difference was that we had no evening commitments - no committees, no extra-curricular activities, no rushing around after school. We were so thankful for this time together - just like we were thankful for our month in Benin - to reconnect, to centre ourselves as a family and as individuals too. Why is that so hard to do here?