I’ve often heard people refer to many problems in the US as “first-world problems.” I’ve used the phrase before too… to refer to times, for instance, when we lose power for a few hours and complain so much you’d think someone chopped off one of our arms. Been there, done that.
Living in a developing country is making me realize there’s a more direct way to talk about those… uh… issues. So, today I am getting real honest and officially naming these my “princess problems.”
Need a few examples? Ehem… well… here goes:
- The stove in this house is seriously lacking. The oven portion runs about 120° hotter than whatever you set it to, and it cooks completely unevenly. That would be OK if it always cooked hotter in the back, for example, because I could just know to turn things halfway through. Oh no, this oven has magical powers and can cook hotter on top, in the back, one day, and then barely cook anything in that same spot the next. It’s the amazing-super-changing-oven that challenges my baking ability on a daily basis. But I. Will. Not. Give. Up. This oven will be figured out! (And don’t even get me started about the burners.)
- There apparently is hot water to my shower. However, neither of the faucet handles changes the temperature of the water. Instead, there’s a crazy-looking contraption attached to the top of the shower head that is supposed to control — with electricity — whether the water is warm. But, it’s also affected by the water pressure, which can vary greatly from day to day. So, take electricity (in a developing country with few building codes, if any) and add it to water, and you can imagine the rather shocking result. It’s no wonder one of our friends calls these “widow makers.” In any case, I have taken several dozen showers here already, but can count on one hand the number of times the water has actually been anything other than cold.
- The refrigerator and freezer are having identity crises. If I turn the thermostat in one direction, both the freezer and the fridge turn to ice. If I turn it just slightly in the opposite direction, everything melts. Neither one seems able to do its job properly. Ice tends to freeze in the little ice trays, but once you dump it into the ice bucket to make new ice, it all melts into a giant block. While that’s happening, the milk in the fridge part turns to ice. Seriously, can’t this appliance make a decision and stick with it?
- Our internet is slow… really slow. I keep telling everyone it’s like dial-up, but Wyeth says it’s actually faster than dial-up. It is about 1/24th of the speed we had at home. We’ve been trying to increase the speed since we got here, but we are fighting against some sort of gestapo that doesn’t actually want to give you service (even if you offer to pay way more than its worth). They came on Tuesday and said, “Mañana,” but we haven’t seen them yet. Now we know why it’s not uncommon for people to wait several months to have high-speed internet installed here.
These issues have caused me to realize just how much of a princess I am. I like to complain. (Often.) I’ve already complained about all of these items to more people than I care to admit.
And when I look at what I’m complaining about, I am forced to acknowledge how much I have taken for granted.
- At home, I had a convection oven. Not one, but two. Yes, I had a double convection oven. This means I had six racks of cooking perfection, where the air was constantly circulated around the food to cause it to bake evenly. I loved that oven, but I didn’t fully appreciate it until now. I know people who have lived for months and years at a time without any oven whatsoever, plus I could always go buy a new one… so what am I complaining about?
- I also had hot water. It came out of every faucet, pretty much as soon as I turned it on. And yet, I frequently complained about the size of our water heater, and the fact that we’d run out after my husband took long showers. So… we ran out, but it always came back a few minutes later. Always. Yet I still found a reason to complain.
- I had a pretty old fridge. While it worked well enough (i.e., the fridge part stayed cold and the freezer part stayed frozen), I complained to anyone who’d listen about its small size and lack of an ice maker. Seriously. I actually told people (lots of them) how hard I had it because I had to empty a little ice tray and then hold it under the faucet each time I wanted to make ice. Uh… yeah.
- And then there’s the internet issue. We have internet here, albeit deathly slow internet. But we have a connection to our friends and family that old-school missionaries couldn’t even imagine a mere 10 years ago. We can’t do video chat yet, but as soon as our high-speed connection is up we will be able to actually *see* people that are thousands of miles away… in real time… for less than the cost of taking our family to the movies (including snacks) each month. And I’m complaining? What am I, a princess?
Yup. Princess here. (And not exactly proud of it.)
We know the next 11 months are a time of reflection… a time of learning. So while acknowledging my princess problems is important, the more critical piece is the take-away. In other words, what will I do with this knowledge?
First up: working on complaining less, and appreciating more. As I sit here in a hammock chair in my new living room, looking out over a lush garden full of promise and opportunity, I can do little else but give thanks.
So let me ask you… what things do you tend of take for granted, even complain about from time to time, without fully recognizing their value or worth?