Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Growing up, my parents always told me, "Jennifer you need to learn to be more patient."  My Galatians bear, a Christian toy my parents sold to bookstores, had patience on its belly.  Patience was a virtue I had to grow into.

In graduate school, I asked many questions but for some reason never had the patience to hear the full answers.  I tended to listen to a 10 second sound byte and then ask another question, then another, and another.  People lost patience with my inability to listen because I was always jumping from topic to topic, never actually seeming to want to know the answer.

In Africa and China, I have a LOT of patience.  Time is not money living abroad.  I can sit for 6 hours in a hot bush taxi going at 50 km/hr stopping every 10 km trying to go a distance of 100 km.  I can sit for hours on a curb waiting for the bus to fill every seat or to be repaired.  I can sit sleeping at a border waiting for it to open.  I can stand in enormous lines and can wait for meetings that never start on time.  Shopping is never efficient, and I can spend hours walking to and from the market trying to buy vegetables.  I can sit for a day in silence with community members at funerals, weddings, ceremonies, and festivals.  I can work on a project that in America would take one week but takes more than 3 months in Africa or China.  I can listen to broken English for hours on end and can spend lengths of time trying to communicate in Chinese.

Tonight at the Tree House for Women's Day, the students were trying to find the best word to describe me.  They decided, "Jennifer is patient."

Funny that they would vote for that adjective because today was one instant when I was totally impatient.

I do not have patience for the amount of time it takes to get my haircut.  It takes FOREVER!  I hate it.  Barbers in China are meticulous and spend an hour cutting my hair, using scissors, electric razors, then a blow dryer.  My head is like a landscape sculpture where each leaf needs to be in the right place.  Instead of being like Edward Scissorhands who is done in seconds, they spend so much time shaping my hair, cutting individual strands that are sticking out.  For $3 that includes a washing, I don't understand why they would spend an hour cutting my hair.  I do like the haircut though.  It's my usual cut of long bangs, short sides and back.  Was it worth my time to sit in a barber's chair for what felt like all day?  Not really!

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