"We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle." The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
I've been thinking lately about that fabulous line from the Poisonwood Bible, when the naive missionary family traipses into the Congo with all the things they think they'll need for their new home. It sounds quite familiar, actually. And while I didn't actually pack any cake mixes in the moving van, I have been cooking a lot lately, along with hanging pictures, and arranging books, trying to make the new house feel like a home.
I've also been venturing outside a bit more... There's a lot of aniexty involved in settling in a new place, but I've found one of the bits I really like is meeting such a variety of people before I know which shops I'll go to, which restaurants I'll avoid, and before I've raised any defenses, or figured out how to best fit in. It's like the beginning of an epic novel, with a huge and colorful cast of characters all introducing themselves.
There was the super friendly, and knowledgeable manager at Kroger who dropped everything to help us shop for patio furniture. Because, of course, the sooner it all goes, the sooner he can get the Halloween merchandise on the floor. Also, who knew Southern Krogers sold really nice patio furniture? Too weird.
Then there was the mother and daughter on the local trail, picking berries. I was so pleased to think there might be fresh berries practically in my back yard. I studied the bush as I walked by, tried to figure out what types of berries the little girl was shoving in her red-stained mouth. "Are those blackberries?" I called out to the mom.
The mom whirled around, and gave me a thoroughly suspicious look. Okay, I guess people here don't really talk to each other when they're out and about...
"Yeah... probably," she said, before turning her back on me and handing more berries to her daughter.
Probably? I bit my tongue before I started lecturing on eating unknown berries--and feeding them to a kid!--and instead kept walking.
Thankfully we've discovered the noise we heard our first night wasn't a turf-war or a psycho neighbor with a lot of leftover fireworks, but the firework display launched from the baseball game at the Durham Bulls stadium.
One of my favorite characters so far is the bug exterminator who pulled into the drive last week, just as I was simultaneously freaking out about a line of small bites trailing down my leg and a swarm of wasps flying around the mailbox. I was sure he was at the wrong house, as I hadn't yet been told the owner has the yard and interior sprayed every three months. It was a wonderfully unexpected Southern miracle.
I followed the exterminator from room to room, turning on lights for him, asking about my bites and wasps, as well as listening to his non-stop bug chatter. He's TERRIFIED of bugs, and once he found out I wasn't from around here, he wanted to be sure to tell me everything I needed to know. He told me I didn't need to worry too much about Black Widows (spray, spray), but those Brown Recluses are nightmares! They're crazy fast (spray, spray), and their bites can land you in an emergency room. He knew his stuff, reassured me we didn't have bed bugs, told me the wasps I saw were actually Cicada Killers, which are harmless (spray, spray). He even managed to make me feel a bit better--until I started doing Google Image searches on Brown Recluses.
One of our movers used to live in South Carolina, and made a point of warning us about the snakes, too, including rattlers and copperheads. He also unfortunately told a gory story involving his former pet kitten.
But so far, other than squirrels and rabbits, dragonflies and Cicada Killers, an abundance of butterflies, and even a hummingbird at my study window, I haven't seen anything too worrisome.
Other than this article in the news last week about a 12-foot alligator killing an 80 pound pet Husky. The nearby creek is a little shallow for alligators... right?
Now do you see why my mind has stuck on this image of carrying cake mixes into the jungle?
For this Midwesterner, the weather really does feel tropical, with crazy high temperatures, and monsoon-like storms in the evenings. I start sweating two minutes after stepping outside, and I've been drinking like water's going out of style.
But I know I'll get used to this climate, and these people, and everything else. And in the meantime, I'm kind of enjoying figuring it all out.