A Father’s Grumblings

The view from beyond the mosquito net

My daughters are looking at pictures they just took of young kids in a river village. While laughing proudly at their work, they sing a song they made up about Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, sung to the tune of Shoshaloza, a popular South African song. I am writhing on a small bed in that same room.  The ceiling fan is struggling to counteract the heat of a Papua New Guinea afternoon and I am struggling to overcome the 24-hour stomach malady that the other five have all already contracted and conquered. I could not be happier. My two teenage daughters are connecting Viet Nam and South Africa through song and, much more importantly, genuinely enjoy hanging out together.

As I am lying here listening to my grumbling stomach eruptions, I admit to myself that some air conditioning and fewer mosquitoes would be nice; that maybe it is time to go home. I have been wearing the same pair of pants for over a week.  Everything is kind of dirty. We have almost no routine. Our diets are completely random and undisciplined. Real exercise is a distant memory. Toothbrushes aren’t cleaned after use under the tap, just touched up with bottled water. There are lots of ants. We are worlds away from the unnoticed little things that make Western life so comfortable.

But, really, I couldn’t be happier. My primitive brain wants to be in my own, silky soft bed, moaning in private abdominal discomfort. But my more advanced self sees the magic of this moment: Dana and Alexandra are now in the corner explaining the commutative property to Emma. The boys are in their room reading voraciously. All four kids are hammering out full big adult books every two to three days. We spend an almost unnatural amount of time together every day and every week for a whole year.  We are as close as a family can be. This is a privilege that will never come again.  Grumbling be damned.

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6 Responses to “A Father’s Grumblings”

  1. Greg, I love all of your posts but my very favorites are the ones in which youi so deftly capture the humor, thrill, and challenge of parenting on the road. Thank you for perspective and the smile!

  2. Congradulations! It could not be better. I am so happy for all of you!

  3. Thought I should leave a comment – a loving all the writing from all of you – but especially the reality of doing what you are doing. Love to all!

  4. More so than in other updates, I wonder how does the last year mesh with the forces of coming home to the western world? I assume some aspects will be easy and you’ll be thankful for. Some aspects, and I will be interested in knowing which ones, you’ll end up not being thankful for.

  5. right attitude! even with egyptian cotton sheets, air conditioning and a stable stomach here, youre not missing anything. savor every last moment! the action and the insights just keep getting better and we are living vicariously!

  6. right attitude! even with egyptian cotton sheets, air conditioning and a stable stomach here, youre not missing anything. savor every last moment! the action and the insights just keep getting better and we are living vicariously!

    PS. that “fresh mint” from our bundi tini barman left me with a full month of said dehli belly youre now enjoying!