To quote the acclaimed African author Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart here.
Last month it was our internet. It was out for four days. The company finally answered our request for help and came and fixed the line outside our house. A few days later the internet stopped again, this time a broken modem — our second in this country. We bought a third.
Our electric piano broke shortly after returning from America. So did our DVD player. The piano isn’t fixed yet, but after a few weeks we found a DVD player that was relatively cheap. The label on the back says it plays all regions, same as our old one. It doesn’t. We can no longer play several beloved movies from America.
The drains are constantly overflowing. The toaster stopped working two years in, and we just never replaced it.
I’m on my fourth blender here. I had the same blender in America for 12 years. I used it for crushing ice and making frozen fruit smoothies, and it never broke. I’ve only ever used my Cambodian blenders to make hummus, but I don’t even dare to do that very much anymore. My current blender starts overheating after about 15 seconds of use.
Our fans routinely break, and currently one of the bathroom sinks is leaking. Badly. The kitchen sink was leaking badly too, but it took priority.
Last hot season the air conditioner in our bedroom broke. We had it “fixed” several times but still had to camp out in the guest bedroom most of the season.
The fluorescent light bulbs burn out, but it’s not just the light bulb that needs replacing: often it’s the entire fixture.
My laptop is on its third battery since we moved to a 230 voltage area. Third charger too. And it’s currently at the shop because it stopped charging last week. Again. The electricity here burns out appliances I guess.
I tried using our old computer to do emails, but it took 15 minutes to boot up and maybe kinda sorta shut down each time I tried to open an internet browser. Leading to another 15 minutes to reboot. . . a couple more times. I finally got that sorted out enough to open my blogging platform, as you now see.
Then today, the refrigerator/freezer went and broke on us. When we realized this — and only one day after I restocked the fridge with fresh dairy products — I leaned my head against the fridge and sighed.
Something is always broken here — usually, many things at once. And I haven’t even started in on all our van and moto problems. Like the hot season the van’s air conditioning broke. Or the rainy season we drove through standing water to get to church, but by the next week the brake rotors had rusted closed, paralyzing our poor van.
Or the radiator that leaked for over three years without a single mechanic being able to isolate the problem. Or the moto that still dies immediately after being started if it’s been, say, an hour since we last started it.
I don’t usually talk about this stuff, and I don’t say this to complain either, although it might be interpreted that way. I say this to explain why we’re sometimes so tired and why it sometimes takes us so long to fix one simple thing.
Each of these things takes time and energy in another language, culture, and infrastructure. The daily rhythm of ministry abroad is already tiring enough. Adding even one more thing to the mix is sometimes enough to topple us.
So things don’t get fixed right away. Sometimes that’s because we wait, and sometimes that’s because we have to wait on others. We’ve had a glut of broken things lately, and to be honest I’m kind of tired of it.
So here’s to the cooler that can hold our dairy products till tomorrow. Here’s to the electrician who might come fix the fridge tomorrow. Here’s to the knob in the bathroom that shuts off all the water till we can fix that faucet. And here’s to the momma who just might regain her sense of humor with Mad Libs and a movie night with her kids.