Of House Hunters, Masai Warriors and Bedouin in Caves

February 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

What is about other people’s lives that is so fascinating?

We’ve all done it. Driving through a neighborhood at dusk, we stare into rooms not our own, fascinated by the tableau of lives played out and lit up for us to wonder about. Or we have a fixation with TV’s “House Hunters” or better yet “House Hunters International.” Satisfyingly voyeuristic, this search for the perfect dwelling place allows us to imagine our lives as they would be if we lived in a tiny apartment in Paris, a seashore home in Central America, a super-sized Texas French country home, or a villa in the south of France.

I admit a fascination with life  in other places, other circumstances, other houses, other lands. When I recently sprained my ankle and couldn’t  move around for the first week, I indulged this fascination with the way others live. My Nancy Pearl recommended reading list was my go-to guide. The former Seattle Library System’s head librarian shares her favorite books every year at an every-seat-filled program in our Village by the Sea. Taken from her book of travel picks Book Lust to Go, I scanned her recommendation on adventure and travel, placed holds on the most interesting and waited for the books to arrive in the holds section of our small library.

Then for days I immersed myself in lives so different from mine as to be unimaginable. With my foot propped up on pillows and my husband willing to provide regular trays of steaming nourishment, I piled stacks of books on my bed and guiltlessly read. And then read some more. One day I confess to consuming three books. Normally, I restrict my reading time to after dinner in the evenings, but stationary I was, so the guilt-free daytime reading commenced.

I read Corinne Hofmann’s The White Masai: An Exotic Tale of Love and Adventure. While I couldn’t identify with this young Swiss business woman impetuously falling madly for a uneducated Masai warrior and living with him in his five-foot-high-cow-dung-and-stick traditional dwelling, I savored the clash of cultures, the possibilities and range of human relationships and resilience of Corinne and the Masai people she also came to love. Not satisfied, I ordered Back From Africa and Reunion in Barsaloi which tells the rest of Corinne Hofmann’s story. A relationship doomed to fail, it showcased her adventures and disasters and ultimately the cultural abyss that couldn’t be spanned.

Still set in Africa, but much tamer in scope, I then read Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia where Tim Bascom writes of life with his missionary parents in Ethiopia’s outback during the days when Haile Selassie’s empire begins to crumble. A lonely tale of small children sent off to boarding school and the parents’ faith and purpose not being embraced by their sons, it still shows how Africa imprinted itself on a young boy’s life and changed him forever.

For a change of pace I then devoured Married to a Bedouin by Marguerite van Geldermalsen from New Zealand. Marguerite married a Bedouin souvenir-seller in 1978 and went to live with him in a two- thousand-year-old cave in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. She raised her children there, learned Arabic, and loved her husband and didn’t leave his clan and return to New Zealand until after her husband died in 2002. Marguerite appreciates her adopted culture, writes with a clear, but not condescending, eye about the Bedouin and learns to be satisfied with the simple life that drew her there in the first place.

And that’s the secret isn’t it? While glimpses into the lives of others is fascinating and instructive, contentment in the life we find ourselves in is a key to happiness.

Gotta go! More books to pick up at the library. And what time did you say House Hunters International is on?

ⓒ Inger Logelin 2012

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