April 20, 2010 :: 5:10pm
Outside my Door
There are not a lot of simple answers when you live in and amongst poverty, particularly when it has been presence for a sustained period of time. Each day my door lines with stories big and small. School, food, health care and shelter are all worthy causes and essential to breaking the poverty cycle. Of course it is easy to ignore (or be unaware) when you aren’t there. However, when the reality of a needy situation has a name and face and is standing at your door it is hard to hide from the it.
Life in the developing world is raw, it is hard to understand until you really come and visit. Dad decided come be one who would want to understand. I had the joy of picking him up from the airport last Wednesday. Some early highlights include playing bass on a recording of traditional music, learning to navigate the concrete labyrinths between compounds, leaving him on the side of the highway with two non-English speaking locals and long father son bonding walks as we push the motorbike home.*
One of my favourite new experiences for him may have just been the wedding – particularly because it my first chance to take him to visit some of my friends from my first visit to the Gambia in 2005. Kola nuts, crazy dancing, fancy dresses and the endless display of cultural idiosyncrasies are all things I’ve explored and experienced over five journeys to West Africa. My dad saw them on his second day. I’ve honestly been trying to take it easy but it is hard to do.
For a new comer, living in community in Africa is a take the red pill or blue pill type situation . Parades of social interaction from the locals creates an overwhelming wave of new names and language phrases to learn. Each new experience grows new questions, new answers breed new questions which normally don’t have answers but only further extend the beautiful chaos that is African life through the Westerner’s eye.
All said “Dad, You are highly welcome.”
Redeeming Long Days
Some days are long and trying but somehow God has a way funny way of redeeming them. When you drive 20km to spend 2 hours collecting scattered scat in the 35oC open bushy field, because you miss interpreted the cultural meaning of “I have a pile of manure ready to pick-up” may just come to realize how patient and tolerant people are of your own misunderstandings.
Or when the kids have curiously filled your rocket stove with rocks and used the pots to make mud pies which are set to bake on your chairs they will later turn around to leave of priceless portrait of you on the wall outside your door right when you were thinking about packing your bags and going home.**
We live in a broken world but there is a hope there is purpose in life and life in the right purposes – some days it is obvious other days it seems to vanish but each day I must believe this is true.
I pray all in well with each of you. Thanks for all the emails and notes I wish I respond each of them. Miss you all.
*I’m just writing this now because I know the stories will come out when he gets home.
** The label "Mike Camera" above my portrait is not a reference to the number of pictures I take but more so my African last name which should be spelt Camara but that wasn’t really important at the time.