Monday, February 08, 2010

The Day I Met Leonard

I am going to try to knock out 2-3 days of VBS in today's post, so hopefully I suddenly suffer from a loss of wordiness and can be concise. Nonetheless... Day 2 of VBS was Tuesday. We walked to school again, but about halfway there, John pulled up in his Noah and begged us to get in.

"We love walking," we told him.

"You can walk when you get back to America," he said, "You have already done too much walking here!"

We finally obliged, and I had visions of walking in snow-covered, icy Illinois as I crawled into his vehicle.

When we got to school, it was my group's turn to teach. My group was Tony, Holly, and Chalise. David put me in a group of 3 in case I needed to float off and take pictures.

We did a series of skits that reflected people who demonstrated "endurance" in the Bible. Our craft was to decorate brightly-colored sweat bands, and our activity was Animal Bingo & a bunch of really fun relay races.

After lunch on this day, about 6-7 of us walked to the compound area with some of the staff from Lifesong to do home visits. These are homes of children who attend Lifesong. It was an eye-opening experience.

We split into even smaller groups, and Holly & I were together with one of the teachers. As we walked further into the compound, we walked by the bar, which was playing loud music and was hopping at 2pm in the afternoon. We also walked by a small structure with a loud movie playing inside. We found out it was the movie theater.

The first home we visited, they invited us inside. The front door was literally a sheet that hung down. It was pitch black right at first, because we were used to the bright day outside. Once my eyes adjusted, I saw that I was in a very dark room with one small opening for a window, and a chair and torn-up couch. We were welcome to ask any questions we had, and then the staff with us would interpret. I could not get over the living conditions. We then had a chance to pray aloud for them and their family, which was really neat.

The second home was much the same. We were shown the well where they obtained water, which was literally feet away from their outdoor bathroom. In African culture, the mom is generally the figure who cares (and often provides for) the children. The dad, if he is around, does not do much, or spends his money on drinking rather than on taking care of the family.

As we walked down the dirt streets of this area, I was astounded. Many people were outside and would watch us or point and say in Bemba, "Look at the white people." The ground beneath us was cracked, often with big craters that you would have to jump over, and there is no way you could get a car through some of those places if you tried.

Processing this experience was interesting. I found that I wasn't as emotionally distraught as I would have liked to be. I think I comforted myself with the fact that for most of the individuals in this situation, it is all that they have ever known. Does it make it right? No. But somehow, it made me feel better that they have no idea what living "America" even amounts to. The only reason it seemed so preposterous to me is because I have 100x more in my own closet than a lot of these people have ever owned in totality in their whole life.

With all that being said, I'm not so sure that I'm not the one with the short end of the stick. Having more clutters your life, your mind, and your perspective. Walking in the compound area forced me to imagine what it would be like to live like that. You know what? For some reason, it almost seemed more appealing to me. Fighting for food, stealing to stay alive, and contracting disease because of sanitation deficiency in your living area? No thanks. But when you look at it from the standpoint of simplifying your life to the basics, I think I like that idea better. I kept having the urge to call home, tell my family & friends that I wouldn't be home for another few months, and move in to the compound area with my camera to capture the life there. But I didn't. I thought that would be a little impulsive. =)

But even now, as I sit here and type, I still think that would be a fascinating study... not only to capture it, but to live it while capturing it. That's when you catch real life. And that's when you change.

After visiting the compounds, we all planned a meeting point at one of the crossroads. By the time we all got there, clouds were rolling in an rain was imminent. We started walking toward the school, but were feeling rain drops on our heads. We were instructed by the staff to follow them over to the nearest shelter, which happened to be the overhang of this pretty Catholic church. It was there that I met Leonard.

Leonard was hanging out under there, as well, on his scooter. He was missing a leg, but he had the biggest smile on his face. I was able to ask him a few questions and he even let me take his picture. He is pictured in my graphic at the beginning of this post. At one point, as we were all standing there waiting for the rain to clear, he hopped off his scooter, used his hands to "walk" out into the open, and just sat on the pavement and looked up, letting the rain hit his face. He didn't ask us for help. He didn't explain why he did this. He just did. It was in that moment that I realized that the ability to appreciate the small joys of life is nothing we can buy, earn, or even make ourselves do. It's simply just an attitude.

We finally started back out, and along the road, a truck drove by and offered us a ride. One of the teachers knew the driver and ensured us we'd get there safely, so we all hopped in the back of this white pick-up truck and held on. It was very windy and rain was still pelting our faces, but it was a nice, refreshing ride. I, of course, had my camera stuff with me, so stuffed it all under my shirt so it wouldn't get wet. Consequently, I looked absolutely 8 months pregnant. Anything to protect the camera! Ha.

Other highlights of my day:
-This is the day I met sweet Karen, my pal.
-Got REALLY sunburnt
-Delicious spaghetti for dinner
-David had nice devotion in the evening
-2nd night of AMAZING popcorn!

Well, the situation we were all hoping for has obviously not occurred. I successfully wrote a way-too-long post. I apologize, but I tend to be tangent prone. So we'll only cover one day today. I'll be back, sooner rather than later, with VBS Day 3.

Love you all!



Jane said...

No apologies for long blogs necessary! Every detail is so interesting and draws my heart further in. Sorry about the sunburn--ouch! I loved looking though the new 174 pictures last night. Of course my heart skips a beat every time I see one of Tyler in it. Africa is changing him, as I'm sure it has you all.

taryn said...

Thanks for the encouragement! I'm glad you enjoy my long posts, and the pictures. =)

Jill Foley said...

I have to agree...the tangents are where the "meat" is.

I love your insights on how our material possessions clutter our lives. I'm experimenting with striving for a minimalist lifestyle. It's hard because it's absolutely contrary to our culture (especially with kids!!) but it's freeing to live with less.

I was also re-reading some Chan today (Crazy Love) about how when we have everything we think we need, we crowd out God. We end up providing for ourselves instead of depending on God.