Monday, August 24, 2009

Bucket bath!

[posted for Marie Harkey-- Chris A. Marie wrote this Friday night.]

"There is no 'hurry' in Africa." This is what I learned from a man named Daniel who walked along the road from the hospital to St. Philip's with Chris F. and me yesterday. As if I didn't already know that! We have electricity now (although it still goes out occasionally, but not for long) but still no running water. So, flushing the toilet and taking a bath become things that I plan for like an army general planning a campaign.

My "bucket bath" this morning made me happier than anything so simple has a right to, but there you go. I am clean, my hair is clean and I feel like a new woman. I captured all the water I used so that I could flush the toilet. I was inordinately proud of my resourcefulness. It is a necessary quality here in Africa, I assure you.

I hear stories from everyone about how things are just more difficult than we in the developed world are used to. It tries our patience and teaches us things that we'd never learn at home. All of the lessons I can tell you about sound like the trite aphorisms you read in silly self-help books, but they are my real learnings.

I'm learning to slow down. Really slow down, and to believe that sitting on the porch, reading a book and listening to the roosters, birds, cows and chickens is a holy moment. I'm learning the importance of water and to give thanks, real from the heart and gut thanks, for rain. I'm learning to listen, really listen to people's stories.

Like Ruth, the woman who cooks our dinner and generally takes care of our kitchen. She told us yesterday that her husband just got back from Europe, where he got a Master's degree from a university in Geneva. She talked about how Africans perceive anything related to wazungu to be good. White skin is pretty, she said, and all the technological advances come from America. Everyone wants to be like the wazungu or at least like what they perceive as our world.

I have hard time with this, of course. The remnants of colonialism are far-reaching and make me feel guilty for what we wazungu have done. I hold out some hope that people like the Hardisons will continue to make the kind of difference here that matters. Still, it's hard not to get discouraged when I see the poverty and corruption all around me. So I do what I can, which isn't much. I bear witness. And I pray.

Other learnings: Water is important. Roosters are loud. Children are beautiful and loving everywhere. Rain sounds infinitely better on a tin roof in the midst of a drought than ever it does at home. God is alive and well in people and in our relationships with each other.

Today's agenda: Chris F. and I will go with Nan to the orphan feeding program in a couple of different churches. Chris A. will work on his sermon for tomorrow. And all of us will meet God, over and over again.

Lots of love from Maseno,

Marie

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