Thursday, January 31, 2013


Several more to take home with me:

* I was distracted by a conversation with the woodcarver when Little Aggie decided to wander off.  I spent a couple frantic minutes trying to find him.  Finally, I saw him walking toward me followed by an old African woman who promptly spanked him and returned him to me with an explanation (in French and a few hand motions) that he had wandered up the road.  I loved it.  It meant we are officially part of the neighborhood. 

*  We drove four hours into Guinea to a town named Boke'.  There, the kids and I entered an underground cell where slave traders once held their captives until it was time to ship them away.  Then we walked in a trench that had been their pathway down to the river where a boat awaited to take them from their home.  With every step I was overwhelmed with the reality that the people I love, ripped from their homes and their lives, once walked over this same unsteady ground.  I was walking the path led by beautiful, old African women who waved branches while they sang and danced their way ahead of me. But they would have walked this in chains and hunger and pain.  The trench weaved through heavy woods and eventually the trees cleared where I could see the river.  I thought about how terrifying the first glimpse of the river must have been for them.  In a few minutes I would turn around and walk back up the trench and go home. It was a one way trip for them.  I was grieved at the depravity of humanity who could destroy his brother.  I was grateful for the GOD-HUMAN who came to rescue us from such depravity. The GOD who didn't come to make slaves, but to free them.

* A few days ago, I left my house in such a hurry to retrieve my kids from a neighbor's house that I left my shoes behind.  My guard was watching us next door and noticing I had no shoes, took off his own and gave them to me while he walked home barefoot.

*  When I got home yesterday,  my girls told me they'd had a tea party with the highest of society--our cook and our housekeeper.  <3

*  This last souvenir will go without a name.  It is the gift of all the stories that moved me deeply but I am unable to share.  It didn't feel right to go without acknowledging their existence at all. So I leave it simply at this--sometimes it is the things we cannot speak of that say the most in our lives.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Out of Africa

It's not much longer now.

We will board a plane and fly away.  We will leave people who have so tangled themselves up in my heart that there will be no way to separate.  They will come with me and I will stay with them.

Tonight I stood on my back balcony and watched the boys play soccer. All they need is a ball and each other. That's probably why there's a soccer game on every street in the evening.  I thought about how a year ago I got off the plane expecting to feel so sorry for the people here. Now that we're leaving soon, I confess that I don't feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for us.

They don't have washing machines. So, the women get together to scrub their clothes, while they talk and laugh with their sisters and girlfriends.

They don't have electricity most of the time. So, they stay outside and visit with their neighbors and friends.

Their kids don't have video games and televisions. So, they create toys out of cans and string and other treasures they've rescued from the trash.

They don't have privacy.  So, they go with it. They live their lives out loud, with their neighbors.

They don't have a sophisticated trash and recycling system. But they don't throw most things away. They are extremely creative at new uses for things.  I am convinced Guineans are the world's best recyclers.

They don't have their own cars, or labor-free ways to transport things. So, they carry most everything on their heads and leave their hands free. From the rich to the poor, everyone has impeccable posture.

They can't afford the grocery stores. So, they grow and make their own food.

Africa has its problems.  So does America.
Africa does without many things---but they are rich in love and community and friendships.
While we overindulge in more and more things to make our lives "convenient"; While we try to hold on to our privacy; While we hide away in our houses staring at TVs and computers like statues; While we spend more time looking at things with our family instead of looking AT our family;  They are spending every waking moment talking to, looking at and living out their lives with the people they love...and the people they don't.

But when it comes down to it, that's what it's all about isn't it?'s all about people.

And on that front---they've got us creamed.