Thursday, May 3, 2012
An Update from Zimbabwe - April 21st
This past couple of weeks has been exciting, new and challenging. At times I forget that when I agree enthusiastically to add Zimbabwe to my itinerary that I am bringing along three others with varying degrees of willingness. When we were leaving South Africa, packing up our belongings, Easton asked if we could just skip the rest of the trip and head back to Canada. He figured if we were moving on, we may as well just go home. Zimbabwe held nothing for him...sporadic electricity, questionable bathroom facilities and intermittent running water? Hard sell. Harder to sell? No Nintendo DS, more math homework than he cared to think about and staying with a family of people we don’t know. I have to say, if all of us were a bit homesick at the outset of leaving South Africa, we hit the wall here in Zimbabwe about day three. We miss our dog. We miss our home and comforts. We miss our neighbours and kids on the street and work and pizza and flush toilets. Jason admitted that his worst homesickness stems from missing the Stanley Cup playoffs. I remind him, ever so gently, that his team never makes it anyway but it doesn’t seem to help. The way the Wings have been playing, I might be better off missing the playoffs. So, we had a rough few days, talking each other down from the ledge of despair. Days are always easier, we stay busy, walking in the community and doing home visits, learning and seeing new things every which way we turn. Now, a little more than a week later, we seemed to have put that wave of homesickness behind us, at least for the moment. Travelling into the Honde Valley reminded us how very unique our experiences are here. We are doing our best not to wish it away and long for what’s next. Our time in the homes in Pimaii showed us very clearly how lucky we are in that we have such a home to return to and long for. Here the people long for the promises of independence to come to fruition or they long for the kind of days where there is a luxury to wallow in longing. Often, they’re just too busy trying to survive. As one gogo pointed out to us, her life is like that of her chicken. Outside the door, followed by hungry chicks, was a mother hen. The gogo watched it scratch in the dirt trying to stir up something edible for the line of chicks in its wake and said she felt like that was her life as well: trying to make something out of dirt for her children and grandchildren to survive on. I have never known such a struggle to feed my kids or just to survive. I have to say, I’m so proud of my boys. Home visits can be difficult and awkward and uncomfortable. It’s hard to sit still in the face of such pain and need sometimes. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that each story is unique – they all contain common denominators of struggle and hunger and loss. I wonder at times how much Aidan and Easton can process, when we speak of it later, sometimes they just shrug it off or seem to have figured it out pretty clearly in their minds that this is the reality here. I watch them interact with gogos and small children alike, finding ways to communicate that surprise me. Aidan has grasped the Shona language nicely and slips easily between the words he knows in Shona and English. Easton’s specialty is body language, he finds ways to wrangle himself into the hearts of gogos and small children alike. In the midst of culture shock, hyper attentiveness and homesickness, the boys have both proven themselves to be generous hearted and loving. Aidan, car sick and tired, plays game after game with any child that asks. He entertains Shamah, Farai’s 5 yr old, on the long car trips and sidetracks her while waiting yet again for everyone to finally be ready to move by playing clapping games and making faces at her. He’s become one of those junior high boys that always impressed me when I was a youth leader...the ones that you tell their mother how amazing they are and the mother shakes her head and wonders if we’re talking about the same boy. I get it now. I’ve seen my son in light of who he is apart from me. He is generous, tireless and kind. He gets cranky and hungry and homesick but will still give his best to others. I love that in him. I’d be proud of him if he was just in my youth group. The fact that I get to live with this kid? I can look past dirty socks trailed throughout the house, snarly morning faces and stinky hockey equipment and see how fortunate I am. Easton, with all his quirky moods and non-stop chatter, has firmly embedded his place in my heart with his passion for life. He may be the one in our family who has had to endure the most attention, wanted or unwanted. There have been times where all he longed for was time alone so sought out a seat in a hot van to lay on when someone asks to see him so we drag him back out on display. He’s been a surprisingly good sport but there have been times where I’ve known we’ve pushed his limits asking him to play just a little longer, put up with a few more questions and to extend just a little more patience with those that touch his clothes, his hair, and his skin. I have asked more of these boys in these past months than I thought I would and at times, I wonder how much is too much. Yet, in the light of the things we’re learning and experiencing and seeing, I know that they are capable, they are soaking it up and they are showing character I hadn’t thought existed in ones so young. Did I believe they had it in them? I had hoped they did. Now I know they do. I know that before we came, I struggled with at what age the boys would be ready to handle all that they would see and experience. I asked George and Lynn once how old they thought the boys should be before coming to Africa and being exposed to such things and George challenged me, as he’s done so often by asking me at what age I brought the boys to a mall and exposed them to materialism and consumerism? With that still stinging in my soul, we’ve come. We’ve exposed them. We’ve infected them with the knowledge that life is not fair. All is not well. “Over there” is right here. “Those people” have names like Dumisile, Prince, Simba, Clifford and Bo. The idea that there isn’t anything that can be done is a lie. That people are doing it. That lives are changing, one by one. Communities are being transformed, one by one. We’ve seen the ones that are being changed and the ones that are changing them.