Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Better in Africa.


Last summer, I took a team to Zambia to visit Mulenga. Over the course of the first few days, there became this catchphrase that the girls on the team applied in all manner of circumstances...."You're ____________ in Africa."  I'm not sure how it started but it became the sort of backhanded compliment/criticism  that we would give someone whenever possible. We were smarter in Africa. Kinder in Africa. Better drivers in Africa. Grumpier in Africa. More unreasonable in Africa. Prettier in Africa.  Somehow we found a way to figure out our best and worst qualities in Africa. 

This photo from Ethiopia that one of the guys from my last team sent me yesterday brought that right back. Look how funny and engaging I am in Africa! I'm definitely funnier in Africa.  This was just a snap as we were waiting for a ride...a few kids on the street apparently found me quite engaging. I'm saying this knowing full well they could have been laughing at me as easily as I interpreted it as laughing with me. If I'm this funny in Africa, maybe that's why I just keep being drawn back.  I can't imagine sitting, waiting for a ride in Saskatoon and engaging a group of passersby in this manner. 
I must be funnier in Africa. 
I loved my second time in Ethiopia. Gone were the firsts of figuring out language and culture and traffic and my own quirks. I felt like the learning curve on this trip was rapid for me. This day especially was pretty meaningful. Another phrase came out of this day for me. The boy closest to me is Renando. He just kind of hung around all day wondering why there was a feringe (foreigner) perched next to a latrine with her feet up over the sewage draining out to the street. Not something you see everyday, I guess. Several times he'd bring friends by to peek in the gate of the tight little yard we were working in and they would chatter and practice what little English they knew. At one point, I went out and sat with them and just listened to them chatter. Hours later, they had dispersed, we were cleaning up the remnants of the construction materials and tools and sat on the main road waiting for a ride. Suddenly, Renando showed up again with more boys in tow and we chatted for a bit with the help of Getu, who would interpret when language failed us. At one point, Renando spoke the line that has stuck in my mind since. In English, he asked me, "Where are you born?"  I replied, "Canada. Where were you born?" And he pointed, with his full hand, around the corner into the alley we had just come from, and said, "Here. In this slum. We are all born in this slum." Regardless of our short lived interaction, I know that when I see this photo in years to come, I'll remember these boys, their laughter, their curiosity and their natural charisma...and I'll continue to hope that one day they are able to rise above their humble beginnings and reach their full potential. I want their lives to be better in Africa...in the truest sense of the words.


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