Monday, June 16, 2008

Growth Requires Thought

It’s a sad moment when you stop one day and realize that you’ve been forgetting to think. And when I say ‘think’, I mean deeper than the obvious and more than making the motions of day-to-day living. When I’ve realized that all I’ve done this past week is wake up, eat, play on my computer in various capacities, have meaningless small talk with wise people, and fall asleep, I feel like my active brain went on a vacation and all I have in its place is a vague, empty headache. Anyway, it’s motivated me to keep forcing myself to grow and think beyond my box and circumstances.

Despite this unfortunate lack of deep thought behind my actions, I’ve been involved in some really cool things these past weeks. Every other Saturday, we drive out to a local community called Mbonisweni and play games, do artwork, and provide food for about fifty children. These are good times and I enjoy the innocence and simplicity of the children. It’s been slow-going working with the people of Mbonisweni. The distrust is tangible, but we’re hoping and praying that if we prove ourselves faithful we will start to build long lasting, enduring relationships.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Blog Defined

Before I started even contemplating writing this blog, my first ‘real’ one, I made sure to do my research and looked up a definition of what a ‘blog’ really is on my handy, dandy dictionary widget. Ignorance is never a good idea when embarking on something unfamiliar and I would not like to unknowingly step into new territory with the wrong foot. So my widget gave a definition that will hereafter shape all of my future blogs.

a Web site on which an individual or group of users
produces an ongoing narrative.

So there it is. This site will be an ongoing narrative of my adventures and me personally. If this sounds or becomes boring, I suppose I could try writing a narrative of someone else’s adventures and their thoughts while on them, but I would be concerned at the true level of accuracy and my regrettable tendency to randomly exaggerate due to a lack of details. In short, it would become a work of fiction and I prefer honesty in most situations, not including questions regarding my weight or for instance when my dentist asks me when I last flossed as in both these cases I will lie shamelessly.
I should probably work on that.

Most of you know me, maybe not well, but you have probably either worked with me, gone to church with me, grown up with me, dated a family member, married a family member, or are a family member. For the past two months, I have been living in South Africa. I never expected to wind up in Africa and I don’t know how long I’ll stay here. Both of these things unsettle me on a deep level.

I miss the States only when I become uncomfortable here for some reason or another. Maybe the coffee I had for breakfast tasted like badly flavored water, or I woke up early on a day I could finally sleep in because the local monkeys decided to gather on the roof above my room and dance a jig. These things just don’t happen in Washington State, the birthplace of Starbucks. These are just the surface issues. I miss my family on a much deeper level and their absence from my daily routine is a constant ache, but every time I leave home it becomes a little easier to be gone.

I attended my first real African church service this past Sunday. I was the only white woman in attendance and it’s a learning experience to be the minority. I tried to quell the intense shudders of awkwardness and uncertainty I felt inside. I didn’t understand the language and missed all the unfamiliar social cues so that my movements were slightly off balance when we sat down or stood up. The lady next to me would kindly nudge me every time we prayed so that I could bow my head. We were called to the front of the congregation to introduce ourselves and I was desperately nervous and afraid I would say something wrong and disgrace myself.
It went well but my stomach moved in a queasy sway for the next hour.

Despite all this, I enjoyed myself. Africans are a friendly, welcoming people for the most part, eager to talk and share stories. There is a deep love of music and I have discovered an intense pleasure in taking part of their joy. The service was much longer than I am accustomed to, but the sheer newness of it all kept me enthralled and my eyes unaware of my watch. I love to be a part of worshiping God in cultures other than my own. It helps me to see more and more that the Western church does not define God and it helps no one to put Him in that box, even if it comes equipped with a steeple and a nice, paved parking lot.