Monday, May 31, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Here I am in my African attire ready for the "Teachers Day" procession where all the schools of Aru march to the beat of the African drum around the "grand terrain" holding a sign with their school's name which all takes roughly 4 hours. I found the whole fete rather pointless but none the less culturally interesting and of course very draining (I got THE worst sun burn on my back!!)
Here is our neighbour preparing a "termite gateau" which involves smashing the termites with a rock along with some green onions and other things and then boiling it in oil. It does not resemble or smell anything at all like the cakes I know but this is truly a "cake" for the Congolese.
We ate some fried termites in oil and salt which were surpringly not bad once you got past the sight of them. They taste a little like meat and have a crunch to them. During the rainy season they are everywhere and the Congolese eat them all the time. One of the Italian Sisters who has been in Congo for 50 years plucked a flying termite from the air, pulled off the wings and ate it live!!!
Africa has revealed God’s love to me in so many ways. In the smiles of the mammas, in the scurrying feet of the little children, in the insects who cross my playing field in armies, in the babies who cling to my arms and legs, in the eyes of the mammas when they look to the heavens to thank God, in the gentle greetings and soft eyes of my patients, in the courage, faith and witness of the Sisters here, in the excitement of the young girls I teach and their unceasing cheerfulness they carry with them and of course in the rain that thunders from the heavens and gives colour to the earth and the plants, and the wind that sings a song of freedom and peace, a song that soothes the soul, caresses the body and invigorates and refreshes it.
The rain here is of God. It rushes in with force I have never experienced before. The roads bleed red, the people run, the sound deafens. I have never seen Congolese rush or run anywhere except when the rains come. The streets are flooded with barefoot, panye clad people of all ages running or biking hastily with white smiles glowing through the downfall. Everyone is enjoying themselves despite the mud and chaos and as a bystander one could say that the rain could be some sort of community fun fair.
Africa has also shared its spirit with me. Yes, Africa does have a spirit and I believe that anyone who visits this continent will experience this spirit in some form or the other. It is the people who carry this spirit within them. It is not locked away but is free as a bird and it moves in them. I can see it in their eyes, in the way they pray, sing and praise God. It is as though time has no power over them. What brings forth this free-spirit within them I ask myself? What captures them? Perhaps it is the sun that rises with majesty and casts as spell or perhaps it is the earth that sings a lullaby, a rhythm that vibrates in one’s bones.
Perhaps this spirit is found when all is stripped away and we are left only with ourselves. And when we have God what else do we need? We are at peace and our spirit moves freely within us. I find in North America we tend to wear many masks and can easily lose ourselves to the distractions this material world tempts us with. When luxuries, securities, selfish desires are removed we enter a state of vulnerability and it is in this vulnerable state where we are broken and formed into a new creation that can bear much fruit. This reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis that a friend shared with me. He writes:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."
When our hearts are broken and we love others recklessly our selfish desires melt away and we truly begin to see ourselves in a new light, the light of a new creation, the creation that God intended for us. But when we are trapped, as Lewis writes, by our selfish desires we bring much suffering upon ourselves. It is a saddening how much suffering we bring upon ourselves in North America that can be prevented. I think of the many people who suffer from divorce, depression, eating disorders, disillusion, betrayal, self-dejection etc. It is as though we have imprisoned ourselves. This reminds me of my experience at the prison here in Aru on Easter where the literal prison walls were broken down by the faith in the Resurrected Christ. I felt it and saw it in their eyes that with God in their hearts they were free men and women. The people here in Congo, and maybe in other countries of Africa, have their faith to hold them up. They don’t have much, perhaps a tiny hut with a bed, a few pots to cook with, a lamp and one pair of clothes and maybe a radio. I sincerely believe that having less is better than having more. How much freedom can be found when we live each day only for God, without hesitation about what we’re wearing, the way we look in public, what people will think about what we’re doing with our lives, and how far up the ladder of career success we are. It is ridiculous how much these preoccupations take away from our inner beauty.
We can learn much from the African people who live without self-inflicted pain and carry with them everywhere a free-spirit that cannot be taken from them no matter what harsh struggles and suffering they have to endure (which they encounter unfortunately each and everyday due to lack of basic human rights that the rest of the world are able to appreciate). They are able to carry this free-spirit always with them because they have completely abandoned themselves to God.
Thank you all for sharing my journey with me thus far. I also have been uploading photos on flickr as well.