These lyrics have been running through my head the past week. Probably because it’s been raining a lot (hello, rainy season!), and mud is constantly covering my feet and legs.
“…Read it from the Bible
That don’t make it true
Breathe it in your nostrils
And get it on your shoes…”
-Trent Wagler Go Up To That Mountain
Like I said, it’s on my shoes and my feet…and the hems of my skirts and my pants. Red dirt and mud, which only happens because we walk everywhere. Experiencing what these Ugandans experience everyday, and living as they do (in some respects). It’s been less than 3 months, but I feel like this part of the song has made more sense to me since being here. I am breathing it in (mmm…latrines and smog), and it is definitely on my shoes, and staining my feet orange in some places.
This could be partly what the Gospel is about, hey? Walking with people on the journey and loving them and living life together. Not driving by, missing what is happening around me. When I walk home from school, it’s a different route than when I am driven home. You can’t even drive on most of the places I walk, since it’s just a footpath.
Relationships are built by this walking, even just through familiarity and passing people everyday. I’ve never talked to my neighbor girls, but they stand in their yard and wave ‘goodbye Jill’. It’s great to be called by my name, and not by mzungu. I always pass a mother and her children at their house, too. She could honestly be the most beautiful person ever, and her children are adorable. The mother and I have never spoken (language barrier), but the other day when I walked past and waved to the kids and shared a smile with her, I felt love and understanding coming from her. When I am driven home, I don’t experience this (not to mention the road that I live on is bumpy and uphill and I always feel like the van is going to break or we’re going to slide backward).
At home, I drive almost everywhere I go, and am so focused on my own destination that I miss the lives that are happening right beside me. How often do I do this? Metaphorically (or physically) drive by people, focusing on myself instead of recognizing their humanity, struggles, pain, and joys.
So many of the books we have read for classes relate to this idea of presence, and slowing down and focusing on people. (for example, Compassion by Henri Nouwen and The Primal Vision by John Taylor.) It definitely relates to the African way of life, and is most of the time in stark contrast to our Western speed of life.
One thing though that I have recognized is that these two cultures (America & Africa) are different. Neither one is necessarily better…they are just different. There are positives and negatives of both, and both could learn things from each other. It’ll be interesting to see what things I have learned that stick with me/are ingrained in me from this semester when I go back home. I definitely am not a completely different Jill, though. This semester (as we were told in one of our first classes) is about one degree change…not radical differences in our lives (although I guess that could happen), but smaller changes in our worldviews.
Anyway…this was just a little introspective rambling. Thanks for reading :)
Today we leave for Rakai, another district in Uganda (it’s about 20 km from Tanzania). It’s where some believe AIDS originated, or at least spread out from. This past week has been HIV/AIDS week on campus, and in a few of our classes we have focused on it. December 1 is World AIDS day, and next weekend we are going to visit different organizations that deal with the AIDS pandemic—Mildmay (a hospital that has state of the art testing facilities. The head of it spoke in Community Worship yesterday…he is HIV+ himself), and TASO (The AIDS Support Organization…a grassroots movement started by a few HIV+ people who realized they had no support and were being stigmatized in their communities). I may write more about the issue after this weekend.
We have 3 weeks left. Whoa. Some classes end next week, which means I really need to focus on schoolwork. It’ll get done :)
Thanks all for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!