I'd describe this blog as a place for the purposeful ramblings of Ruth and others. You get to read my thoughts. Will you please share yours, too?

Monday, June 13, 2005

How do you picture Africa?

What is the Africa you imagine?
Grass huts? I touched one.
Baobob trees? I was inside one.
Toothless faces? They smiled at me.
Bare feet? Their toes and my Tevas left side-by-side prints in the dust.
Cooking by fire? I smelled the smoke.
Large sun sinking on the horizon of the bush? The orange and pink hues seeping through the window are tinting my paper with soft pastel shades.
Men on bicycles, hauling firewood? I just waved to him as we passed.
Women in brightly colored chitenge dresses? I wore one.
Eating without utensils? There is still nschima under my fingernails.
Grassland plains with wiry leafy trees? My van window is framing that very scene right now.
Women carrying babies on their backs and everything else on their heads? It's so common I didn't even take a photograph.
Tribal chiefs? I greeted one in his native language, Tonga, as he shook my hand.
Flies landing in the snot and tears of a baby's face? I swished them away.
Drums beating and voices chanting melodies? I danced and sang to the music.
Widows? They said "twalumba apati" (thank you very much) when we visited them.
Orphans? I became friends with several.
AIDS victims? I shook her hand and gave her a hug.
People crammed into the back of open-air trucks? I now know after sitting with 50 other people that there is always room for one more.
Mosquito nets? I slept under one.
Washing clothes by hand? I learned how.
Wild safari animals? I was five feet from a zebra, ten feet from an elephant, and 15 feet from a giraffe.

Then let me tell you about the Africa you might not picture:
Cell phones.
Subway sandwiches.
Internet cafes.
An electric keyboard, speakers, and microphones during a worship service.
A female presidential candidate.
satellite television.
Spongebob Squarepants lunch bags.
Shiny leather shoes.
Ironed slacks and sharp ties.
Computerized hydroelectric power station.
Female pastors.
Air conditioning.

Africa is so much more than the things you might expect and the things you might not. Its people tell you much more about its identity than any other description can. That's why you have to go there and meet the people. They understand grace, hospitality, and love more than anyone I've ever known. I am different because of knowing them.


Anonymous Erin said...

These descriptions made me cry a little bit...Ruth, you totally have a gift at writing descriptions. I love your descriptions of the land and what you saw while you were there. It makes me want to go...SIGH! Someday...

June 22, 2005 6:11 PM


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