Around the World: Summary by the Wise Old Owl

Mr Blue Jay peered out into the sparkling snowy wilderness around the Great Tree, that held the bird feeder where he and Mrs were feasting on breakfast, his beady black eyes surveying the countryside. “You know, Mrs, there’s been something I’ve been pondering recently and today, I’ve decided that I’m absolutely right with my observations.”Mrs Blue Jay passed an adoring glance at her confident mate. ” Do tell, Mr Charming”

“I have decided that we are the best birds.”

She smiled and continued crunching on the bird seed provided by the farmer’s wife, so he continued: “We eat the best food- seeds that we find or are gifted to us- what if we had to eat –shiver– fish from a stream… Nope- instead we have every need and wish supplied- because we are happy to eat seeds (and occasionally the farm dog’s dog food)

IMG_1520
And… We are the best color. With my blue coat I match the sky as I fly. No ugly brown or bright colors for me!

And-I hate to say this- but our voices are the perfect pitch.” he paused mid thought to glide through the air and shout a few “THIEF THIEF” s at the cat who was making its way to the barn.

“You see, a pitiful chirp wouldn’t have taught that cat a thing.” He explained as he landed back by the feeder.

His wife nodded in agreement. “I’ve never thought about it like that- but I believe you absolutely have a point.”

“May I ‘have a point’ too?” Mr Owl stuck his head out his bedroom door and then joined the Blue Jays on the tree.

The Blue Jay’s cast amused glances at each other- Mr Owl is rather groggy after a sleepless night of hunting and before he gets his coffee. His one ear looked like he had slept on it. He ruffled his feathers. “We- umm- weren’t trying to disturb you… Sure, present your case”

Mr Owl paused a little and began: “Who’s to decide who’s best? Suppose that we should all adapt to your way of life- what would the Eagle do trying to hang onto this bird feeder with his massive claws? or what if I’m right in hunting prey at night? How’s your night vision? or maybe the Baltimore Oriole builds the best nest- carefully knitting a sack nest hanging in a tree- what would the long legged Blue Heron do?

DSC_0274

Or what if the Humming Birds thirst for nectar was preferable to catching rabbits- can you see the Red Tail Hawk hovering in front of each brilliant flower? Maybe the Canadian Goose’s trip to the Southland is the perfect winter getaway-what would a penguin do? I can see him now-waddling over hill and dale in his black tuxedo sweating like a racing mule… Tell me, friends, who is the perfect bird?”

The Blue Jays crunched their breakfast thoughtfully, so Mr Owl finished with one last remark. ” In the grand orchestra of the woodland- it takes all creatures to make the most melodious sound. I think if we were all cello, or all flutes, or trombones- the music wouldn’t be all that outstanding… It takes us all” and with that wise remark- He disappeared for another nap.

Mrs Jay looked adoringly once more at her confident mate. ” You sure know how to create conversation.”

He winked at her and said ” He does ‘have an excellent point’.”

And thus brings us to the end of our culture quest.

Except it doesn’t. Culture will surround us forever. Embrace it. Love how it makes a difference in who you are as an individual. Look for it in your friend or neighbor and realize how it makes a difference in their story. And most of all- allow others to be who they are meant to be. No culture is completely right. None are completely wrong. We need all instruments in this orchestra of life to create the fullest, most vibrant song…

In the end- it’s not our culture that’s going to matter- it’s where we stand before Our Loving Heavenly Father…

“All God’s Children singing glory, glory, He reigns, He reigns…”

Blessings,

Kendra

Around the World: Day 13: Culture on the Homefront

Rachel’s ability to make connections where ever she goes and maintain them challenges me. Love your heart for people, Rach!

Harrisonburg is a diverse city blessed with people from so many different ethnic groups. My life has been enriched by some of these people. Learning to know new people makes me learn new cultural practices, and sometimes that is not always comfortable for me. Do I take my shoes off when I enter the house? Which side of the face is the right side to start out the greeting? How many times must one kiss into the air? What is the most comfortable way to sit on the floor when eating?

Middle Eastern people are extremely generous and welcoming. Sometimes ithas been overwhelming. My friends Ahlam and Ayaat are Muslim, and I’ve spent many hours at their place. They always make sure I have something to eat when I get there. Several times in particular that stand out in my mind are when they invited me to break the fast during the month of Ramadan. Their mom thought that I didn’t eat enough even after I have eaten a whole bowl of rice, some chicken, shrimp, keobabs, meat wrapped in onions, some salad, some  Khubz (a flat bread), and fruit and cake for dessert. And did I mention that thirty minutes prior to the meal, she had served my favorite Iraqi cookies, candy, and a soda? The food was fabulous, but I was beyond full, and she just kept putting food on my plate. I had to come to realize that they wanted to make sure that I felt welcomed and special. Once I just said thank you and ate part of it, they were happy.

IMG_5687
When I first learned to know my friend Ansaam, she tried her best to convert me to Islam. She also interigated me with all sort of questions that I had never thought of before. I guess when she realized that I wasn’t going to be trying to convert her this instant like previous people who had visited her house, she relaxed. Now, I go, and we talk about life. Sometimes religion comes up, and I try to speak the hope of Jesus into her life. I read to her children. I play games with them. I have become their “auntie.” That is special to me.

IMG_5689

The Latin American culture is very inquisitive. Things we white Americans think are private information are not necessarily private when talking with these friends. Questions such as, “How much money do you make in ayear teaching school? How much did that laptop cost you? What do you weigh now?” Sometimes these questions have taken me off guard, but really these questions sometimes give me opportunities to ask questions as well that I have been wanting to know about them. Getting offended will not help out the friendship, and being secretive will not build trust between you and your friends.

IMG_5704
We Americans often like people to call before they come over. I learned that is not necessary in both of these cultures. Visits for no reason at all are the best for these two cultures. Both Middle Eastern people and Latinos enjoy fellowship, and know how to relax and have a good visit.

IMG_5688I’ve had to learn, and still forget sometimes, that greeting people and checking to see how they are doing is the most important way to start out a conversation. Then after the chit-chat is over, then it is okay for me to ask the pressing questions that were the orginal reasons for calling to stopping by their house.
The rewards of relating to different cultures has far exceeded the frustrating moments.

-Rachel Ranck

Around the World: Day 12 South Dakota and a Lakota Funeral

Kris lived in South Dakota working among the Lakota Indians  for about 5 years. I enjoyed this introduction to the people who captured her heart… Be sure and take the time to follow the video link- it’s well worth your time.

So I moved to South Dakota seven years ago today (well…when I wrote my first draft it was today…it was November 18) … Wow!!!! So many memories keep coming back over me. Moving affected me in a lot of ways…..for one it made my taste buds mature! 🙂 It made me braver…like sleeping outside in the middle of the prairie with a bunch of scared little girls and I had to be the brave one and act like that noise we heard was NOTHING ! (Sad smile) especially not BIG FOOT!!!!! And it made me learn how to relate to many people of any age – old and young…….and it made me learn what home sickness was! :/

DSCN9223

Roaches…..to me roaches freak me out! I remember one time I was visiting one of my friends, and I was sitting on her couch. There was a cockroach running in and out of the cushions. I had a hard time visiting her without keeping one eye on that critter! And another time we were singing for a family and there were cockroaches all over the place. I was calmly singing and tapping my food…not to keep rhythm but to kill the bugs! Another time I touched a ladies calendar as I was explaining something to her. The calendar crunched and the bugs ran… She seemed to think nothing of it! I tried to act like nothing out of the ordinary had happened!

I think going to wakes (viewings) and funerals were the most cultural experiences for me. It would start…well….on “Indian time”….The family of the deceased one would try to have all the “religious” bases covered. Sometimes a Catholic priest would recite his Hail Mary’s and administer communion; an Episcopalian would say her part in a monotone (always a monotone!!!) from out of their prayer book, a Native Christian pastor might get up and share/read a few scriptures in Lakota (the traditional language). (I never knew what he was saying, but I think he was a genuine Christian.); a Native drum group would beat/pound/sing a Lakota song or two, the smell of burning sage would be wafted around the room to keep out the “evil spirits”, if the person had been a Veteran then the military did their honorary ritual- march back and forth/do roll call/shoot into the air; anyone else could share memories, etc……Then the family would call on the Mennonites to sing a few songs, (We would sing songs like Amazing Grace, When Burdens Come So Hard to Bear, There’s a Fountain Free.) and our pastor would share a few scriptures from the Holy Bible.

There would be one last viewing- after we viewed the body then we shook each family members hands that were there at the service. After the service we would all drive out to the graveside. In the processional it was the funeral home with the body and immediately following a truck with a couple of men on the back of it. These men would sing and beat the drum the whole way to the cemetery. There was usually people riding horses also. An incredible video clip of the honor song can be watched  here

Then we would go back to the community building where the services were taking place and eat food….lots of it. The families usually got us Mennonite ladies to help serve the food. I really enjoyed that part because we could see and visit with everyone who had come. They also would fill a plate to put under the casket. (To “feed” the spirit of the dead person.) Everyone took plates full of food home with them at the end of the meal because once food is brought to a community event the food is now everyone’s.

Then the last thing we would partake in before we would go home was a Give-A-Way. Star quilts, blankets, towels, plastic containers, fabric, pillows, clothes, etc. were given to each person who was there.

Funerals were sad times- so much hopelessness was all around us-but those times of sorrow were such good times for me/us to minister to those who were hurting.

DSC_2386

Well….See you later….Native Americans never liked when I said Good bye to them…..that is final….See you later is more temporary! 🙂

~Kris Mummau

IMG_8642

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the World: Day 11-Nicaraguan Birthday Party

So finally, I’m posting a write up from the lady who inspired this entire series… My little sister, Deborah is in Nicaragua for 2 years, with Olive Branch. You’ll find more of her adventures on daysofdebi.wordpress.com Thanks for taking us to this party, Deb! 🙂 Love you!

Walk with me? I’m on my way down to the 6th street here in San Carlos! My little friend, Carmen, is turning 4 this month and her mom is having a big party tonight! I am sure they won’t mind if you tag along! We walk along the road, up to where 6th street is off to the side, a little dirt trail. I would not suggest bringing a vehicle down in here…plus its just a short walk! See all the chairs set up in the street up there? Here we are! When we get there, we are greeted with the usual handshake and kiss, and are directed to chairs. We are here about 15 minutes after the invitation said the party would start, but there are only a few other people here. The hostess of the party has not gotten ready yet, and they are still setting up the piñata and sound system.

As the time goes on, more people roll in, they get the LOUD music rolling, and eventually bring out the food. We are served a sandwich with some kind of mayonnaise mixture in it. I heard rumors of chicken in it, but could only taste onion in mine, but it was edible! Coke is mandatory at any party, and later they bring around little bags of popcorn and little bags with candy in them.

The piñata is a riot. When it was the younger children’s turn, they just spin them in as many circles as they are old, and let them hit it like that. But the older children get blindfolded, and as they are swinging at the piñata, someone is pulling at the string that goes from the piñata, up over a pulley, and down to whoever can pull it so that the piñata is not so easy to break.

 The first piñata is a success, a brightly colored ball with cones sticking off the sides to make it look like a star.
 When they bring out the second piñata is when my eyes grow big! The second piñata is literally bigger then the child! The grin on little Carmen’s face as she stands beside it is just precious!

 All the children gather around to take a picture with the piñata before they string it up. It starts to rain and we all try to stand under the porch to keep dry, but there is not room for everyone.

 The little dirt floor house has one room empty that they invite us into, but there are no lights, so most of the people just stay outside. The sound system is covered with a tarp, and a man is sitting under it, I’m not sure how he plans to keep it dry if the tarp doesn’t work, but I guess he can at least keep an eye on the situation!

 As it gets later, people start to leave, but first we take a group picture of everyone. Thank you so much for coming with me to get a small glimpse of the Nicaraguan way to celebrate a birthday! (Since it was just a little four-year-old, they didn’t do the traditional way of smashing an egg in her hair and pouring powder over it…that’s a whole different story in itself!) Next time you are in the area, maybe we can go to a “vela” (Nicaraguan wake/funeral).Blessings, Deborah

Around the World- Day 10: Visit to a Chinese Emergency Room

I knew that Kandace would have a few stories for me… And she didn’t let me down… Her heart has been in Asia for years and she has spent a lot of time there… I remember hearing she had an injury while in China but had never heard the actual version… (Kandace has mastered all kinds of food during her stay there- she made sushi and sticky rice and all sorts of deliciousness for us last summer) This is her story:

[Before you begin, please note: I was in a very small countryside village in western China. Please don’t let this story speak for China or SE Asia, as a whole. In bigger cities, such as Shanghai or Beijing, healthcare is exceptional!]
In December 2012, I had the opportunity to visit dear friends of mine, AJ & Sarah, in China. AJ teaches English at a local university and Sarah is learning the language. Keep in mind that this was my first experience traveling outside of the US. While I visited, the head of the Foreign Language Department at the school where we were wanted to take all the language teachers on a weekend getaway… exploring ancient cities, general relaxation, and the highlight: snowboarding!


The teacher said it wasn’t far (maybe 5 or 6 hours) but we knew that we’d have to travel a ways to find snow-because in this area there was no danger of snow days. (When in a foreign land, one learns to keep their expectations at a minimum.) We got on a bus, and were seated right next to a child who casually offered us a snack of chicken feet. We traveled 10 hours to our weekend get-away. From there we traveled another hour by bus and then another half hour by cable car until finally we arrived at our destination: a snowy mountain resort with 3 trails- equivalent to bunny slopes.

We quickly donned our apparel and trudged the ¼ mile to the top of the slope. I made it down the first time without incident. But round 2… Something went wrong. As I gracefully glided down the hill, I hit a patch of ice and rocks and, in keeping with my gracefulness, landed in a huge heap at the foot of the slope. As I tried to stand, I realized something had happened to my little finger. I took my glove off and stared at my hand as my poor finger defiantly stood up while the rest of my fingers laid down. I hollered at AJ “Hey I think I broke my finger.” He kept snowboarding. “No, seriously, MY FINGER!” Recognizing my panic, he came over to assess the situation. Yep, broken. He called out to our interpreter “We have a problem, Kandi broke her finger.” “Oh, no worries,” she smiled and continued to make her way towards the ski escalator (that’s a real thing, apparently) to make the trek back up the mountain.

Finally we were able to impress on them the fact that we needed help… So they took us to a small room in the lodge where I was surrounded by 5 older soldiers wearing the Communist armband. I was sure I was about to be murdered. (Yay for American media and the teaching that all Communists are bad people.) They were all amazed by this injured white girl and kept trying to touch my finger. They had no pain killers anywhere except a little vile with sugar water to keep my blood sugar up … So I drank that. It didn’t help.

Half an hour later, Sarah and I were loaded in a truck and started our descent back towards the city… The trip went rapidly and I was certain we were going to die as we sailed around curves, blowing the horn as we went (that’s how you drive- forget traffic regulations- just use your horn). We almost hit a biker. A bus almost hit us. I told God it was okay if I would die, because I was sure that would hurt less.

We made it to the ER. There two doctors greeted us and started my registration; however, they wouldn’t accept me because I didn’t have a Chinese name. We made one up and proceeded with book work. They had two options for me: 1) Go back to my own city, which lacked proper healthcare* or 2) Come back on Wednesday for surgery. It was a Sunday.

*Quick insert: the hospital I was at, was considered the best in the surrounding area. Similar to RMH, perhaps. The healthcare in my city was sketchy, at best. Example: the dentist was a chair sitting in a sidewalk, with a variety of small saws, pliers, and other instruments hanging from the nearby shop window.

Thankfully, Sarah is a nurse. She made it known quickly that we would not be going anywhere and that they would be fixing my finger that very day. Apparently the two angry American women scared the doctors, as we were quickly sent on our way to get X-rays.

We trudged across the hospital campus to the X-ray location. The technician was sure she needed to move my injured finger … Ugh… More waiting. After 2 hours, we were sent to the top story of the hospital to see a doctor.

I kept asking for pain killer, but my nurse totally disappeared. We shut the door to my room, but we kept having visitors. People– even patients– felt it very important to come in and stare at us and take my picture. We would shut the door, but here they’d come again. I was annoyed, but after being told that these people will probably never see a foreigner again, I relented. (In the city of 500,000 where we were living, there were 8 foreigners and everybody knew about us. They’d talk to us on the street… Shout hello; try to take stealth pics…the rumor mill works well in these parts).

 Eventually the doctor came and, by this point, I was feeling rather frantic, which makes me rather emotional. The doctor is trying to grab my injured finger and shouting in Chinese and I’m trying to keep him from yanking it and shouting in English… And he’s laughing. And I’m crying… My nurse finally returns. She’d ran to the pharmacy to find some pain meds. The hospital only carried morphine for cancer patients. Anyhow, the doctor determined that my finger was only dislocated instead of broken so he only needed to reset it. Literally as soon as I had swallowed the pain pills – he was ready to set it. He said that most 80 year olds were tougher than me. I tried to fight for more time, but gave in and let him yank away…all 10 people in my room at that point tried to distract me by telling jokes, singing, and crying with me when I screamed. They bandaged it up then and we left.

Several weeks later I went to the hospital in my city for a check-up… the doctor was busy seeing a patient… A dog. I hope he sterilizes and sterilizes the equipment between patients. The checkup cost me only 1 USD.

  Honestly, this experience is the most dramatic thing I’ve ever been through. However, the Chinese people are very friendly and hospitable…it just took me a bit to see it. I would go through it all again in a heartbeat if it meant going back to China. I am absolutely in love with it. I learned that just because people do things differently, doesn’t mean it is wrong. We can all learn from each other.

  
Notice these signs- the last one “go on foot a ladder” means stairs…

—–

Many places in Asia have a different view of “offensiveness” compared to Americans. The head is considered sacred. So touching a person’s head is awful. The feet are bad/dirty so don’t point your feet at people… this is particularly true in Buddhist populations, since the feet are the lowest point of the body and the head is the highest. I learned this the hard way. We were traveling on a train- and since the seats were arranged in groups of 4, I wasn’t able to sit with our group. I knelt on my seat, talking with them over the back of my seat, the bottoms of my feet facing the man across from me. Finally the interpreter said “Ummm Kandi, the man across from you is really getting offended..” As soon as I learned why, I apologized through the interpreter. He replied, as he spit the empty shells from his sunflower seed snack in and all over my shoes, “It’s ok this time since you are an ignorant American.”

—–

I love the Asian culture and the relaxed, friendly manner and look forward to visiting again. – Kandace Glenn

Around the World: Day 9- You’ve Been in Bangladesh Too Long When…

I met Jody several years ago and although our paths haven’t crossed in a while- I love reading her adventures through her blog followerofthestar.wordpress.com She compiled this list with the help of some on her friends… Blessings to you, Jody as you teach English, impact those around you and enjoy all sorts of incredible experiences! 

You know you’ve lived in Bangladesh too long when…20 signs that it’s time to have a refresher course on American culture.

1.You nod your head to the side.*They probably won’t understand a frontal nod as yes.

2. You lean out your car window so you can give the lady at the drive-thru window your money with your right hand.*In Bangladesh it’s considered rude and unclean to use your left hand for eating or giving things to someone. Seriously, I notice every time someone hands me something with their left hand. If you MUST use the left hand, sanctify it by propping your right hand under it.

3. Eating with your fingers feels more natural than using a spoon. *Spoons were only used for rice pudding and goat milk yogurt. Forks? What are they?

IMG_5681

4. A meal is not a meal without rice. *Rice is eaten for breakfast, snack, lunch, supper and midnight snack.

IMG_5680

5. You can cross a busy street with motos and vehicles whizzing by and hardly even notice them.*Basically just start walking and weaving between traffic. I mean obviously, you don’t step in front of a bus or anything idiotic like that. In Bangladesh and most of Asia, there’s a pecking order to the roads. If you are bigger, you have the right of way.

6. It feels weird to shake hands (especially with the opposite sex).*Shaking hands is very American.

7.  The footprints on the toilet seat are your own. *The majority of the toilets in Asia are squat pots, and the Western toilets you do come across are filthy!!

IMG_5678

8. You say estyle, estar, and busestand.*As far as I know this is essentially Bangladeshi. They have a tendency of adding the /e/ sound (as in set or bet) in front of an ‘s’ if the ‘s’ is followed by a consonant. So sit is said sit, but slit would be eslit.

9. You can ride bike side saddle.*It’s considered immodest for girls to straddle bikes… or even ride them. I mean if someone else is sitting on the seat peddling, I can ride side saddle behind them. And yes, I am talking about bicycles. They believe the same thing about motos (motorbikes).

10. You remove your shoes before entering a house… ALWAYS!!!!*Seriously, you were walking around in who knows what and you want to wear your shoes into my house? I don’t think so!!!

IMG_5685

11. You consider threatening someone with your flip-flop a serious insult.*Feet are dirty. They’re the dirtiest part of you and pointing your feet at someone is very offensive, but if a guy is bugging you, pick up your flip-flop and threaten to throw it at them. That usually does the trick. If that doesn’t work throw it and go find some big brothers to take care of the situation.

12. You speak English incorrectly and simply. (Example: I am eating eggs for breakfast. Yesterday, I go to market. I can not come.)*While teaching English, I tried to speak correctly, but the point here is using the words and tenses that they understood.

13. You call it football… not soccer. *I don’t want to be quoted on this, but I believe America is the only country that calls it soccer. It’s football.

14. It’s totally normal to have visitors at any time of the day.*And visitors mean dropping whatever you’re doing and making sure they have biscuits (sweet crackers) and apples to eat. And answering all their questions: “Where you come from?” “How many brothers you have?” “Do you like Bangladesh?” etc.

IMG_5683

15. You know that if the child is wearing two earrings… it’s a girl.*Due to the scourge lice, girls up into 7th grade will shave their heads. Sometimes the ONLY way to tell if it’s a girl or boy is to see if she has two earings. One earing may mean a Hindu boy.

IMG_5679

16. You feel half-dressed without your shawar and Orna.*Shawar are light-weight pants worn under the dress. Ankles showing are considered immodest. Ornas are either large scarves or small shawls also worn for modesty.

17. You understand and enjoy cricket.*Cricket is even a bigger game than football.

IMG_5686

18. You can tell the difference between Muslims and Hindus.*The town I lived in had about half and half of each. Maybe slightly more Muslims, but they often dressed pretty much the same.

IMG_5684

19. You’d rather sit cross-legged than stretch your legs out.*When I sit in a chair I usually find it more comfortable to sit cross-legged. Often I prefer the floor.

20. You can sleep through the prayer call.*Not just the prayer call, but also the innumerable early buses rattling the house and blowing their horns.

-Jody Byler

IMG_5682

 

Around the World: Day 8-North Africa and Respect

My cousin has spent years in Africa. Recently she has moved to North Africa. I knew she has a wealth of experiences. Bless you for sharing.. 🙂 She writes:

I sometimes think that I could write a book about cross cultural experiences, the funny thing is when I sit down to actually write a paragraph about the topic my mind goes blank, and I find I have trouble pin pointing a certain area to focus on, since it is so broad, and I have had too many different (and sometimes surprisingly similar) experiences. Enough preamble, let me get on with it.

Cultural experience, let me go with one that is recent, and that is living in a “male-dominated” culture where gender lines are clearly drawn, I didn’t realize how different it was until I moved from east Africa to north Africa, and found that even a friendly smile or a hi, or a simple conversation to anyone from the opposite gender is no longer acceptable, as I was used to it being. The lines between the genders are much more boldly drawn than I have ever experienced, and it is now seen as respectful for my husbands friends not to greet me extensively, anything more than a nod in my direction is crossing the line of respect in a friendship between men. It is quite the opposite in America where even hugging your friends wife, is acceptable, and anything less than a greeting and sincere interest can leave the woman in tears thinking her husbands friends don’t like her. Even in East Africa, it was quite appropriate to have a friendly handshake, and the appropriate greetings with my husband’s friends even if I casually meet them on the street. Here I was surprised to see my husband’s friend on the street one day, but instead of the greeting I was used to, I was ignored since my husband wasn’t with me. Before you think that this culture is cold and unfriendly let me add that within the same gender friendships are deep and greetings are lavish and affectionate.

Here is a pic that I think best illustrates my thoughts:, it is a typical evening in the park, and you can see the gender lines are kept in place even when relaxing/ socializing, sorry it is a little blurry) :o)

IMG_5703

 

Around the World: Day 7- Sudan; Cattle Camps

I was so SOO hoping that Aunt Ella would share about her visit to the cattle camps. She returned home with so many stories and I listened wide eyed… Stories about these nomadic people and how their life revolves around their cows. The cow provides everything- including a place for games (young men jump over the cows) And the fact that these people weren’t used to the clean soap smell and covered their nose whenever they caught a whiff of these Americans… Am I remembering correctly? 🙂 Anyhow… I’m still fascinated… Bless you and your family for the sacrifices you’ve made to reach people in all different walks of life! Love you!!

Rhonda had shared many stories about the cattle camps in Sudan, but nothing prepared us for what we experienced.

After making our own trail thru the brush, with our vehicle, and wondering if we were on the right path, we finally broke thru into a clearing. This was the cattle camp: as we disembarked and surveyed the area, all we saw was an open field and a pond of water off in the distance, where the cows were wading to cool off from the 100 degree temps. We were warmly greeted, but there was no house to invite us into, no chairs to offer us, so our host set off walking, to show us a glimpse of life in their world.

A few of the children had on some rags, but most of them were completely naked. They would look at us with curious glances and shy smiles and then quickly return to the task at hand. We soon realized the only source of water for them was what the cows were standing in.

IMG_5758

Our minds were having trouble absorbing all we were seeing.

After our tour, we spread a blanket under a tree and continued to observe life here. Some of the ladies were busily working over a fire, preparing the evening meal. A few pieces of clothing were hanging on the branches of some nearby trees. They have no closets, or cabinets, but they do not need them, because their possessions are minimal, only the basics. However, this makes it easier for the nomadic life, as they move from place to place to try to find water for their cattle.

There was smoke coming from piles of ashes around the camp, and a small naked child was entertaining herself by playing in the ashes, with no one showing concern.

As the sun was beginning to set, you could hear the cow bells as they came in from the distant fields. Stakes were driven into the ground, where the cows were roped for the night. They seemed to know where they were to go, and without much coaxing from the one leading them, they stopped obediently by their assigned stake.

IMG_5755

Rhonda & a co-worker had quickly erected a tent like structure for us to sleep in for the night. It was approximately 2.5’wide by 5’long. This was for 2 of us. Needless to say, we had to lay on our sides to make it work.

IMG_5756

It was quite dark by the time the evening meal was served. Rhonda encouraged us not to eat any of the food. Those of our team who were accustomed to food from this culture ate enough so that our host did not know we had not eaten.

We showed the Jesus film, powered by a generator, on a makeshift screen; a sheet hanging on the side of our van. Everyone gathered around sitting or lying on the ground. Our team was the only ones with the luxury of having a mat. It was quite a surreal experience, to see hands raised in response to the invitation to come to Jesus, here in the open field under the light of the stars.

IMG_5759

With our hearts full of the love of God for every people, every tribe, & every nation, we crawled into our tent for the night.

Sounds now fill the camp; men singing to their cows, babies crying, mothers giving directions to children.

I do not know how much we slept that night, but the peace of God was our rest.

The camp was stirring early in the morning; the cow dung that had been spread out to dry in the sun, was now gathered into piles, to be burned, by a young lady, on her hands and knees. Ashes from yesterday’s fires were rubbed on the cows and over the faces of those tending them. This helps keep the bugs away.

IMG_5760

A lady with a bucket caught a cow’s urine. This was used to wash the cooking pots. Now it made perfect sense why we were encouraged not to eat the food.

With day light upon us, and no toilets, we asked Rhonda for advice. She laughingly reminded us that is why we wore wide skirts. The only semi-private place was behind the van we had driven. However, when we went there, the van driver mistakenly thought we wanted into the locked van, and he came running to unlock it for us.

Our lives are forever changed by this experience.

Who would have ever imagined that when I started praying Ps 2:8, years before, that I would actually get to experience a small part of that world; “Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations as Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth as Your possession.”

-Harold and Ella Horst

Around the World: Day 6-Kenya’s Culture Summary in Acrostic Form

Carolyn Rodes is in Kenya teaching school and enjoying life there. She made an acrostic out of the word CULTURE and pulled in a lot of things that is part of her world now. I’m especially curious about the omena dish… those little fish eyes make me wonder if I’m hungry or not.. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Caroline and blessings on your time there!

IMG_5766

Compound living; Close neighbors…Chickens in church…
Chai (tea) and Chapatis (greasy tortillas)…
Corrupt government; dishonesty…
Carrying large loads on your head…

Unusual food~omena (small minnows), uji (similar to porridge)…
Undernourished and unclothed children in the slums…
Undesirable drunks whom you come in contact with…
Unpleasant odors from unwashed bodies…

IMG_5767

Living in Luo Land…
Learning the Luo Language…
Letting the natives teach you their way of thinking…
Lovable children with beaming smiles…
Lack of punctuality…

Tuk tuks and piki pikis…
Trying to accept the challenges that come when the power goes off (AGAIN) and your cake is in the middle of baking, you are trying to finish your laundry, or, or, or, or…
Taking TIME to visit the natives…
Thrilling adventures on the road…
Torrential downpours during rainy season…

Unique sights as you travel…
Ugali and sikumu wiki…
Unspoken superstitions…
Using different currency…

IMG_5765

Realizing that different methods are not always wrong…
Rough roads with LOTS of potholes…
Ridiculous driving habits…
Recognizing many souls who are in need of a Redeemer…

IMG_5764

Enjoying the gorgeous flowers and all the beautiful scenery in Kenya…
Eating with your fingers…
Establishing friendships with the native people…
Expectations are changed; world perspective is altered…

-Carolyn Rodes

Around the World- Day 5: Liberia- One Day of Beauty; Birth and Death

Kendra has been in Liberia with Christian Aid Ministries for several years now. This is one of her emails. With her gift of words- I have no trouble entering whatever scene she’s writing about. This one particularly tugs at my heart… Thanks for sharing, Kendra!

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appearance for a little time, and then vanish away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. James 4:14-15

So true. I had my Saturday planned. I would do some sewing and washing in the morning, my friend Mamie (pronounced ‘mommy’) was coming to visit, then she and Heather and I would go to the market, and the evening was free.

Mamie Tehme is a girl who used to live at one of our sponsored orphanages and I learned to know her at youth retreats. The plans were that she would come in the morning and leave late afternoon. But due to some issues, or maybe just Liberia, she was still not on the road at 12:00. And I knew the drive would be more than an hour. So I called Heather and we decided to go do our shopping without her.

Immediately after I got off the phone with Heather, my phone rang again. It was Tracy. She was frantic. “Kendra, my friend that gave birth to twins just few days ago died! The ones you gave the baby bundles for. The pa called me and said the babies are crying and crying. No food for them.”

Just the day before Tracy had stopped in my office and asked for two baby bundles for her friend that had just born twins. A boy and a girl. I still had a few bundles left from when my aunts and uncles and school families sent some over for me so I was glad to help her.

IMG_5693

I told Tracy we would be there soon. I called Heather again with the change of plans and we grabbed baby formula and bottles and headed to Tracy. She met us on the road and directed us to the place. Crowds of people were gathered around the tumbledown matte house. (It really was tumbledown- while we were there someone leaned against the door frame and it fell down.) We walked up and asked where the babies were. They had not come back from the hospital yet, but within five minutes the father and two aunties with the babies came walking down the road. Upon seeing the bereaved father and the babies, two women threw themselves on the ground and began wailing, and the rest of the crowd started sniffling. The aunties who had the babies came and handed them Heather and I. A little boy to Heather and the girl to me. I’ve seen many tiny babies here but these were close to smallest I ever saw. The next thing I noticed was how dirty the babies were. I don’t think they had ever been bathed.

IMG_5699

The story we heard was this: Baby girl was born on Wednesday morning (not sure where). The boy had to be delivered C-section and they drove all over town trying to find a hospital that would take her. ELWA Hospital had no beds, Benson Hospital had no beds, and two other hospitals had similar excuses. Finally they got the mother in at Redemption – one of Liberia’s worst hospitals. The boy was delivered sometime on Thursday. On Friday, when some of the relatives went to see the mother they could tell she was not doing well at all. She died that night.

IMG_5695

We instructed one lady to fix bathwater and another to bring some hot drinking water. When the water came we fixed bottles for them. I doubt if the boy had anything to eat prior to this. The girl must have had water or something to keep her alive. The boy drank eagerly and had his 2 ounces down in a few minutes. My little girl was a different story. She held the bottle in her mouth but acted like she didn’t know how to suck. I gave up after a bit and let her sleep like she wanted to. The air was sticky and heavy and the people crowded around only heightened the heat. Someone brought the wailing girl, the deceased woman’s only sister Lovetee, to the doorstep where she continued her sobbing until someone finally calmed her down.

IMG_5698

(notice Rebekah compared to the newborn size onesie)

When the water was ready, Heather bathed her little guy. He’s a strong little fighter – he screamed the whole time. My little girl was a different story…..she tried to cry a few times but it was a mere whimper. She was easy to bathe. Her back fit right into my hand and I could support her head with one finger. We were so thankful for the baby bundles and had fun dressing them in in new, clean clothes. Baby girl looked much better after her bath and it was just what she needed to get her awake and hungry. She sucked on my finger and when I tried the bottle again she drank it right up. Praise God!

IMG_5697

We had a bit of a trying time finding someone to care for the babies. The father wanted us to take them, but we tried to explain to him that we cannot. I was asking around the crowd of people, trying to find out who would be the one responsible for the babies, and they brought the aunt who was still teary eyed. “This is the one who will care for them,” we were told. Heather and I were not at all satisfied. The girl was no more 16, had no children on her own, and was grieving the loss of her sister. It wouldn’t work. Finally, a neighbor lady, Cecelia, agreed to care for the babies. We gave her instructions on how to feed them and promised that we would be back soon to see how the babies were doing.

I handed the the little girl over to Cecelia and said, “I will call this girl Rebekah because she is very beautiful.”

“And we will call this one Isaac,” said Heather. All those seated around seemed very pleased with the names.

Life here is cheap. And unfair. If this would have happened in the States almost anywhere, someone would have immediately taken the babies and provided them with the best care possible. They would have been looked at like they really are – precious and one link to the mother who died. But here – no. People don’t want to see the babies because it reminds them of their sister/mother/friend who died. To some they are looked at as the cause of her death. And there are plenty of children everywhere – why would you care about some that aren’t your own? It’s cruel but it is true.

We were worried about the babies because of these facts and Tracy was very doubtful about the neighbor woman. But when we stopped in on Sunday and Wednesday night everything seemed to be fine. So we pray it will continue that way. (Obviously the way we dressed them after bathing, a onesie and a receiving blanket, was not warm enough. 🙂 Because when we came on Sunday they were in fleece sleepers and heavy blankets and caps again. I am sure all the women were quite appalled and I can see them as soon as we left ‘rescuing’ the babies and bundling them up properly. Poor babies – but I guess they are being taught to be Liberian from the start – cold unless you are sweating. :))

By the time we left the twins house, it was mid afternoon. Heather and I went on our way to do our shopping at Harbel. After the babies experience I just was not in the mood for entertaining yet, and I tried calling Mamie to tell her that it was too late to come today, she should try another day. I couldn’t get through. A few minutes later my phone rang. It was Mamie calling to tell me that she is in a taxi and on her way. ‘Be flexible or miserable’ we say. Sometimes the miserable part looks easier……

Because of terrible traffic conditions Mamie did not arrive until 8:00 that night. It was obvious that I now had an overnight visitor. And it was fine, really. Mamie is lots of fun and easy to entertain. We had a good time catching up, looking at retreat pictures, and just talking about life.

She went to church with us in the morning and because of transport issues stayed until Monday morning. 

 
Sunday evening we went to the beach with Josh’s. She was in total awe and fear of the ocean and couldn’t even keep her eyes closed when we prayed, for watching to make sure the waves wouldn’t come up and wash us away. 🙂 She got used to it though and till the end of the evening was having a wonderful time. She even tried flying Josh’s kite and did better than myself, I do believe. And then back at the house we taught her how to play Uno. She loved it – that might have been partly due to the fact that she won twice. 🙂

 
And so it is. This is Liberia. My feet are covered in dirt and dust and my dresses get visibly dirty. We eat rice and potato greens and fresh pineapple. Children call my name from all directions with requests varying from wanting to fry grasshoppers for me to wanting me to take them to the beach. The wind blows but it’s hot dry air. I watch for snakes and “homeworks” (a weed with tiny seed that sticks in your dress and has to be pulled out by hand) when I’m walking. There are ants in the sugar. The nights are humid and starry.

But when I think about it- when the real Liberia gets up against you- The dirt, the heat, the ants the children, the rice, the smiles….can’t help but love it.

-Kendra Joy Good