I am awed by the gracious hospitality we are receiving in this beautiful place. We’ve been submerged in smiles and laughter since our arrival last night. There is a calm here that is almost tangible … an acceptance and joy that is free of the anchors attached to so many of the things that we often believe to be necessary in our complicated lives.
On my first trip to this country several years ago, one of my mentors told me to be careful about the questions I asked. The premise was that there were some things that I would simply be happier not knowing. The advice has served me well. Yes, dinner last night was delicious … no, I do not care to know exactly what I ate. Although I do hope to learn more about the process … I’m ashamed to admit that the very idea of preparing a complete meal without electricity leaves me at a loss.
I woke this morning to find two absolutely beautiful little girls sitting quietly by my mat, waiting patiently for me to open my eyes. And a day that begins with smiles that warm can be nothing but amazing. They’ve been my shadows for most of the day, the youngest, Naima, with one hand always attached to me in some way. After one day in their world, my life is richer.
Their mothers share their stories with me … stories of happy moments and sad moments. They tell me of the children they have lost … of the fear that sickness brings in this place so far removed from medical care. They tell me of the hunger their families endure when the floods take their meager crops. Pride fills the face of one mother who speaks of her son who has gone away to university … and the pride is tinged with a sadness created by his absence. They tell me of the wedding plans they are making for one of their daughters. They insist that goat milk is very good for me.
Floods have ravaged this area repeatedly over the last decade. Again and again, homes have been destroyed and rebuilt … often using the same methods in the same locations. Today, we made sand bags … lots of sand bags … and are brainstorming with these residents on ways to beat the rains next time. This is their place … and they will determine which actions to take. Without their wisdom and their understanding of this place that they call home, nothing we do will be worthwhile.
Already, I have learned more than I could possibly teach.