Sunday, November 26, 2017

Take a breath... and another...

Usually at this time of my "leavings" I am becoming more and more irritated by my current country and culture. I remember times of temperamental impatience as someone took too long to find a price for my can of tomatoes... or a car managed to perform a particularly common irrational moving violation in my immediate vicinity... or a beggar asked just one more time...

I've not felt that this time. This last time. I am more filled with understanding and nostalgia. I'm much more gracious than usual. This can only be the grace of God, I think, as I pack another box and say another goodbye. Tears are always close. I well up at the slightest inclination... crossing the Zambezi at sunset... waiting for cows to get out of the road... sweating in the heat as the kids come out of the school... remembering him or her or those other ones.

I sigh a lot. I've heard it is good for you. I hate crying, but my grandma warned me it gets worse with age. I'm proving her right. I wondered how I'd get through this last year of last times for everything familiar. I've had the luxury of time to sort my past and make peace with my future. There is so much to look forward to, but for now I am soaking up a present.  My present is filled with letting go and holding on in just the right measure. I question if I need what I'm keeping or if it is too extravagant of a treasure (a $20 red cupboard I bought on a roadside in Zimbabwe for my first child). Is the "lembran├ža" (memento) for my friend appropriate? It is something... sometimes too much and sometimes not enough.

I think I'm worried about being judged about leaving well. People are so kind and speak such sweet things to my heart. "Maybe you will come back to work on another project," they quip hopefully. "We will miss you," some remark dutifully. Will they think I've been unfair? I hope not. I really hope not.

Today I bought birthday cakes at a Black Friday sale for the preemie twins who've turned 12 and I missed two birthdays. I'll drop them off on my way to the airport to pick up my kiddos and Mikael. He left today to pick them up in the northern town where a direct flight brings them. On my way from the airport, I let some friends test drive our car. Once home, I cringed at my son's cough... the timing of the flu is really terrible and I pray it will just stop. Then I roasted tiny butternuts that were the closest thing I found to pumpkin for the welcome home/Thanksgiving pie for tomorrow's arrival. As I write, I pray. This is their last night at boarding school where they have made a home away from home with friends from everywhere who they may or may not meet again.Yes, I cry for them. They have to leave somewhere, too.

It's time for bed. I'll schedule this to post after they are safely home and we are all together here again for just a little while. A gift of present where we can breathe and sort out another step in our way ahead. Take a breath... say a prayer... and another...

Friday, November 3, 2017

Let me in... written last year before Thanksgiving and never posted.

I know it is hard to accept that you might be the answer to a big problem.
I know it is hard when I am the answer to a need bigger than I can meet alone.

Before you reject a Syrian neighbor, I suggest you meet a person who is from another home than yours. I suggest you consider what it means to be hopeful that you can start somewhere safe. What is it like to leave everything crushed behind you. People you knew and cared about are just gone...

Then you show up in the "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave" and find the doors locked and the neighbors trembling because you are there and you are different. You long for safety and you are stared at from behind closed doors. You look different. It is hard to communicate. You don't know anyone. They don't want to know you.

I am grieving here in Mozambique, far away from my homeland. I see post after post shared by people I love declaring they have no place for Syrian resettlement. They "hate Obama" and they stand baring arms to protect themselves against the invasion of foreign customs and languages.

Please Stop. Why are you so afraid? Have you thought about it? They haven't come here to take anything away from you. You are listening to the same news feed 24/7 about danger and hatred and fear and possible terrorists. You are locked in your room watching the world burn.

Open your door. Get into one of your cars. Meet someone new and different. Love them. You will find they are just like you. I promise. They are human. They don't bite and curse America. They don't want to change your country into something like the one they left. They want to know what it means to be an American. Don't rob them of knowing what the REAL America is like.

Invite someone to Thanksgiving in your home... they will learn your reason for thankfulness.
Offer to help someone practice English... they will learn your accent!
Risk feeling awkward and not knowing what to say or do. It is ok. You will live.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

"We like big..."

I'm always amused by differences in culture. After all these years, I still have moments of surprise thrust upon me. A day last month was a shocker. We laughed out loud at each other. Teacher training events all over the world throw loads of women together. I'm an "along-side" adviser to the presenters. I edit some slides and make sure concepts are getting across to our teachers. I connect projectors and click through the PowerPoint presentation. I'm pretty recognizable and they mostly remember my name since it isn't a hard foreign-sounding one- they are "Djeni" or "Geni" or "Jeny" around here.

Dancing with the teachers... the fun part of the job!
Lunch hour. I stepped in mud and took off my shoes to clean them. "Formadora Jeni, give me your hips!" A younger teacher around 40 or so is admiring me. Her friend proceeds to tell her that she doesn't need mine since hers are big enough. They giggle and want me to turn around. We laugh and I let them know that in "America" we think that fat is not so nice. It is beautiful to be thin. A younger male teacher passing with his lunch box stops in shock as he overhears my comments on American beauty. It is totally normal for him to join in these comments. They laugh together and wonder why anyone could prefer thin over round, chunky figures. I know they are being complimentary, but it's weird to be openly judged by peers. (We judge, we just do it secretly.)

So, we laugh. They are convincing in their approval. I walk away shaking my head. It will be nice to be fairly invisible in my next phase of life. It will be less nice to feel the pressure to drop weight so I don't appear to be unhealthy or lazy and careless. The West is unkind to average-looking, chubby gray-haired ladies. I don't want comments affirming my beauty or refuting my size. I choose to smile. It's for real... because I have a happy heart. I'm tremendously thankful for years in the embrace of this corner of Africa.