I have been silent for almost a week. That must be some sort of record for me. I guess I have not had much to say. Lots of thoughts, lots of listening, and lots of questions more than anything. It has been a rough week and a great week and all around I have been reeling with all that is going on in my head.
Last night we ate dinner at 10:30pm. Not bad considering how much we were able to fit into the time proceeding it but still pretty ridiculous. After morning work, teaching at the school, and what seemed like a stream of visitors (seriously, do they time that?) I took our neighbors to a clinic because after over a week of their eldest daughter have excruciating pain from an infected tooth I finally realized they were not taking her because they did not have the 5,000Tsh (about $3.50) to pay for the tooth to be removed and they were unsure how much bribe would be required at the government hospital. Seriously, sometimes my heart physically aches for what people go through here. I know there are hardships everywhere and we all struggle. After all, we are promised that in scripture. But I was so convicted that I have uttered complaints about having to take the ferry to get medical care for Evy. Medical care that I can afford. Medical care that is so above anything available here. And I whine. Lord, forgive me.
So, after realizing the issue we made plans to go later that night and we had a full car with lots of interested (and I think just plain bored) kids. We headed out and while my friend, her daughter, and I went into the clinic they other kids played outside and waited. This was the “nice” clinic and it was still dirty, old, and crowded. Luckily there was only one other person ahead of us in the dark hallway that led to the dentist room which gave me hope I might make it home at a reasonable hour. As my eyes wandered over at the paint peeling from the walls and we listened to several people screaming in pain I tried to calm myself and pray. I just feel so angry people have to live like this. Not that our pampered Western way is the “right” way but that people should not have to chose between feeding their family or going to the doctor. I just felt anger rise within me that others have to make those choices. And then I also sensed such peace that Jesus is here. That he is close to those who suffer. That he is with me when I step out and in such meager, small ways try to help. That in sharing my life I am loving and really living. Oh, Lord I want to live, help me have courage.
We all went in and then the nurse quickly examined her, gave her mother some stern words about brushing her teeth, gave her an injection to numb her, and sent us out to wait until it took effect. She had tears streaming down her face and was obviously shaken and scared. I just tried to comfort her, make her laugh, and asked her if I could pray for her. She said yes and we prayed. Then she went back in and after about 5 more minutes she started screaming in pain so her mother quickly grabbed my hand and we went outside so we could not hear her. Her mother explained that it is shameful to cry and she did not want to hear. The whole experience felt very void of compassion. And I think it is in part because suffering is so normal. People are ‘zoea‘ (accustomed) to it. Yet, although it seems more normal it is no less profound. No less needing of love, mercy, and intense and immediate attention. Oh Lord, be here, break through fear, poverty, pain and be the source of light.
My friend’s daughter came out with her head covering wrapped around her face and blood dripping off her chin. But she was so relieved the cause of her pain was gone and told me she was happy she can return to school now. I went with my friend to the dimly lit office where a large woman wearing a vibrant red and yellow dress and head scarf wrote in a notebook the charges, took my money, and was a bit irritated she had to search for change. The procedure and the extra medicine all in all was about $7. Many people do not get the medicine after because it costs extra. We are talking possibly life threatening infection or 3 dollars. Not a choice I have ever had to make but many people make it daily. And most of the time I live like that reality is not life as usual for many people. Oh Lord, help them in their suffering and help me in my comfort and my apathy. Help me to be changed, to be awakened, and to love.
We walked back to the car, collected the children, and piled circus clown style in the car. And then is where it went from an “average” day here to an “African day.” The car would not start. At all. Like dead kabisa. So I called Jason who was putting Annikah to bed (Evy was already sound asleep) and had no way to come save us. Plus I could barely hear him because of a bad connection but I made out that he suggested to try to shake the battery connection. As soon as the locals around us realized that we were having car problems and that the clueless Mzungu was leading the charge about 10 men jumped in action. I love that a problem is always every one’s problem here. You are never alone. There was many debates about what the problem was, lots of car talk I could not understand (not that I could understand this even in English!), and many people running off to retrieve a tool or a light. We were a sad motley crew I tell you. Me, my friend, her bleeding and drugged up daughter, and 4 other kids (2 of whom did not have shoes because they jumped in the car last minute). Stranded. In the dark. Just to make it more interesting my phone was about to die and since we had been using my friend’s phone as a light to check the battery her phone was also dying a slow, beeping, death. After about 45 minutes I called Paula and asked me to come rescue us and take us home (since none of us had even enough money left to ride the dala dala). Paula sent her husband and with my vague description of where we were (on the market road across from the big mosque next to the lumber yard but not quite at the stadium) and he tried to find us in the dark. Problem was I had no phone battery to call him and we even saw him pass by the kids and I started running and screaming but he did not see us. As you can imagine all of this ridiculousness soon drew a crowd and we were surrounded (your problem is EVERYONES problem.. remember). Rich finally made it to us after a phone via Paula to tell him to turn around and after convincing the guys we would just leave the car and head home we climbed in his car and were on our way back. The thing was we were laughing the whole time. Even me; the girl who likes to be in control of situations, who likes to know what comes next. It was either laugh or cry but because I was with my friend (who also felt bad this all was caused because I offered to take them to the doctor) we were in it together. And that made everything somehow ok. We got home and Jason then joined Rich to go tow the car to our auto garage at the VTC where she now sits awaiting some major overhauls. By the time he made it back it was after 10pm and I was still taking down laundry and talking with my neighbor so he headed out to buy some street food. Yep, it was a day.
But that was yesterday. Today I am still processing the week and trying to make sense of the welling emotions, pieces of information, and still crazy pace of life. Without detailed explanations that right now I am not prepared to give we had some difficulties with where we live. Trying to discern what is the truth amidst lots of gossip. I had a few sleepless nights because not fully understanding the culture, the issues, and trying to deal always in a second language is hard. No, it is really trying. But as I type now looking back over the last few days I am again reminded how amazing He is. How He is working in every detail in our lives and how He is always more interested in what He is doing in us than through us. I am learning so much and my heart is being changed. I really never knew how to pray before I came here. Of course I did everyday but not with the same desperation. The same resolve and conviction. The same wide open eyes. The same humulity that comes from knowing I cannot solve problems. The same soft and broken heart. The same all-in complete dependence. And it is awesome.