Coffee along the way

Coffee along the way
Coffee along the way

November 29, 2011

Deadlines slowly kill me……

I was never one who did well with a deadline!  Not that I am not finished on time, not at all - quite the reverse!  My problem with a deadline is that I start immediately and finish way ahead of time and believe it or not, this is quite a problem out here in deep, dark and timeless Africa!

Let me paint a picture…..
The New Homeschool materials are all packed out and ready to go, but it is the first week of school holidays, which, by the way is 6 weeks long!!  I would like to start now and finish off all the new work, but I am the Teacher not the Student, although I do wonder about that sometimes!!  :)   I need to slow down and Wait….

I bake bread every day, yes, every day!  And for a bread to really turn out great you have to…..Wait!  If you don’t, well, then you will have Rock instead of nice fluffy white bread on your plate!  And I guess the same goes for growing children, hurry it up and try and get things done quickly and you have Rocks for brains and not nice and spongy grey matter!  :)

Living in Africa takes Time….yes, Time!  And not the watch kind either!  We grow stuff, we wait for the rains, we sit with the people!  Here, if you go and visit someone, you greet every single one present – no “Hi, you all!”  :)  If sick persons comes to my door, we first greet politely, then we wait politely and then wait a bit more and then out comes the problem.  Sometimes I walk back to the house (or run by that time, just because I need to Move!) and when I come back they tell me the next complaint!  Patience!! 

I always thought I was quite a people person, but living immersed in People-people, I found out I am not.  I may have been born and bred in Africa, but my European blood runs thicker than is comfortable! 

I realised yesterday, while packing out the new books, that I really need to Relax and Be.  Easier said than done!  I need to take a deep breath and enjoy the journey….but in writing that I actually don’t think clich├ęs will help me at all!!  I need much more practical advice for myself!  Something like, sit with the women with no agenda and no hurry!  Don’t try and save time by baking cookies while explaining math to your son!  Don’t hurry through the great parts of the day – teaching and being with my boys!  Sigh……my (very early) New Year’s wish (typical of me to be early, is it not?) is that I would enjoy life to the fullest and not rush it to get things done!

Bella, and I don’t even own a watch!

November 27, 2011

Even if......

The last few posts were far from positive, but I’m not aiming for making everything look glamorous and fine.   I am aiming for what is real.  I have this thing about missionaries making everything seem so perfect – nothing ever a struggle (although we try to get there, we are not there yet!) – the macho missionary type.  In any case, this is beside the point.  My posts were very…..well, low.  I kept thinking about what I wrote, about all the jumble of stuff going on in my head and I kept on asking the Lord what I should be learning here…..contentment?  No, it didn’t seem that was it – although I definitely need work in that department too.  What was I missing?

The answer came quite unexpectedly while we were driving along a particular beautiful stretch of green mountains, indigenous forests and newly sprouted grassy plains. Also at a stretch where I was not really appreciating life… the answer came with a question…..”Will you still praise Me?”

Habakkuk 3.  Will I still praise God, rejoice in Him when I am feeling very isolated and lonely, cut off from friends and family for years at a time?  Will I still praise Him when I know that i will always be the outsider – even when going back to my own culture?  Will I still praise God when things break or when I am everything to everyone, when I am feeling totally overwhelmed on a daily basis?  Will I still praise God?  Will I praise Him in the dark times, the times that I think I’ll never make it out here? 

Daniel’s 3 friends said just before being thrown in to a fiery furnace “Our God can save us from your hand o king, but even if He doesn’t, we will still not bow before you.”  What faith!  Even if!!  Will you praise Me, even if….?

I want to!!  Because You make my feet like that of a mountain goat – steadfast in dangerous areas!  You are the One who keeps me safe and makes me strong, who gives me courage to go on.  I will Praise You.

Bella, so much to learn still.

November 19, 2011

Life in a small village......

We were watching Tangled with our kids the other night…..a new version of Rapunzel and quite cute (although the boys didn’t appreciate the falling in love part!)  In any case, here she was, locked up in her tower trying to stay busy…..

And I guess that scene kind of left an impression on me, about me…..not that I am a beautiful princess, but that I have the same problem of keeping myself busy here where there are no real friends or shops or other things to keep me entertained or busy – it’s up to I, me and myself!  Especially over the “wonderful” and often very long weeks before a break is in sight!

A typical weekday…….i wash the dishes, I wash the clothes,  I start school, I watch the clock, I bake the bread, I make lunch, I watch the clock, I rest (??), I stuff my head with language, I help the sick, I watch the clock, I make supper and tomorrow is another Big day!  Repeat 5 times and complete it with….
A typical Saturday………I bake cookies, I wash the dishes, I pack them away, I wash the clothes, I paint a bit, I watch the clock, I bake a bread, I read a little, I watch the clock, i look for new emails or facebook or blog comments (none), I watch the clock, I read, I paint, I stare……  :)  All I need is a tower and long hair to complete the picture!  :)

Sigh!  I think i was probably “born under a wandering star”!  (Taken from the movie, Paint your wagon)  How do I keep myself sane where routine and boredom (yes, even if you think my life in the African bush can only be exciting!) are slowly killing me? 

Well, I guess, in theory I remind myself daily (oh, man this word is killing me!) that God placed me here.  Secondly, I try to believe with all my heart, that even if my tasks seem very mundane to me, there MUST be eternal value in them!  Thirdly, I try to see with God’s eyes (very difficult, I know) what God has given me to do for Him here on earth and then it try to do them as unto Him (also quite a task at times!)  Fourthly, I break my routine with very funny things – I hang the washing from left to right and then form right to left!  I cook spaghetti in the place of a sandwich lunch, I go to town (wheeee, very exciting!), and I visit the lake and drink in the beauty!  I dance with my arms before falling asleep…..I write to a friend to pray for me!!!!! 

I realize that my challenges are quite unique, but If you have any insights – please share them with me!  How, I do not know, but I need to think of new ways to break the monotomy…….

Bella, all I need is a tower…..

What do youThink?

Mixing banana with some custard powder......very effective for an upset stomach!
On Thursday we received our mail!  First time in a year!  Not that that in itself was great or that we got some nice long letters….actually just a few old church newspapers, some junk mail, one old Christmas card and so on, but what really was great, was a stack of 8 National Geographics!!

As I opened the 1st one I saw the add of one bank who claims to be very culturally appropriate – you know the one where they have the same image, like a moon, and they explain in one culture it means something good and in another quite the opposite and that they cater to both!  It made me think…….

The trend in the west is to seek alternative medicine – sometimes looking for a more natural approach to health.  People like taking medicine that was made like it was made a hundred years ago…..normal lab made meds are sometimes frowned upon….people want natural!

Here in the village I am the alternative option, only my medicines are the lab made ones!  I do also and actually mostly use tea, salt water, custard powder and bananas as my treatment.  But to the people here I am a symbol of the west and my medicine looks much better than their bush medicines…….not that they are all bad, some work quite good, but mostly it’s a scam.  Probably like some cool new “essential” vitamin in a modern pharmacy!

In any case, it was just a funny thought – perspective is almost everything!  What you think is really, really important!  A good reminder to examine my thoughts!!
And in Thinking that, i have to be careful what i think about God - there are some serious misbeliefs going around my head - especially in times of trouble, hardships or generally when i am feeling things are not going my way.....God is always Loving, Caring and He will Never leave me and He has a perfect plan for my life - i just have to line up my thoughts with the truth!  

Bella, the Thinkerbelle :)

October 25, 2011

Amazing women......

I was visiting a grandma in the village today, when I saw her daughter and granddaughter get ready to leave.  I just leant a new phrase today and so I was very happy to practise it!  ‘Where are they going?” I asked kind of right….

They were off to their fields a way out of the village.  It was late, nearly 4 o'clock, and they hurriedly left with only one big clay jar filled with bits of dried food, some clothes topped with an upside down cooking pot.  Brave women!  It was such a reality check for me!  Here i was complaining of loneliness  - and I have a phone, computer and car to go places!   They will stay on the field until all the land is tilled – by hand – and then after the rains come they will stay out there to guard the new plants against all manner of enemies!  And a lot of the time they are out there all alone!  Very brave indeed!

Some people think i am brave to live out here – I once read only 6% of missionaries live out in the sticks – so I guess it seems brave.  But it is NOTHING in comparison to the women who have been living here for centuries!

They carry 20L cans of water on their heads and this with babies tied to their backs!  They give birth at home or walk about 4km or 20 , to the nearest clinic to deliver their babies!  Sometimes when the birth is too far advanced or complications arise,  they travel on the back of a bicycle!  They work the fields, harvest it all and then need to peel/husk/dry all the food until the next crop will be ready!  Amazing women!

I learn so much from them.  Here I have come to teach them, but they teach me.  My wish and hope and dream for them is that they will come to know and trust my God and Saviour, .....but all in due time.  Until then it is me who is the learner!

Bella, humbled by the women around me

October 13, 2011

Of chickens and Eagles....

Have you watched a chicken lately?  Especially an undomesticated one?  Chickens needs to scratch and scratch for something to eat.  Their heads are always down, they scurry from scratching place to scratching place hoping to find the juicy worm, something worthwhile.  They also never rest - always on the go!  I mean, the little titbits that they get in, hardly covers the energy spent by their frantic scratching!
Watching them from my window every morning has shown no change in routine.  It can become very tiring to watch them.  They scare easily.  The chicks scurry franticly after their mom, in a very nervous fashion......

Eagles, on the other hand, are in a total different class!  I like the Fish Eagle best.  Soaring high above the water, not even flapping his wings, swooping down to rise victoriously with a prize fish!  Nests are built in huge Baobab trees, high cliffs even!  They know the air currents and move effortlessly higher and higher!  Nothing escapes their keen eyes.  They rule the skies!  They are bold, fearless and fast.  Oh, to be an eagle!

I think in life you can be a chicken or an eagle.  You can choose to scurry from place to place, always looking just in from of you - no vision, no great plan - just surviving.
Or, you can strive to be an eagle - going places, flying high, looking up, knowing that there is a purpose for your life!  Not just surviving like the chicken, but absolutely thriving!

 Sometimes in very hard times, i barely survive, thinking this is the only way, but actually it is very tiring.  God wants us to soar!  High in His beautiful sky!  Knowing that there is more to life than little bugs in the dirt....knowing God has a plan for me, hope and a future! 

bella, slowly learning to spread my wings!

October 08, 2011

the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.......

We recently went on a cross country trip.  From East to West!  You know, the kind where the so-called roads are supposed to be very exciting and 4x4ish......well, "they" said the "road" will be tarred by next year and we wanted to see it before all those roadworks will ruin the countryside for the next couple of years  It took us two days! any case this is besides the point actually....
On this trip, i had a lot of time to think and ponder while bumping along....

Ususally life has some good and some bad.  And then some ugly.  Like sweet and sour, bitter and sweet.  But like food that is left out in the tropical heat soon become rotten, so too if i focus too much on the bad, things turn ugly.  Well, this is excactly how this trip was - filled with good and bad, but when bad was left unchecked, well, it got ugly!  Let me give a few examples:

We were in the "fastest growing" city in Africa and thought that buying some much needed supplies would be a great idea!  Well, in the end that is kind of all it was - just a great idea!  We had to stand in line at the ATM for hours!  And then only get a small amount of money.  The nice foodstuffs were sooo expensive we could just buy enough basic stuff to last us until we got home again.  The Good  of it was that we didn't starve and made it home again - eating the last of the snacks as we drove into our village.  We had some really good meals with friends and could prepare some wonderful bbq's too!  But the bad soon became the Ugly beacuse all i could think was - What a waste of time! - i was so dissapointed that i didn't see the Good at all!  I wasn't content with wat God did give.....

Here is another example, to my shame....
We went to the beach for 3 days before heading back home again.  Picture this: white, white beaches, no people (exepct some vendors and fishermen), palm tress, the bluest of blue seas!  It is truly extremely beautiful!  We had a great beach house made from bamboo, palm leaf roof, even air conditioning!  This was all the Good!  Can there be the Bad in this setting?  Well, yes and they came in the bodies of tiny....fleas!  Fleas in the beds, on the pillows!  Yikes!  Also, they sprayed the nets with bugspray which made me cough and cough and cough....aarrghhh!  In the bluest of blue seas there wese also lots and lots of island grass floating around, washing over you - suffice to say, i didn't enjoy swimming in this green stuff!
The Bad quickly became the Ugly, i am sad to say.

LAter i found out that around this time, a friend started praying for me (promted by the Holy Spirit) The Lord saw  i needed some help!  I was only focusing on the Ugly - no Good did i see in any of this!  I was walking back to the house when it dawned on me - I was just negative at the moment - everything was just ....Uglly!  And so, slowly, but surely i forced myself to start to acknowlegde the Good.  I had to force myself out of my pit of deep, dark thoughts.....not that i could have done it alone, oh, no, i totally give God the Honour for helping me see the state i was in!  And subsequently helping me out of it!

Well, i guess that was the biggest lesson for me and it kind of accumulated on this trip until it nearly exploded and even if it was only for this lesson, then it was double worthwhile going all that way!

Life always has the Good, and the Bad, but keep a careful tab on the Bad so that it doesn't become the Ugly.  It is very easy to fall into the Ugly's pit!

bella, a pessimist that needs to see the bright side more!

September 18, 2011

A Spring in my step

This time of the year is indeed very bleak!  In other parts it is Spring - flowers and blooms everywhere, the sweet smell of rain, soft green grass.  Other parts have the beautiful autumn trees - yellows, reds, golds.....but here we have burnt down fields.  Black is the colour of the day!  Dust, and more dust! A dry and cracked earth.  Definitely not beautiful or inspiring!

We were on our way to town yesterday and suddenldy i saw a tree blooming with beautiful white blossoms!  Then another with purple flowers!  Granted - very lonesome trees, but nonetheless trees with flowers!!  And then in the grass beside the road...... more purple little bell-like blooms, tiny pink ones, tiny but beautiful....

And is this not how life goes?  We look out for the big things, but miss the little ones?  The big ugly picture overwhelmes, but in the small we are not comforted?  God is at work!  He is not in the thunder, or the whirlwind or the storm, but He is in the whisper.  He is there, He is.  Open my eyes to see You in this seemingy God-forsaken place!  And thank You for the small purple flowers along my way.