I put on mascara today for the first time in almost two months.
I stared at myself, surprised, used to my tired eyes that wake up at dawn each morning. I think about how a week ago I didn’t even have a mirror.
I slip on my African dress as I grab my coffee and go to class. So much about myself is hybrid now. My African dress clashes with my American love for coffee instead of tea. Speaking Luganda, the local language, yet still unable to communicate, switching to a Ugandan English accent. My mama told me that today someone called me an African lady.
My white skin begs to differ.
I’m thinking back to my week living in rural Uganda, my life structured by the unstructured routine of rural African life. My week started and ended with oranges. Each morning I’d rise as the sun did and walk to the orange trees.
These weren’t just oranges, they were the most perfect oranges you could ever have. Ironically green, they had no seeds and a sweetness that couldn’t compare to any orange I had ever had.
Each day held something new. Some days I herded cattle, or at least attempted to. Other days called for slaughtering turkey and preparing it start to finish. (I almost became a vegetarian after that one). Still, other days I cooked chapati or American pancakes. Some days we went on walks, seeing the land.
Walking. I wonder how much happier people would be if they could do this. There is an utter beauty when you live with the land. You eat food in season, remembering it is God who provides it. You work the land, finding a connection between the weeding you do with the land and how it applies to your life. It is simple. You work and rest. There is something unexplainable about that cycle, something I don’t think we have quite tapped into in our society.
My rural home stay week was hard, no doubt. Yet, amidst the complicated relationships there is solidarity found when you strip away the differences. I realize how I could live. In that moment, living with less was not viewed as poverty, but viewed as beautiful. One of the professors told me this today, “Poverty is the inverse of hope.”
I’m realizing that you could make $200,000 dollars and be in debt, spiritually hurting, and completely hopeless. Yet, you could make $1 a day yet be completely hopeful, confident in God as you see him provide before your eyes. Who is the one in poverty here?
Yet my mind wanders to my standard of living. 80% of the resources on the planet are used by 20% of the world’s richest population. So, I throw this cosmic question in the world:
What if it is not about bringing the poor up to our standard of living, but meeting in the middle?
There is something beautiful about the African skies. The skies stretch a canvas of darting colors and drips of blue, pink, and yellow as the sphere of sun falls past the edge of the earth. The day is done, well worked. The day was restful, relational, and meaningful. There is a sense of peace and a sense of place. There is nothing better than ending your day with a fresh picked orange, knowing it came right from the tree.
How often do we lose our sense of place? We often don’t know the history of our land, how it is worked, and the community there. We sometimes float from city to city, job to job, and place to place, never truly understanding the details of daily life that make our lifestyles possible. Therefore, we float. We feel placeless and sometimes peaceless.
I was never a history buff. Now, I’m considering diving into it. History is a part of who we are. We must remember. I have eaten the last of the oranges that was packed in a sack with me the day I left my rural home. However, the lessons I learned are long from gone.
I’m starting to understand why people say Africa changes them forever. There is something about people who know their place, know their God, and have faith in his work in their life. They know where they are amidst a world that is constantly concerned with where they are going. That, in itself, is something truly precious.