blue: who are the children of Africa?

If I could explain to you what the colour blue looked like if you were blind, when the calm shade was not in your visual repetoire, how would I do it?

If you’ve never been to the developing world, and you’ve always wondered what it would be like, it would be a challenge to explain.

I’m not sure that I can do it. But I’ll try.

Do you remember the first time you gave your child their very first present? They unwrapped it, wondering what was inside, and their eyes buzzed. That was the look I saw in the eyes of two nine year old girls as I handed them a pink t-shirt, ones that I had purchased for three dollars at Superstore.

Children are sent to school for 7, without breakfast. If their school provides it, they will have chai tea and a piece of bread for breakfast. In the evening, they may have ugali (maize porridge) with broth. Crayons and colouring books gifts are eaten up (my kids bore with them). The kids here are identifiable to me by their repeatedly worn clothing, and their clothes are worn. Not stained, not oversized or undersized, but torn, worn through, and very dirty.

I brought the picnic blanket out in a common area. I was helping Madelyn with her craft:  sewing a dress. I’d brought out the paper dolls and removable animal stickers. The kids gathered around us, sitting where they felt comfortable, and leafed through everything, including my swahili-english dictionary.

The sun was too hot, so I had us move closer to the shade, where I noticed another bunched blanket laying on the ground. I noticed the blanket on my way out of our fence; I nearly stepped on it. Inside this blanket, was a baby, a beautiful baby. Eyes the colour of chocolate. I could have eaten him up. This little one was a sibling of one of the nine year old girls. She almost always had the little one strapped on her back.

The downtown center, the main street, is one long rugged road the colour of rust. Wild chickens roam, pecking at what they can find whether it be garbage or another animal’s feces. Garbage is all over the sides of the roads.

The stores are shacks or shanties. Some are organized inside, some not.

People are everywhere.

Vehicles, especially motorcycles, control the road. Pedestrian is probably not a swahili word, because there is no thought to them. There are no sidewalks–you don’t want to get hit? Get off the road.

Women travel from the river with water in containers on their back…and the same with firewood. This is their form of plumbing and heat.

Clothing comes from places like North America. Have you ever wondered where the excesses of Value Village goes? Bundled in packages sent overseas to people here. In the middle of the market are a dozen vendors laying out their wares, piles of second hand clothes, to be sold.

Water hasn’t just come and gone for me and my family. Presently we have hot and cold water running from the taps, but I hear it is remarkably inconsistent these days. Electricity too. We didn’t have it all day, but I didn’t need it; there was sunlight.

A little girl came to our door and asked us for a glass of water during the plumbing-less days. Hannah told her that we had almost no water, that she should go back home. She said it didn’t matter if it was clean, she was thirsty.

And with all these vignettes, I am told, this is Disneyland compared to the life of those in the valley below.

We read of Mathare Valley, at the center of Nairobi, an urban slum the size of a mall parking lot with 500,000 people, and a sewer running through. Six to eight people sharing a double bed in a six by eight room, the size of my present dining room. I’ve been told of the Nairobi garbage dump where they leave unwanted babies to die.

You have likely heard all these stories before.

If blue isn’t becoming more recognizable, I invite you to come. Come see what everyone says but you might not entirely believe: you are wealthy, rich, indescribably blessed.

Come, until your heart can describe it with shades of blue you didn’t understand existed.

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3 thoughts on “blue: who are the children of Africa?

  1. Wow, Teresa. Thank you for this little window into your trip. I’ve been very excited to read your posts and can barely imagine what your experiences must really be like, despite your wonderful and descriptive writings. I pray for your family as you come to my mind. How wonderful that you’re finally living the dream that you’ve had for so long! I couldn’t help but think when I saw you mention that you always imagined you’d be boarding the plane with 10 children…perhaps you will be boarding with 10 children on the trip home!! haha
    We recently saw a Compassion Canada presentation that reminded us of how rich we are. Very humbling.
    Rest easy in the Lord’s grace, Teresa. I look forward to reading your next post.
    ~Stacy

    • Stacy, I’m so glad to see you are along for the trip! It is a dream come true. And curiously, I know now that I wouldn’t have been ready for this twenty years ago. The thing I wasn’t expecting to learn in the last few years is that whereever we are, that is where we should be, fully: without fear, with openness to receive and give to others…this is our ministry. Material blessing and busy lives aren’t wrong; only wrong at the exclusion of real, honest relationship. Being HERE doesn’t make our lives more meaningful in itself; what does is being wherever we are, fully present and in truth and thankful for all that we have. But we do have a responsibility to take care of those that don’t have what they need, when we have more than we need. Kinda like a mom on a playground that sees a lone child falling from the jungle gym. We’re quick to help even if it isn’t our child. The photo of that baby boy…that is a little one I could take home in an instant! Let me know how your little girls are doing too! So good to hear from you.

  2. Thank you for sharing these parts of your explorations. Different places live in such different ways and it can be easy to forget that sometimes those differences are a matter or life or death. But, even still, there is wonder and blessings and opportunity everywhere…especially in the places that are different from ours 🙂

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