Tuesday, October 11, 2016
“You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.” ― Karen Blixen, “Out of Africa”
Sometimes, when we’re watching television with our laptop computers or iPads in our laps, we forget where we are living, and it seems as if we are living in the American “now.” Then the power will go out for the sixth time that day, we will be plunged into darkness except for the glow from our electronic devices. We wait to hear the sound of the generator starting up and then settle back to watch the rest of the show. Later that night, hyenas will come into town and will start their unmistakable whooping and soon every dog in a thirty-mile radius will have joined that canine choir (including ours). That’s not a part of that “American now” is it? The next day, Rachel will come back from shopping at the market and will tell me there is no popcorn to be purchased. I ask if the truck bringing more will be along the next day. “Oh no,” she replies, “there will be no more until the next harvest.” We do forget that we live where life revolves around nature’s cycles and not our own. Later, I will be working at my computer and will look up to see a line of women in traditional dress carrying water on their heads as they head back home from a nearby well (see picture at the right). Those buckets of water will be all each family will have for drinking, bathing, dish and clothes washing for the entire day. Don’t think that’s part of that “American now” either. Then Shaban comes back with the car to tell us that we can’t get diesel until tomorrow or the day after that as the delivery trucks haven’t made it down from Kenya. You probably cannot imagine needing gas for your car and not getting it, or wanting popcorn but having to wait for the next harvest. You also probably don’t live near lions and hyenas and baboons, but we do.
If you live in exotic lands for a long time, you tend to become used to the unusual and think everyone lives like that. We get reminders over and over that we aren’t in Kansas anymore (Toto, too). As I write this, I can see my neighbor as he lifts his hoe again and again, preparing the land across from us for planting. After school, his children will join him until over an acre is furrowed and ready for seed. I never watched a neighbor do that in Los Angeles, Abilene, Boston, or Northwest Arkansas. Here, it is so quiet that Karen heard the song of new bird the other day. It was a kind of Robin like a mockingbird that likes to be around humans and can sing in response to the sounds the humans make. We hear no sound of air-conditioners or central heat humming, but do hear the laughing children up at the school. We don’t live in the “American now” like we used to, and sometimes we forget how blessed we are to have had both experiences. You need to get far enough away from where you are so that you can see who you are and what you are doing in relation to the rest of the world. You are welcome to come visit us, see the lions and elephants, the women carrying water on their heads, and to hear the children laughing. We have hot showers, western toilets and will keep you fed. Ya’ll come on over, ya hear?