Friday, June 8, 2012

Visitors and Village Life.


The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.  I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are.  I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.  I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.  I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.  I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it is not pretty everyday, and if you can source your life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “yes!”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.  I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
From oriah mountain dreamer

Each visitor I get here in Arua teaches me something new.  From Lauren, I learned how to take care of my bike and that peppermint essence really makes the difference between a mediocre and life-changing bucket bath.  From my mom and dad, I (re)learned that every child in my village, no matter how many there are, is worthy of acknowledgement and love.  From Nathan I learned that living out in the bush shouldn’t be about proving yourself, and that it’s really nice to have everyday luxuries like good food, good company, and hot showers (once in a while!).  From Agnese, I learned that each person is the own vessel of their own peacefulness, and that Latvia might be a really great place to live.  From Jerod, I learned that my village is actually quite a fun place, and that it’s perfectly okay to chase little children either until they burst into tears or reach the front door of their huts.  From Nikki, I learned that it’s not what you do or where you are that’s important; rather it’s following the syncopated and wandering beat of your own wondering heart that matters, even if it leads you away from the stability of a career or home.  (The poem above is something that she gave Tom and I before she left). So, thank you visitors, or “Awadifo Omu ni” in Lugbara.  It can be emotionally exhausting to have a steady stream of people coming, only because it takes you out of the comforts of the house more often, and forces you to be more social, but it’s truly beneficial and eye-opening.  Also, there is a Lugbara proverb that goes something like this, “A house without visitors is no home at all.”  So the fact that Tom and I have had a new visitor every few days for the last few weeks, actually makes us fit in a whole lot more around here.  Jerod and Nikki took off yesterday for their respective destinations, and we have another couch surfer coming either today or tomorrow, who apparently knows a lot about off-the-grid-living, which is what we are pretty much forced to do here.  Happily.  So, thank you for taking the time and risk to venture out to West Nile.  It helps me to see all the beauty and warmth of this place, through fresh eyes. 

            There have been a lot of small miracles in my life recently.  The first, being a pressure cooker.  A pressure cooker is sort of like an incredible hybrid of a classy microwave and a bomb.  I say microwave because it cooks food in a much shorter time than usual, and a bomb because it has the potential of literally exploding in your face.  I’m still a bit terrified of it, and approach it like a wary animal, but it so far hasn’t let me down.  And, it’s so nice having a way to cut down on cooking time, because it usually consumes most of my free time.  The other small miracle is a very small one indeed; the birth of a tiny village goat named Noodle.  Noodle is small, brown, and not yet petrified of human beings.  He oftentimes will come into our house during rainstorms, impossibly small, wet, and shaking.  When not sopping wet, he will perform random goat-acts of spontaneous joy, which often include flipping, jumping, or skipping.  I love him so much.  Then, our gardening has finally paid off.  Little green things are emerging from the ground, and I have to assume that this is what we want to happen.  In other news, I’m busy reading Infinite Jest finally, and really enjoying it.  I’ve started up girl’s football at the local secondary school, which mostly equates to me shouting nonsensical gibberish about proper shooting form and defensive jockeying for about an hour on Saturday mornings.  Then, Tom and I show a Bill Nye or two to interested students to get them excited about science and planets.  It’s the little things, eh?  Probably the biggest small miracle of all is the timely transfer of my counterpart to somewhere else.  A good man, he is, but a man of discretion and listening-skills, he is not.  I can check ‘getting my counterpart to stop talking’ off my list of current challenges in my Peace Corps existence.  I don’t really have a counterpart OR a supervisor now, so my position here has just gotten a whole lot less official.  It’s okay!  I’m officially not concerned about it. 

            I can barely hear myself think over the majestic shrieking of the goats right now; it must be coming to rain.  The “Silence of the Lambs” has taken on an entirely new meaning for me, since moving to Uganda.  Speaking of goats, I went on another safari in the middle of the work week with my visitors on Tuesday, and we did a game park tour and boat launch to see the falls.  This second tour was a good one, college campus squirrel-amounts of giraffes, elephants, warthogs, antelope-type thingies, monkeys, etc.  The only notable difference was our vehicle breaking down in the middle of the safari, and being suddenly in the middle of the savannah for a few hot hours.  Not an unusual thing to happen whilst on safari here.  Then, the spotting of a python, for which our ranger stopped the vehicle and forced us all to get out and get a good look at.  This python was gigantic, just like it sounds a python should be, and instead of letting us peacefully look at it, our ranger started kicking it to evince a response, and when that was not enough, physically pulled the snake by its tail until he had the entire writhing snake dangling its 6 feet of length in the air.  This was not received well, neither by the snake or by us.  When the snake was dropped back down, it snarled or hissed, and sprint-slithered after a few of us in a fit of reasonable anger, before disappearing somewhere into the bush.  Our dependable ranger then said, “It’s okay!  Pythons are not poisonous!  They rather will strangle you to death! Ha! Ha!  That was so COOL!”  I guess rangers in America are pretty different from rangers in Uganda. 

            In other news, Tom has shaved off his mustache, so that he no longer looks like the Count of Monte Cristo, not that this would ever be recognized by anyone in our village, besides our student Christopher who ‘fears beards.’  And, several days ago, I was reported to be ‘getting quite fat!’ by fellow teachers, after which I turned the compliment back on them.  I love living in a country where too-nice-contests revolve around rebounding “No, YOU look fat!” off of each other in an endless loop of porky-politeness. 

            I had originally written a long rant about the recent and abrupt decline in Obama-fever and fervor over here…but decided against it.  I think everyone knows or has at least heard about the general atmosphere over here regarding gay rights and gay marriage.  But, I don’t want to paint Uganda in a negative way, just because of some of its less than desirable politics that were heavily influenced by our evangelical missionaries to begin with… Most people already only know of Uganda because of Idi Amin, child soldiers, and the massive human rights violations concerning the LGBT community.  I want this blog to show you the lovely, everyday wonders found in village life, where I live a peaceful life amongst the friendliest people on earth.  I don’t want to repeat the angry headlines that everyone can read in America.  It IS hard to be around people who will not think outside of the context of the church, but hey, I’m here to experience a different culture and way of thinking, right?  


Love and LIons,
Ilse








1 comment:

  1. No, YOU look fat;-) Sounds sooo much better and more fun than here...Noodle sounds ridiculously cute; give him a cuddle for me!!! Miss you!

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