Saturday, December 20, 2014

African Women Make Me Feel Like a Wuss



Lucy (my language helper) and I were discussing the differences between housekeeping responsibilities in our respective cultures.

I told her about washers and dryers, microwaves and vacuums, and dish washers.  She was intrigued by that one.  "Don't the dishes break in there?" she asked.  I told her about garage door openers and lawn mowers.  I told her how you could buy almost any meal, ready-to-eat and frozen in the grocery store.

Each time her eyes got big.  "Ni rahisi!"  she exclaimed.  So easy!

Each day at dawn, Lucy walks to her neighbor's house with buckets.  She pays about 25 cents to fill up the buckets from her neighbor's outdoor spigot.  That's their water for the day.  She does it again in the evening.

She washes clothes by hand for her family of five, an extremely time-consuming task.  She washes dishes by hand.  Since she has no refrigerator, every day she buys fresh ingredients and cooks from scratch.

She walks a few blocks to the bus stop.  She sits on the bus for an hour and a half to get to work, with 30 other people on a bus meant for 15 (with no air conditioning).

She has a solar panel so that her family has lights in the evening.  But it cannot power fans or anything else.  Temperatures are around 100 degrees these days, with very high humidity.  It doesn't get much cooler at night.

Her main sources of protein are beans, dried fish, and chickens which she raises in her yard.  (It was pretty funny to hear her talk about these chickens....you would have thought she was a Californian Whole Foods mom:  Those chickens at the store are full of medicine to make them grow faster, she said with disgust.  My chickens are much better.)

By Tanzanian standards, Lucy's family is actually doing pretty well.  She and her husband own their land and built their house.  She has a solar panel.  Her children are all in school.

But she still makes me feel like a wuss.

It's been a rough electricity week in our area.  Every day this week, the power has been off from about 9 am until 6 pm.  And when it has been on, it's been in phases, which means that only some parts of our house have electricity.   Then the air conditioner in our bedroom stopped working.

I have been so uncomfortable.  The house is stuffy; I have sweat running down my back most of the day; I'm not sleeping well.  I baked a few batches of Christmas cookies and afterwards, looked like I had just run a marathon.  I was drenched in sweat, my hair was frizzy, and my face was as shiny as the Christmas star.

And I have been grumpy and impatient and justifying it to myself.

I realized that I am addicted to comfort.  I don't like being too hot or too cold or too tired or too hungry or too thirsty or have any part of my body be in pain.  And when that does happen, all bets are off.  I am entitled to be a grouch.

I may have spent half my life in Africa, but boy am I American.

I wrote a couple weeks ago about the electricity problems in Tanzania, and how the animistic worldview has given Africans a fatalistic attitude that has kept them from progress.  But on the flip side, they are some of the most content people I know.  They don't complain.  They accept.

My culture's worldview has taught me that progress is always possible.  Don't accept; don't settle.  We can always be healthier, more beautiful, more comfortable, more entertained.  Except we never actually get there, do we?  We have more than any other people in the world and than any other time in history, yet we are perpetually discontent.

Just as Africa need to be transformed by a biblical worldview of progress and innovation, so my own mindset needs to be transformed.  There is a time for progress, and there is a time for trusting God with what I cannot control.  There is a time for innovation, and there is a time for being deeply content with what I have already been given.

In Christ, I can have both.

This is why I can wish for progress and development for Africa, and yet simultaneously be humbled and convicted by the brave African women who work so hard and are content with so much less than me.


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