There is a Pablo Neruda poem called Ode to Laziness that starts like this:
Yesterday it seemed
the ode wouldn't leave the ground.
It was time, it should
at least show a green leaf.
I scratched the earth, 'Get up,
- I said to her -
I've promised you,
don't be afraid of me,
I'm not going to chew you up,
ode with four leaves,
ode for four hands,
you'll take tea with me.
I'll crown you among the odes,
we'll go out along the shore
of the sea, on a bicycle.'
Substitute the work blog for ode and it would well describe my feeling about writing in the last week. I have a self imposed discipline of writing weekly, but this week, like Neruda, I have found laziness to be the biggest challenge in getting something out.
Indeed it was a week without much travel or other stress creating drama. Five full days of work, complete with a sustainable morning routine. The addition of Monday morning prayer with a growing group of men has been one of several positive improvements.
Last Sunday is a good place to start and it was highlighted by a surprise Birthday party for Kersten, one of our friends with two daughters about our kids’ age. Her husband arranged for a small group of us to be at a local hilltop restaurant called Chez Vaya. We were there with Tim and Jeanette and Debbie and Rick, a new embassy family, and enjoyed completely shocking her when she emerged from her car. Her husband had been very clever in his ruse by pretending to be obstinate about not going to their favorite resort in favor of this new place. She was stewing until she found out the real reason for the change.
We enjoyed lunch and some cakes from Café Gourmand which for those of you living in the US, I can only say you would not believe the quality of Belgian and French pastry we can get in this terribly impoverished country. I included a picture of the mousse cake here.
Work was fairly routine the rest of the week, in fact, I would describe it as slow. This is actually a kind of seasonal slowness. We are really between things in November and December, mid-term reports are in, but new projects are not yet due. It is a time that is conducive to slowing down, perhaps even laziness.
I took the opportunity in the last two weeks to reimplement our routine of tea-time, when we come home at 5pm. We used to do it all the time two years ago, but fell out of the habit last year with Oren’s karate schedule that went a bit late twice a week.
This year our extra-curricular activities still allow for us to have tea as a family on our porch while watching the sun set over the Congolese mountains beyond the Lake, about 4 times per week.
Tea-time is a wonderfully cultivated ritual of laziness that really allows one time for reflection, and appreciation of the beauty around us in the setting of our front porch. I usually bring out the ipod and have a play list of classical music including some Lizst piano sonatas and Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Even the kids appreciate this ritual of sitting around doing nothing, but appreciating each other’s company and the place where we live.
high up in the pines
I got up in a daze,
on the sand I found
little broken fragments
of oceanic substances,
wood, seaweed, shells,
feathers of sea birds.
I looked for yellow
agates but found none.
filled the spaces,
wearing away towers,
the coasts of my homeland,
successive catastrophes of foam,
Alone on the sand
a ray opened
a ring of petals.
I saw the silvered petrels
pass, and like black crosses
nailed to the rocks.
I set free
a bee dying in a spider's web,
I put a little stone
in my pocket,
it was smooth, very smooth,
like a bird's egg,
meanwhile on the coast
the sunlight and cloud wrestled.
the cloud was filled
like a topaz,
other times a moist
ray of sunlight fell,
and yellow drops fell after it.
We did take the opportunity to host several friends including some of the kids’ friends during lunches. Tuesday and Thursday lunch is a great opportunity to make a playdate at noon as everyone returns to school at 2pm so pick ups are easy. If you have a regular routine you and your spouse can enjoy a quiet lunch together once per week, in exchange for hosting some kids on one of the other days.
We don’t have it completely systematized, but do have kids over from time to time.
We invited over one of our friends/partners, the head of Help Channel, Cassien and his family on Tuesday night. In true Burundian style he brought a huge basket of fruits and vegetables (like 50 lbs) as a gift. We are still working through it a week later with the help of our staff as well.
Thursday was report card day which is a big change of pace at the Ecole Belge. Parents stay around after school and are asked to meet the teacher one by one to receive and discuss student grades. It is amusing as we sit outside the classroom door in a queue waiting our turn while all the kids in the school run around the yard like a bunch of maniacs with little or no supervision.
I was not displeased with Oren’s work this semester. French continues to be a challenge, but Oren is very happy and comfortable in his class and seems to understand well. He has the family trait of being ‘un lune reveur’ as they call it here which translates roughly to ‘space cadet’. But he likes his teacher and his class, he did OK in Math and even got a 20/20 in spelling which was a shock to even the teacher. I will be very curious to see how he does when he goes back and enters a school in his own language. Something he has never experienced before.
Thoughts of moving back, like unwelcome patches of sunshine on a pleasantly cloudy day do make their way into our minds. We continue to be aware of lasts, and are even preparing to say goodbye to several friends who are preceding us leaving in the month ahead.
|Aviaja (right) with the kids' cousins Miriam and Gabriel|
If anyone does not think that the Lord work’s in mysterious ways, they should look at who we are renting our house to—Our Danish friends from Burundi who have moved to the US to work with World Relief. We expect they will be there the following year as well which means one of Oren’s classmates will be in school with him in Baltimore from Burundi!
It is almost surreal to Skype them and see them hanging out at our house, or with our families, playing with the kids’ cousins. This does give us something to look forward to in going back and should help ease the cultural adjustment knowing there are friends there who really ‘know what it was like.’
The weekend was good beginning with an awesome set of ballet classes. The kids are so into ballet in both groups that I really feel a bit of pain at the thought that teaching ballet to little kids will probably not be something I do again once we leave.
|MCC team Birthday for Jennifer|
Friday night we had an impromptu team gathering for Jennifer Price’ Birthday as Melody was down from Upcountry and Patrick and Michael were in for two days ofr R and R from Bukavu. Oren helped make a Birthday cake with Jennifer on Thursday then helped Rebecca make brownies on Friday. He will definitely be a pastry chef when he grows up.
It was a nice evening and the service workers went out together later that evening.
Saturday was a very big yoga class followed by yet another outing to Musee Vivant (the zoo). We went with Tim Jeanette, and Lizzie and all of their kids. (6 kids in all.) They enjoyed watching many small birds being swallowed whole, feeding Kita the chimp, and seeing a man tease a crocodile with a stick.
Everyone came over to our house for dinner and we had a lovely, lazy, evening.
His testimony is incredible and inspiring and at the end he allowed time for questions. I asked him what the biggest challenge was in his time here, and the biggest surprise.
To the challenge question the answer was not unpredictable. Coming as a mzungu, perhaps naively, he found himself losing trust in people as a result of being robbed, lied to, and cheated on many occasions, even by people he considered to be trusted friends. I do agree that this is a hard lesson that we all learn here.
|Under the Kapok tree at Musee Vivant|
He recounted a short story: “I remember a young girl telling me how she had to sleep with a Priest to get $5 to pay her school fees, so she could go to school. I am so grateful that my daughter will not be faced with that terrible choice, that we have money to send her to school, and care for her.”
Simon’s experience of re-learning gratitude really resonated with me. I realize that I have really changed in what I would consider even basic rights or entitlements. I feel more grateful than I have ever felt in my life from my 6 years here. I realize that what we have is so much more than what most of the world has, and I am finding myself content with less.
This week is Thanksgiving, we will celebrate with some Ethiopians on Thursday at our house, then with other American on Saturday. I hope that I can take this gratitude, born from our experiences here, back to the US with us.
Gratitude, is nothing more than a perspective. I think the poem about laziness, where the poet stops trying to write and starts noticing finally leads him to have something to write about. To me it is about having a perspective of appreciation by taking time to notice the deep joy hidden in our circumstances. I am thankful for the laziness of the past two weeks and my own lack of inspiration to write anything down. It is late, and I will go to bed now. Happy Thanksgiving.
thinking of the duties of my
I took off my shoes by the fire,
poured the sand out of them
and almost at once fell