Saturday, July 05, 2008

Making Due in South Africa

My beloved pal Patricia is serving a 2 year stint with the Peace Corp in South Africa. She started out in Ghana but was later moved due to some medical issues that made it advisable to be closer to doctors in case she needed them. (Many people would have seen her circumstance as valid reason to high tail it back to the states, but this is one gutsy, determined lady who is tenacious as they come.)

This is something she shared in a recent e-mail:

Meantime, let me share a few of the interesting ways my villagers "make due": remember my story of the game with the deflated soccer ball? well here's an even better one I forgot to share ... the small boys who don't have soccer balls at all will fill a plastic grocery bag with many other bags and form it into a uniquely "round" shape, tape it up, and off they go down the road, kicking it around with the best of them; all of the people who don't have cars, or donkey carts, have wheelbarrows ... these they take to town on market day, fill it full of rice sacks and bags of maize, and wheel it back home again; when someone wants to make an announcement to all the village, they drive up and down the dirt roads with a bullhorn, blasting out the news or invitation or announcement ... of course I never know what they are saying, but I can still admire the effectiveness their efforts; I told you how the women sweep their dirt yards daily to keep it beautiful and free of debris ... well, when fall arrives and many of the trees started dropping their leaves, the ladies just have a fit ... they have solved the problem by getting the men of the village to climb the trees and saw off ALL the limbs ... that'll take care of those damn leaves! ... now our village has bare, ugly tree trunks in every yard, but the ladies are happy again; I often see the little kids, including the boys, wearing the clip on bread tags as earings; and I just love watching mohau and makuba playing in the yard, especially when they can't see me watching ... they can spend all morning entertaining themselves with nothing more than some sticks, rocks, mud, a broken plastic scoop and a rusty piece of pipe ... they are always singing, laughing, skipping, marching ... mohau leads, makuba follows faithfully.

And just to make you feel a little better about your gas prices, the cost of gas here is $5.65/gallon!

Kind of puts my circumstances here in this cushy land of abundance in perspective, don't ya think?


Ruth D~ said...

Love the picture she shares with you, and you with us. We need to step back a little and simplify. Maybe we'd be as happy as they sound in South Africa.

Belladonna said...

In my online Sociology class I teach about the principle of "relative deprivation", when we have enough to get by but feel a sense of lacking when we compare ourselves to others who have more. For some reason I've never understood there is no emphasis on the reverse of that - "relative abundance", when we may be far from rich, but by recognizing there are others with even less we can better appreciate the blessings we DO have.

Still, there comes a point when having MORE ceases to be a blessing - when our stuff seems to ensare us with feelings of entitlement and covetesness that I'm working hard to stay clear of.

Several years ago I spent 10 days on a remote island in Fiji, hanging out on a beach reading books while my beloved went scuba diving every day. It was glorious. While there we had an opportunity to go into one of the small villages and share a meal with one of the local families. This is a place where there are NO stores, NO cars, NO roads, NO television, limited electricity (by generator only) and very, very few material goods. Yet the people we met there were very happy with their lives and deeply connected to others in their tiny community.

This entire weekend I've been moving into a house half the size of what I'm used to and deliberatly choosing to let go of a lot of the STUFF I've gathered over the years. Some of the people I know are baffled by this choice, wondering why and the world I would voluntarily walk away from "the good life" of lots of shiny things in an elegant home. I am SOOOO ready for this move. My emotions have had their flip flops as I've wrestled with giving away so much. It's amazing to see what I've valued and what I have not.

But it has been a good exercise for me to become more mindful of my relationship to the material, to stop taking things for granted and to CHOOSE to live a simpler path. Not for the faint of heart, and there have been a few episodes of tears and self doubt. But bottom line? It just feels RIGHT.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Wow, that's pretty amazing.

Ruth D~ said...

You have another blog post in your response. Please share more. :>)

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