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Unrevised. Unfinished : Africa

August 3, 2010











I’ve never been more sure about something than this… “I MUST GO.” Everything in me cries out to go. Since I was 11 years old I have cried out to go. I have now tasted and seen… I must go. I must some how find my way back to the unadulterated soil of Africa. My heart is bursting with a sense of longing as I’ve parted ways. Bitter tears surface as the long awaited journey to Africa has come and now gone.

It is not romanticized any longer. It is real. Hard. Sweat. Toil. Tears. Hardship. My heart cries out to the one in poverty… the downcast… the unreached people… the uneducated… the war-torn…

Here I am in the countryside of Texas, back from the wilderness of Africa and in less than a week I’ll be drowning in the roar of the city life in Seoul, Korea. How is that possible? The transition will be quite abrasive.

Their smiles and innocent faces are marked on my heart forever. As if a gift, they have offered me a long awaited answer to this deep cry emerging from my soul. No words were needed to answer– solely their presence– digging up the bones of desire…

Colorful fabric and adorned jewelry, barefoot and carrying a load atop their heads, these women bore the markings and elegance of hard work and suffering.

They stroked their hands across my pale, soft skin with curious looks, wondering how I was not so dark and where were my callouses. One group of women even thought that all white people lived under the water. The innocent thoughts and conclusions they have peak a curiosity in me– to know more about these simple, nomadic people we call the Fulani.

I, too, wanted to stroke their beautiful, dark skin, curious of how God has made such lovely people. I couldn’t help but wonder what it must be like to grow up in a tribal setting such as this.

Our way of life must be so unimaginable to them. How can I ever begin to explain how we live. Many of these camps have to walk miles just to fetch a bucket of water. I walk 30 seconds and have a hot shower.

The children. O, the children. So gorgeous. I remember the first time they saw ice. All were amazed and a little skeptical at first. Everyone’s hands reached for the ice in a need to witness it first hand. Upon touching the ice, their faces winced and they jerked their hands away in shock and disbelief– only to reach out and touch it again. Chuckles rippled through the groups of kids and we all enjoyed their simple pleasure.

The roads are eroded to the point that 25 miles of driving takes 1-1.5 hours. We take for granted our paved roads. But, I have to admit, there’s something enjoyable about the imperfections. Seeing the rustic buildings and landscapes, I cannot help but see beauty and a depth of life the West does not experience in its strife for perfection. The weathering seems to carry a wisdom and well of untapped richness.

Perhaps it has something to do with my realization that the imperfections did not make me love them less. In fact, my capacity to love seemed even greater. In my own attempts to gain worth and value, perfectionism has often been to my demise. This, I suppose, shed light on my own perfectionism in a new way… my value stands alone– without regard to perfection.

The authenticity of the people can be seen in the peeling and faded paint on the houses, in the dirt roads, muddied water, and dusty floors. Crusty snot on kids noses, bare-feet, and weathered skin– something in all humility echoes from their presence. The worn down, the cracked walls, the idiosyncrasies of poverty– they all display a richness of life, a wealth of wisdom, a depth of beauty, and a simplicity that beckons humanity in its purest form.

My indulgences in life cannot begin to ponder the wealth I have acquired from a glance into the life in Nigeria. The two are so vastly different and cannot begin to understand each other. Some how, that third cookie just doesn’t taste the same anymore because of what it signifies. The excess in which I live almost repulses me. I have been among people who have never seen an oven much less know what a homemade cookie tastes like. And yet, I must not forsake or rather be embittered toward a materially blessed lifestyle. The two lives cannot rival one another because they exist on entirely separate plains. It’s a matter of finding a balance. Enjoying and appreciating the excess for what it is while not living beyond your means or scorning it. Enjoying and appreciating the simple, impoverished lifestyle while not pitying or crying over it. Both are in existence. Both carry joy and life. Finding the joy in both may look different but the rewards of knowing the two and finding peace in the differences is something of a beautiful sort.

Community takes on a whole new meaning in a culture such as this. Everyone shares the duty of raising the children. Everyone takes on each others’ burdens. People are always around– not just around, but available for talking to and laughing with. Neighbors know each other. It’s an intimacy and form of community that the West has all but lost.

so many thoughts yet to be articulated…

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