Archive for December, 2007

African Christmas

Posted on December 25, 2007. Filed under: Community |

It’s 5 am and I am awake…ugh! I can’t sleep, it must be excitement or nerves that I will be traveling across the state in a couple of hours to spend Christmas with my boyfriend’s family for the first time. Or it could be anxiety that I still have four more parties to go to and little time to move this week, which I have to have done by Monday 😦  So either way I have a lot to do, a lot of family to see, more presents to open, and more laughs to have. All of this makes me think about my friends in Africa that are in the middle of their Christmas afternoon and many who are unable to celebrate Christmas like I will today.

My friends in Africa aren’t thinking about the million parties they have to go to, or moving because they don’t have these luxuries. I am blessed in this world to have these things.

I can imagine they woke up this morning on a special day for, to go to church and celebrate Jesus’ birth. They are grateful to be alive and to know him. After church they may have a little more for dinner, but that will be the only thing special for them. There will be a few families that are a little more well off that will be able to have a larger meal and maybe presents, but that isn’t the first thing on their mind.  Most families will go on with the day like it is any other, but with an extra church service.

To my friends in Africa this day is about Jesus’ birth, not about Santa Claus and presents. All though they may wish they were blessed with money to be able to have these things, they are forced to live with out. And really I don’t think they care, because they have their life and they have Jesus.

In America some people include giving to food banks and clothing drives during Christmas, because they want everyone to have a great Christmas. I feel the same way…everyone should have a joyous day today…everyone should be healthy enough, happy enough to celebrate today, but its not about being able to give each other presents or have a huge meal. Christmas is about celebrating Jesus, about spending time with those you love, because they are with you another year, because you are able to.

We should all take a lesson from the African’s who are not letting the fact that they don’t have any presents to give to their children or only have one extra chicken to eat today, bother them. They are all celebrating and celebrating together. Maybe taking a little extra time today to speak with those they haven’t spoken to in a while or helping out their neighbor.
I can’t wait to celebrate with my family and friends today, I have already been able to celebrate so much, and I will be celebrating in spirit today with my friends in Africa…hopefully not forgetting to thank the Lord for all that I am able to have and to really remember what Christmas is about.  Merry Christmas everyone, I hope everyone in the world has a great day today, no matter what they celebrate.

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African Community, Part 1

Posted on December 18, 2007. Filed under: Community |

As I finish up my Christmas shopping I am reminded of all of the material items Americans strive for. I am reminded of all the things I have that many (most) Africans do not. But yet I still purchase everything I want and I get friends and family gifts that I hope will be useful but may not be.

So why do I continue to purchase things I know I don’t really need, but I want. You know its really just because I can. Every year I think more and more about buying people gift cards to give to nonprofits or instead of buying gifts I donate to charity. But yet every year I continue to buy gifts, its our culture, I am able too, I have become subject to the materialism around me, and every year I try to at least think more practically. Instead of buying my mom yet another sweater she doesn’t need, I am getting her a gift card to Home Depot to do some much needed repairs around her home.

Africans don’t have the chance to have this thought process. They have only what they need and in most cases do not have what they need. For Christmas they will have a little extra chicken with their usual Shima or Sudza (really thick mashed potato like food made from corn, they have it at every meal) and will not exchange gifts.

I had the chance to experience many things when I was in Zambia and Zimbabwe, but there are a few things that stick out in my mind when it comes to the lack of materialism and consumerism they have.

First, when you go to a party or have a gathering of people of any kind, everyone shares cups. You don’t go out and buy 20 extra cups or paper cups for everyone to use, that would be a waste. Each person takes their turn getting a drink and then rinsing off their cup and handing it to someone else. Yeah I know you all may be thinking this is not sanitary, and I know while I was there I did not partake in this ritual or they would give us the cup first. To them it is normal, sharing is something they do for their livelihood.

Second, I was able to be in Jembo when they handed out blankets, dried fish, salt, oil and sugar to all of the caregivers working in the World Hope Community Orphan Trust. You see, they all work in a garden and tailoring shop to grow food and sew clothes to sell and make a living. From what they grow and sew they take what they need and the rest they sell to buy other goods and food they need. Each caregiver, most of which take care of three or more children on their own, got only one blanket a bag of salt, a bag of dried fish, a pound of sugar and a pint of cooking oil. This is all they will receive from the trust for a whole month. They don’t complain they didn’t get enough or that all of their children will be sharing that blanket, while they sleep on the ground. It is about surviving. As I handed out the blankets I was trying to pick out the cute ones to give first, (man I sound shallow) because if I walked into a store I would pick out the blanket I wanted, but they didn’t care, they took whatever was given to them.

Last thing, while we were in Zimbabwe, a country that is stricken by poverty due to an overpowered dictator, I had the chance to go to the store with Joe, a native. Joe and went off to find razors, a rain coat and bottled water for our team. We traveled through Harare, through intersections with out working Robots (traffic lights) and past businesses that have been closed for more than 10 years. We arrived at Spar, the largest grocery store chain in the country, trampled through the puddles and tromped past the line of people waiting for bread.  In the store we walked through aisles with little on the shelves.  The easiest things to buy are bottled water, candy, and hygiene products, all things no one really needs to have.  We filled our cart with bottled water and found the razors and rain coat we needed.  While I was filling up the cart I lost Joe for a second and he came back with some ground beef in sausage, with a huge grin on his face.  I looked at him with a quizative look and he said “I haven’t seen these things in the store for about 5 years.”  Africans buy only what they need, they don’t worry about buying deodorant or candy for their children.

As I walked through our packed grocery store last night I was thinking about how little was on the shelves in Zimbabwe.  I have a million choices when I go to the store.  Anything I want I can get and there are 30 options for everything.  In Zimbabwe it is a matter of if you are going to find food on the shelves and for survival they buy bread from the store and sell it for double the price on the streets.  Maybe this isn’t a lack of materialism, but more a form of survival, but I cannot help but think if we weren’t so material would Africans be better off?

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Back to Reality

Posted on December 11, 2007. Filed under: Community, Uncategorized |

I am back from Africa and have been trying to roll back into reality!  It has been hard fighting jet lag and catching up on all my homework (word to the wise: don’t put all of your exam notes in your checked baggage, when you have an exam the week you get back, it is possible your baggage will never make it to your destination!)

My trip was amazing!  I really got to experience the daily life of individuals living in Zambia and Zimbabwe.  The daily life they live with HIV/AIDS looming over their shoulders, taking care of sick friends and family members, taking in orphaned children, searching for food, and living without a husband or wife to help support them.

I am forever grateful to have been born in the US and thankful that I have been offered the opportunity to view the lives of others less fortunate.  Well I say less fortunate in that they have less material items than I do, and that our poorest will never be as poor as theirs.  Their lives are filled with hardships but together they have formed strong communities the best they can.  Orphans still struggle, but thank you to the work of World Hope and the Christian church in Zimbabwe they are getting taken care of the best possible way!

I am still compiling my experiences and will be writing about them in more detail very soon.  As soon as life is a little more back to normal!

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