This morning I looked around at my classroom of South Sudanese students. Each one of them had Western clothing on. This bothered me and it did so in particular because these Seniors are having a class picture taken today.
We are in Africa and the students are wearing shirts and ties and the two women have shirts and skirts on, Western style. When I inquired about this someone said that African clothes are very expensive and that the Western clothing is much cheaper. So typical. The colonizer makes it cheaper to buy the imports from the colonizing power than the local goods made from locally sourced materials and created by the indigenous people.
I found myself just about in tears.
Later I had a discussion with another teacher. I don’t sleep well at night here in Malakal. There are many reasons for this, one of them is that the power comes on and then goes off at unpredictable times and often I am awakened by its beginning and its cessation.
The other teacher asked me if I was tired from cooking. She asked if I cook on charcoal like the African women who must kneel to stir their pots on the charcoal stoves. I said I try to avoid using charcoal. And then I pointed out that I do not have what to me is a normal kitchen. I don’t have a kitchen sink or a kitchen counter. I don’t have a refrigerator. Nothing is normal about my experience of trying to provide food for myself here in Malakal.
It is difficult to live day in and day out in an environment that is so utterly foreign to my own. I am essentially camping. I never did like camping and I don’t enjoy it now.
I wonder how it was for Jesus? When he came to an utterly foreign environment how was it for him to live day in and day out? Was it as hard for him as it is for me? I’d like to think so.
Those of us who work and live in South Sudan get to take quarterly R & R’s. Some of the reason for these times of getting away from the country have to do with being able to experience a sense of normalacy that is closer to what is normal in the United States….at least for me. It is HARD to live here. The saving grace is the fact that I believe that my students are gaining knowledge from me that they would not gain in any other way. And hopefully it is invaluable knowledge. That is what makes my being here worth the sacrifice for living a totally abnormal life. Otherwise this sacrifice would be untenable.