Sunday, 27 March 2011

A Different Perspective

This morning started out wonderfully with a trip the church pastored by one of the men who has assisted us with our adoption. We went to a service in the local dialect, but had a translator with us so we got to hear the sermon (Abraham/Faith= timely for most of us), as well as some of the announcements. I had no idea what the choirs were singing, but the music was beautiful. During the service all of the Americans had to stand up and introduce themselves (since it was obvious that we were visitors). Everyone was very welcoming, and after the service finished we went through a very large receiving line and shook everyone's hands, then went back inside where they served us each a cold Fanta. I thought this was very gracious and welcoming of them. I can't tell you how good that drink tasted, because man was it HOT in that building. I almost didn't make it through the two hour service because of the heat, but thankfully I did not keel over.

After church a few of us were sitting around at our guesthouse reviewing our experience thus far. Everyone there had been in country between one and two weeks, and all felt that our trips had been harder than we expected. Having spent a long amount of time in a developing country during T's adoption, and having been amply warned that conditions in Mtoto's country were far worse, I thought I would be prepared for the conditions here. I wasn't. I think I expected it to be about five times harder than Uganda here, but it has felt about ten times harder. My equation this afternoon was this: take all of the negatives of Uganda (those typical to most developing countries)- the trash, the smog, the trash-burning smoke, the poverty and desperation, the worn down buildings and streets, and multiply it by ten, then subtract all the beauty and hope we encountered, and that describes Mtoto's country. Everywhere we have been all we have witnessed is desolation. Yes, we have seen pockets of hope- in the wonderful Christian people we have met who are working so hard and so selflessly on behalf of orphans here- but overall it has been a very difficult and depressing experience.

I think this has been especially hard on me because we had such a positive experience in Uganda and because we fell head over heels in love with that country. Ask me to tell you about it and I might mention the trash and smog, but mostly you will hear about how gorgeous it is (easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been) and how amazing the people were that we met there. After almost a full week in Mtoto's country I was really beginning to feel that we would have to either curtail our glowing reviews of Uganda, so as not to make Mtoto feel bad in the future, or else be really creative when talking about his country. But seriously, how much mileage can I get out of the fact that Mtoto's country has superior hot sauce? I want to be head over heels in love with Mtoto's country too, but am having a really hard time of it.

Enter A.

A is a friend of one of the families we are staying with. A grew up in Mtoto's country, but moved to America, and is currently here on business. His wife and kids are currently in town visiting him. This afternoon he graciously offered to show us around a bit. He picked us up in his car, which has air conditioning- a luxury we have not seen in a week- and took us on a tour. It was amazing. He gave us a totally different perspective. He showed us that this city hopes.

We saw a side of the city that we not seen- well tended gardens, paved streets, homes, new buildings, a beautiful fountain, some government buildings, the national stadium, a brand new hospital, and a big hotel. We went to lunch and had the first good food any of us have eaten in some time. He took us to purchase the best bread in the country, and told us where we might find other things that we thought didn't exist here (good butter! tasty cheese!). We went to the market to look at art and carvings and all the usual tourist junk. We were hounded and harassed by the vendors who wanted to sell us everything for "a very good price" which was easily 5 times what the item was worth. We had so much fun.

This afternoon we got to see the best face of this city. Is it the most real face? Decidedly not. The vast majority of people here could never afford the restaurant we ate in, even though our meals cost maybe five dollars. They can't afford to stay at the big hotel, and frankly, neither can I. It is expensive. They can't join the swim and tennis clubs, or purchase million dollar homes with well-manicured gardens, or fritter their money away on overpriced goods at the craft market. But, they can enjoy some of the projects we saw- the roads, the hospital, and the gardens. More than that, we saw a small hint of progress, of beauty, of hope for the future. The investments we saw mean jobs. Jobs mean increased standards of living and the prospect of something better. Investment means that someone believes in this country. A's son told us that they are working hard to bring the US to Africa, to make things better here. They believe there is light in the institutional darkness. It may be weak. It may be at the mercy of politicians and diplomats and warlords. But they believe the light is there. You can just see the glimmers of it breaking through the smog, and the dirt, and the burning trash. Today, I saw that. Now I believe too.


Heidi said...

I'm SOOO glad you got to witness and absorb a bit of the beauty!!! But the greatest beauty of this country isn't found in its cities, streets or buildings, although you can find some there...nor in its gorgeous mountains, lush valleys, or rolling countryside, although they are breathtaking...

...I believe its greatest beauty is in the hearts and lives of its wonderful people. From them you'll have a treasure to share with your little one his entire lifetime! :)

Jeanine said...

I love your attitude found lemonade in the are so brave and courageous and Mtoto is so blessed to have you as his mama. Praying for you :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your blog Amy. I've been following your journey and I admire your courage and your beautiful faith. Praying that God would continue to show you is unfailing love that is as vast as the heavens, and his faithfulness that reaches beyond the clouds.

Laura Gifford said...

Beautiful story, Amy. I'm so glad you got a bit of respite... and it's heartening to read of this hope in a place with a history of such strife. Praying for strength, safety, patience, a smooth outcome and all those other things that you need...