Happy Birthday to Zak and Henry! Turning 21 and 14, respectively. So sorry we can't be there to celebrate with you-we love you and miss you so much.
Age is a funny thing. In the U.S., it seems like 22 is still desperately young. It seems like it's a bit too young to be married, definitely too young to have children ("But you have so much tiimmeee."), and possibly to young to be making major decisions on an African farm. In Zambia, however, the average life expectancy is 40 years of age, and so 22 is middle-aged. Betcha never thought of it that way, huh? Needless to say, the Tonga people are surprised that Jacob and I have been married for less than a year ("What were you waiting for all that time?") The women are almost violently disappointed that I am not pregnant and touch my belly weekly to check and see if I am gaining weight (You think I'm kidding-by their standards I am a disaster, a woman is supposed to bear a child by the one year anniversary of her wedding). And most of the residents of this farm never stop to question whether we have any clue what I'm talking about as Jacob and I walk around making major decisions about the orphanage and farm life. They are great respectors of age and wisdom, there just aren't a ton of elder folks to go around respecting. The Zambian director of the farm is younger than Jacob and I, has been married twice (he found out the first wife wasn't a Christian), and his wife is about to give birth to their 1st child. The village supervisor has three children, has been married for 10 years, and is less than 30. These men bear the responsibility of much that happens on the farm, and yet they are young enough to be considered "rookies", if not "kids" in the "Western world".
So, Happy Birthday Zak and Henry. Zak, if you were a village Zambian, you would most assuredly be married with a child on the way. You would have built your own hut by now and be a farming expert. Henry, you would be trying to test out of 8th grade to see if you could go on to secondary school. If the tests were good, you would move away from your family and try to get someone to fund you for your secondary school education. If you could pass all of your tests, you would have a good chance of a higher paying job in town. If not, you would return to your village, get married, and start farming.
I don't walk around saying, "Praise God, I'm AMERICAN!" very much. But it is times like now that I remember to thank the Lord for the opportunity granted me just by growing up in a developed country. I am so thankful now for enough nutrition to grow up healthy and strong, for a good basic and higher education, and for parents who cared enough to talk to me, show me the world, and force me to think. It made all the difference in the world. I hate how cliche that sounds, but I am forced to admit that it's true even as I learn to integrate and accept the Zambian way of life. So, today marks me truly thankful to be born in a great country, and proud to be American...just don't tell anyone. ;)