Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Another Trip to Lusaka

Jacob is heading out for Lusaka on the night bus tonight. AGAIN. During this adoption process, we have had to make more trips to Lusaka than I ever thought possible or necessary. Jacob has been the one to make the quick trips necessary to sign a paper or fill out a form. I think this is trip number 6 or 7.

I never thought, in a million years, that I would be so dependent on the man that I spent so much time away from during our dating and engagement. However, I am absolutely despondent at the idea of him leaving again. Jaime brought it all into perspective the last time he went, saying, “You have such a good husband. He just makes those trips to Lusaka to deal with the adoption without question. And he never complains about it or hesitates to go.” Meanwhile, selfish me is thinking, “Why does he have to go???? I’m so BORED when he’s not here. And it’s HARD to take care of Sunda without a relief squad.”

Meanwhile, Jacob leaves at 7 pm, sits on a cramped bus that smells distinctly African for 7-8 hours, endures countless stops, and stays on the bus once it arrives in Lusaka because it’s not safe to be walking about until at least 6am. He then walks to the Social Services office to save cab fare and sits outside, waiting for the social workers to show up so that he can accomplish whatever he has been requested to show up for. Whenever he gets whatever he needs, signs whatever paper needs to be signed, or talks to whomever needs to be talked to, he grabs some lunch, checks email, and gets back on the bus to arrive home in the middle of the night. Because it’s 3am when the bus drops him off at our farm, he often walks the 3 km to our house (once carrying a mini-stove purchased in Lusaka) to avoid me having to leave Sunda alone sleeping while I pick him up in the car.

So, as you can see, he really has the raw end of the deal. But, it seems to me that every time he leaves, the Zesco (power) goes out and the water tank runs dry and I’m left hauling water up the steps. Besides, it’s SCARY to be by yourself in Africa. I mean, it’s really very safe. But, if a cobra would show up in the house, who would I call?

All of this has made me realize that I would be a terrible military wife. Or a traveling shoe salesman’s wife. It’s true that I don’t really crave “alone time” very much. To me, alone time is someone sitting beside me and leaving me alone. They don’t have to leave. As long as I can still read my book, then we’ll do fine. And Jake is great at that.

When I was young, I hated to be the last person in the house to go to bed. I would race up the stairs while Sam was still brushing his teeth so that I didn’t have to turn out all the lights and creep upstairs in the dark. Nowadays, with all of this living in Africa and power outages, I’m much better with the dark. But I still don’t like to be the last one to go to bed. And when it’s just me and Sunda, well…you know the rest.

Needless to say, Jacob is leaving for Lusaka tonight. I am not a happy camper. Can someone come and stay with me for a couple of days?

On much more important and less whiny news, we have had a terrible elephant infection on this farm. You know how they say that elephants have good memories? Well, it is TRUE. We had never had elephants on this farm until last year when a herd wandered through and discovered some maize in the Southern corner of our property. This year, despite the fact that the rains were heavy and there was water everywhere (which should have prevented them from coming this far away searching for it) they came again, in higher numbers. Just last night, a herd of 200 elephants completely trampled the fields of the villages in the Southern Corner, destroying their harvest totally. As Padmore, headman of Mubuyu village quotes, “You can now walk through our fields with no problem, as if there was nothing planted there.” The elephants were so many that they ended up walking their way through the actual village, among the huts and kitchens and fires. We just spent a week at this village…in a TENT. No one was hurt. It’s just so hard because it completely ruins your philosophy for helping people here. “Don’t give money, don’t give away food…TEACH the people how to farm. TEACH them how to make their own profit.” Well, now they’ve spent MONTHS laboring in their fields so that they can feed their families and maybe sell some crop at a profit. And one herd of elephants with a good memories have destroyed everything. Melodramatic? Maybe. Fact of life? Absolutely. But STILL. It pretty much destroys all of my opinions about teaching people to work hard and save money and be smart. If I worked my butt off for two seasons in a row and two seasons in a row my maize was harvested by elephants, I don’t know that I wouldn’t sit by my kitchen fire and talk about how “poor we are in Zambia” too.

The problem here is not AIDS, or poverty, or elephants…it’s hopelessness. Poverty (which I know nothing about living with) breeds hopelessness. Take the case of the woman who is in the clinic right now, nursing her 2 ½ year old back to health. What is the child sick with? An extreme case of malnutrition accompanied by edema (swelling of the skin), and a skin infection caused by sitting in her own urine for hours at a time. How does a mother let this happen to her child? My theory? The mother gets so wrapped up in hopeless poverty, she doesn’t even realize that she could do something to change, at least, her child’s situation. There has never been enough to eat. There has never been enough soap. There has never been anyone that cares. And so why take her to a clinic while there’s still a chance that she can recover? (the baby is still touch and go) It’s not your fault that the elephants ate your maize. It’s not your fault that there is no employment to be had. And it’s not your fault that you haven’t had anything to eat with your nshima for 4 days. It’s just the way it is, and there’s really not anything you can do to change it.

How blessed I am. Not just because I’ve never been really hungry. Never not had enough money to buy a Coke. But because, I’ve never been through anything that has made me say, “Oh, well, that’s it…there’s no more hope in this situation.” I come from a culture that lives on hope. I know that Jake and I have expressed before that really, that’s the reason that we’re here. To spread HOPE. Not in a liberal, “be who you wanna be” way, but in the way that Jesus is our hope. Poverty might not change. Sickness might not change. But if you have the HOPE and the PROMISE of the fact that God loves you and has a PLAN for your life, you have everything.

Recently, Jake and I have been feeling like the elephants have been trampling OUR maize. We’ve had a lot of trials these past months. But ultimately, I am persuaded. I am persuaded that He is able. And my problems seem really small next to some of my Zambian friends. Are your problems actually pretty small too?