Today, we went and renewed our visas. This was a good reminder of the fact that we have now been here nearly three months. So, I have been musing on our time, what has it meant, how have we gone, is it worth it? These are just some of the questions that come to mind.
It has been quite a dramatic change in our lives. We have not been incredibly surprised by the changes but one needs to be aware of the differences here to our lives in Australia. As an ordered, procedure person I suppose one of the biggest things to adapt to is not knowing what is going to happen in any day or at any time. The irony is that most of the time I am really happy to go with the flow, and always enjoy the different things that crop up. It probably does not come as a surprise to any of my friends that each day manages to be quite busy. Sometimes, I am reminded of life many years ago when the children were little. After a day, feeling tired and not really being able to quantify what has been achieved. With children all around, homework to be done, questions to be answered and fun to be had, this seems to often be the case. Also, the daily chores can take more time. Drinking water comes from the tank, so the bottles need filling. The concrete floor gets very dirty and so it needs at least one daily sweep and a mopping as often as possible (on hands and knees). Cooking is reasonably straight forward and varies little in the effort required to home. Washing, well I have to admit that I pay the mothers in the village to do this. Though, I do wash the towels and sheets on a Saturday. Of course dishes are done in a basin not the dishwasher. I think I walk a lot more, down to the gate each morning to unlock it, 20 minute walk to school on the days I go, walking to the houses and even walking to get water from the bathroom while cooking (that is the only running water in the house).
Are there hardships? Yes, there are things I definitely miss. I miss our family and friends so very much. On a really hot day I miss being able to swim in the swimming pool. When the water is being used by the houses and I can't get any water out of the tap I miss having lots of water. I miss the things that are in the container that we thought would be here three months ago! Things like a printer, a grater and the Christmas presents Anita put in for us! For three weeks I missed having power, mainly because of technological communication and cold drinks. I miss going to church and understanding everything that is going on. However, there are a lot of things that I like more. I like the fact that we don't make a lot of rubbish. Vegetables are great, fresh from the market - I get to go to the market. I really like the fact that I walk along the road and am greeted by friendly people, some I know, some I am getting to know and others that I do know and they know me by name. I love walking by the primary school and hearing "Hello Aunt Anne" and big waves from so many. I love children being excited by simple things. I love watching children make things out of nothing. I love seeing lives changed for the better and sometimes even life being saved.
So, what of our time. We are enjoying our lives here and the lifestyle. It is very hard to be surrounded constantly by such poverty. To realise the fragility of life and the lack of choices. We are in such a fortunate position, able to enjoy the simplicity of life and yet being able to access food, water and anything we need. It is such a privilege though to be part of the community, to be accepted by people as friends and to be part of people's lives. We believe that it is worthwhile. We definitely were a help in finalising the process, and getting the children and mothers into the house. When we came, we thought we would be able to take a bit of a role as acting as intermediaries - understanding what Australia needed and also understanding what the local people needed. This has also happened and so much has changed in our attitude and we are able to understand the difficulties faced and work on solutions. The three months has certainly been a learning time and I imagine we will continue to learn lots. I am beginning to understand more of the problems of teaching here and thinking through how to help teachers. I look forward to running some seminars and am at present thinking through what they should be about. One topic in particular is "What does it mean to be a Christian school?".
In so many ways so much has been achieved in these three months, building is happening, children and mothers are settling and relationships growing. I have been teaching and building relationships outside of the village. We have not done everything we want to but are probably developing some better ideas of ways forward for so many things. Some of the challenge has been to not come in with our ideas and simply make changes, and to also recognise when there is another way that will be helpful and not take away from the people.
Now, I think it is time to take stock and look at what is in store. We know what life now looks like and that it can be very full without a break if we don't take control. I need to take time to pray, think and stop doing in order to know the things I should do, not the things that simply come up and I do to help. It seems like time is flying but we know that God has a lot more in store for our time here and we look forward to all that will unfold.