Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Different Worlds

So here we are in Haviland, Kansas, a town of about 900 people in the heartland of America.

Last week we were in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The week before we were in Kampala, Uganda.

And the week before that we were in Goma, Congo.

It has been a long month.

We have enjoyed everywhere we have been, and are currently very happy to be here in Kansas visiting my husband's parents.

But we are also exhausted, and a bit overwhelmed, by the thousands of worlds we have glimpsed along the way.

My head simply finds it hard to accept that thousands of different worlds exist on this one little planet. I don't feel "culture shocked" by the US, but I feel shocked by the fact that so many different cultures exist simultaneously.

But slowly, I am getting used to the idea that worlds do co-exist, and that perhaps they needn't be so far apart.

So here I am in Haviland, Kansas eating smothered steak and mashed potatoes, while text messaging the SHONA women in Goma. I call them on skype and we chat in Swahili as they finish their meal of ugali and greens. They update me on their most recent sports match and the new cloth they bought. I double check that they received the money I sent through western union (no problem) and ask how Mapendo's sick mother is doing in the refugee camp. In turn they want to know how my father-in-law is doing with his heart trouble, here in Kansas.

And worlds collide. Or perhaps shrink. Or maybe expand. I need to get my metaphors straight. But The fact is that the SHONA women do actually know my father-in-law, they met him while he was visiting Congo last year. And I actually know Mapendo's mother, who visited Goma several times. And I can almost taste the ugali and greens they are eating, and they can almost taste the smothered steak and mashed potatoes I am eating...NO! just kidding. They would have no idea what to do with smothered steak and mashed potatoes.

But you get the point. Today I am thankful for cell phones and text messaging. During my time in Goma I have rolled my eyes many times at the prevalence of cell phones. I mean seriously, people are carrying water on their heads and a cell phone in their pocket? Surely we have missed some crucial stage in know... the one where people have access to basic services like running water and electricity before they have access to cell phones and mp3 players.

But today I am not going to argue. I remember one time I asked Argentine if she really needed to have her own cell phone. I thought that since she lives with Mapendo they could perhaps share a phone. She looked at me as though I clearly had missed a basic lesson in kindergarten somewhere, and explained that a cell phone is like a pair of legs to a handicapped person. "I can't get everywhere I want to go, but my cell phone can" she said. I am quite sure that I rolled my eyes, and continued lobbying for a shared phone.

But today, I guess I know a little of how she feels. I am glad the women all have cell phones, and great text messaging skills, even though they don't have running water. I miss Goma, and am happy to have the "extra legs" to carry me there.


Nina Jørgensen said...

I agree with you, its amazing just how different people are in all countries - and continents, and if you dont go out there and see it for yourself, you'll be missing out! Love the photo!

Anonymous said...

I was a bit sad that you were leaving Goma, and I thought for awhile that you weren't going to update the blog, but I am happy we can still read from you.

Thank you for all the great things you did for the people of Goma. In your honor I would like to quote Winston Churchill and say, "You can depend on Americans to do the right thing, after they've tried everything else. " Just imagine if Goma had at lest 20 Americans....
Nice pics... May God Bless America

shona congo said...

You will definitely still be hearing from me. Thanks for following my ramblings!