Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tragedy, Goats, Church

I’m ever writing down blog topics, but I find myself in my rare opportunity to access the World Wide Web without my list. I’ll attempt to hit some targets from memory.
The first two events stand out in sharp relief.
1. Tragedy & the inevitable comparisons of unequal access to health facilities

The afternoon began with my learning of a friend’s baby, born dead. She was large and past due. We all awaited its birth. My first thoughts were for her health. Is she alive? She is. Thank goodness. I went straightaway to her. This woman was friends of a good friend of mine. We've become closer since. She is in good economical standing compared to others in the community. A shop owner with many employees. Yet, here she was, like everyone else in Machanga – deprived access to machines or medicine that could have forestalled this ‘act of God.’ Which is how she took it. “God did not want me to have this child. I have three children and that’s enough, isn’t it?” she asked me hopefully. “Maybe next time I will die too. I am lucky.” Such grace and acceptance is maybe at times in short supply in the US because solutions are closer at hand. We understand that culpability means systems improve. Her attitude however, compensates for circumstances outside her control. Her family and the community circled around her and I tried too to add my compassion to share in her and her husbands’ loss.

I told her after fetching her phone credit from town I could not meet her again until the following day. I had a dinner guest. Later that night, asking a friend for carrots, he tells me Gestor, my night's guest, had been in a terrible motorcycle accident, badly injuring both his legs. He had been brought into the hospital 5 minutes after I’d left. As I ate the dinner I'd prepared us, I looked across the table and felt dread. I've since visited him in Beira & learned he will be able to walk again but not for some time. When I visited Gestor, his wife was giving him a sponge bath in bed. One could argue, that nurses should have that responsibility, but I found her care touching.

The lack of conditions here are more or less equally felt. Maybe that is why, instead of resentment or spite, there is acceptance of God’s will. Which, in the short term, is a salve to suffering, if not detrimental to things getting better in the long term.

2) Travel to Beira and silly transport.

I know I always talk of travel – but I garner funny sights to share. On my packed 6am-4pm bus ride home last time,the woman beside me got pooped on by a cute, drooling, diaperless baby. She wiped it off her shoe uncomplainingly and the cobrador helped her.

I saw 2 goats strapped onto the back of a bicycle. I only turned my head when I heard one of the goats terrible plea. I saw it a moment before it was gone, its' mouth open and crying loudly. What an odd sight! It recalls to memory the sight of four chickens hanging upside down from a kid's bicycle handles. Priceless. They carry chickens as readily as we do backpacks. In the chapas as we get settled in, they squak in defiance, accustomed to having their freedom to run around. Like the rest of us, they usually settle in and cease their noisome protests.

Today. Today was filled with diverse experiences.

Catholic Church: A big big church for the ordination of a priest. 5 hours of incense and speeches broken up (thankfully) by a soulful chorus, African drums,and women in matching capalanas and headscarves softly gesturing and shuffling forward in unison. The ceremony was punctuated by heartfelt ululations (yiyiyiyiyiy!) from the chorus and warm gestures from the priests colleagues. The priests made a long procession and one after the next, kissed the palms of those three newly ordained and took them in large embrace. The music and their joy was so infectious that the ceremony's tedium was peeled back to reveal the sanctity of the occasion, the apex of 10 years’ education, the beginning of a career of service, a taste of the compassion their vocation exists to inspire.

After another 45 minutes of waiting around, I went to the yaht club to meet a friend. The YAHT Club! Later me and my friend went to have drinks with pilots who told me about pilot things. Later, ignored in conversation I went off to listen to the jazz pianist who was playing, largely ignored. He played unaccompanied, set to buttons that had recorded certain beats. The last he improvised bent with a secret smile on his lips and his upright back showed to this viewer, he wasn't playing for the 5 bucks he earned from the night's performance.

The night before, I'd learned a volunteer friend of mine is also a jazz pianist. How we all hide away our passions, and often, once living them, are ignored. But then again, we don't have our passions for anyone but ourselves.

After that, Cybelle and I, on a whim, stopped at a church service in an outdoor (small size) stadium. I wanted to see the enormous cake she said would be served to commemorate their 10th anniversary. What shocked me instead of huge cake was my witnessing for the first time, humans: ‘catch the spirit.’ I watched, both slightly concerned as one woman shaking so fell on an overturned chair. Really, if they’re going to rouse people into states where they may fall over, they should put down mattresses. That would be fun.

The cameraman found my white, studious face and projected it on the big screen. Everyone loves to be on the big screen. While the priest exhorted the crowd to ‘Raise your hands!’ I folded mine. (the camera quickly moved on not to return) Instead I concentrated on his words. Most of which I mainly agreed with. But, to show that passion in front of others is not my way. The more you show your righteous feeling, the greater I imagine would be the shame when you fall from it. I know, there's no shame in honest transgression, human frailty. It's just not my way.

The evening ended with their serving an enormous cake, large enough to feed a stadium. The church encourages lots of good things: to give instead of receive, to dream, to live independently, to live in brotherhood. Their style for me is culture shock. What they’d experience I imagine, seeing a mosh pit at a heavy metal show or a field full of hippies clouded in a blue haze of smoke. We are all alive with praise for living in our own ways.

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