After a long day on Friday, I laid me down to rest. Planning a day to some waterfall tomorrow. Going for a hike. Couple guys are driving us, and we’ll get out of this polluted, dilapidated city for the day. All of the new buildings look like ancient ruins. I see no construction workers on them. I wonder if it’s all for show, to keep the people hopeful. The taste of garbage is still caked on my tongue. Just like yesterday. I’ve blown out black through my nostrils. Perhaps that’s the diesel exhaust.
So you see, I’ve got a lot of things to occupy my mind…
Spent the night talking theology til 1:20 am with a pastor and a PhD student, mostly centered on baptism. That is, I’m Reformed (and a former Baptist), and I believe in infant baptism. The pastor is a Baptist (in his theology), and the other guy believes baptism is essential for salvation, and that infant baptism is no baptism. So, my daughters need to be baptized when they are older, or else—on judgment day. That’s some serious business. Thankfully, I don’t feel too threatened by that. Nevertheless, we had long talks, good talks, cordial, and friendly, the way it should be.
So, you see, I’m thinking of so many things. Other faces, other ideas….
There’s the students at the seminary. Yonas, who is an orphan. “Yes, but he has a Heavenly Father,” says Beraket. And there is the meeting with the dean of academic affairs at the seminary on Monday. I hope I make a good impression. You only have a master’s degree, so don’t blow it. Maybe he will like you and ask you back next summer to teach. Won’t that be something? It would. It would be something, alright.
So you see, there's much to think about and take my mind other places...
At the guest home, we talk with the guard about his desire to be a doctor, and how he was ousted from his university during a war, and sent back home. He lives with his sister now and has this job. He won’t ever be able to go back to school. No money. He had only a year left in his bachelor’s. He loves biology. Edsedre, it’s cold outside. Let me get you a blanket. No, no, he says. Yes, let me get you a blanket. Edsedre tells me that the night before, some American girls woke him up at 3:30am, banging on the iron door. “Take us home. Hello?” Bang bang bang! "Take us home!” They stay at a different guest home, but are at ours to use the internet. (They set up shop here every night, and talk loudly. They take over the living room). I tell Edsedre that I’m going to give them a talkin’ to, for they’ll not do this to him this night--no way. “Why don’t you say this instead?” Michael quips. “Instead, say something like, ‘Hey, Edsedre is going to bed soon. Do you think it would be ok if you guys closed up shop soon?’” Yes. That’s a good idea. I’ll say that. “I’m going to bed soon as well,” I say to them. “Please do me the honor of waking me up so I can walk you home, as Edsedre will be sleeping. But I am very happy to serve you by walking you home—it doesn’t matter what time. Okay?” “Sure,” they say. “Thank-you,” they say. “We’ll be done in a little bit,” they say. “Take your time,” I say. “I’m very happy to walk you home, no matter what time,” I say. They must’ve left early, for I drifted off alone. Grace and humility works every time. Thanks, Michael.
So you see, the competition for 1st place in my mind is overwhelming. But your face appears. Where do you come from?
There’s the story of the American nurses who had their meds taken at customs. Now, a boy in the orphanage will go blind and remain so. No turning back from it. Injustice! There’s the story of the man who converted from Orthodox to Protestant, but his wife remains Orthodox. He has one eye, and is a leper. There is the story of the guest home receptionist who wants to go to Thailand and learn how to design clothes. But the visa. The expensive visa. “It will cost you,” she says, staring at me cold. No one leaves this country without cost.
There is the history of the dump here, and the leper hospital. The open sewers, the begging, the food gathering at the dump. The eating-once-a-day routine. The rapes. The prostitution. The other hospital dedicated to young girls with “Fistula.” Fistula is what happens to young girls who are raped and holes are formed in their bladder, vagina and rectum. Urine and feces pass through the hole uncontrollably. It causes a lot of pain, and victims are shunned and shamed. “It’s very hard,” the guest home girl says. “It’s very hard,” she says again, staring down. That's the name of the hospital. Fistula. I haven't seen it. But it's a big place, says the receptionist.
So, you see, dear one, I’ve a mound of trinkets cackling for attention…
I must drift off to sleep now. I’ve gotten insomnia, so I lay awake. Insomnia doesn’t leave you when you leave the country. It stays. So I lay awake at night. I can hear the hyenas. They sound like whining babies. There are the neighborhood dogs, and the occasional belching truck. Vroom--I had just drifted off. No longer. Maybe I should take a sleeping pill. Maybe not. Don’t want to get addicted. Are there spiders in here? I killed a big one earlier. It was black and had legs like spikes. They truly are creepy crawlies.
So, you see, young girl: young, vulnerable girl, girl at risk. I’ve got so much to ponder. Yet your face keeps coming.
There’s the dead man in the roundabout, the naked man begging, the blind man standing in the market. There’s the beggar-woman with the babies. “I don’t give to these women anymore,” the dean says. “I used to, but I learned that many of the women from the countryside will steal babies and come to the city and use them for begging purposes. They will even trade off and work in shifts. So I don’t give to them anymore. My conscience won’t let me. It’s sad. It’s very hard,” he says. He looks down.
So, you see dear girl. I have so many other people, places and things to think about. My mind can only take so much.
I lay here wide awake, with all these grains of sand filling up the beach head in my mind. On the beach are a million dying fish, and the crabs are coming to feast on them. Here you are, held in my hand! You are the one. But how? Maybe the minister knows. Yes, the minister knows.