Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What is Real?

Just had our site visit. We are going to be living in Kachechea about and hour north of Mizuzu and 10 minutes south of Rumpi. We are super excited. Everything at site seems awesome.

I got a letter back from my mother this week too. She was commenting on a letter I wrote her where I said that life here (Malawi) is so real. She asked, "What is REAL?" and explained how she has a different life than Abby and Abby's is different from Mine and Tina's and so what is REAL?

It's a good question and I'm glad she asked. I've really had to think about it. And here's what I've got so far... I think REAL is hard.

In my old life (two months ago)I pretended that things were hard. Like teaching at a school with 30-35 students in one was hard. Only getting one box of paper for the term was hard. Having only 1 class set of Huck Finn to share between three teacher and figuring out when you can use it was hard. But really I was pretending this stuff was hard. REAL is HARD. real is having 60-100 freshman in a single classroom with 25 desks 3 at a desk and the rest on the ground. Real is giving teachers 2 notebooks of 80 half pages for the year. Real is having a (one [1]) copy of a novel that will be on the federal exam. I pretended that paying for the water, gas, electric, phone, Internet, cell phone, etc. hard or was reality, but it is pretend hard. It is real hard when you plant maize and hope that the floods, pests, monkeys, elephants or drought don't destroy your harvest because if it does your families food is gone for the year. Real is shucking corn by hand and separating the chaff using the wind but using it to feed the pig, taking the rest to the mill and storing it in your house even though the rats are attracted to it. Pretend is upset because the flu vaccines ran out this week and I have to wait a month. Real is hoping your kid does die of Malaria before age 5.
What makes it even more real is knowing that people are just born into this and there is no time to pretend. No time to work out of, or up from, real life in a life of "leisure." And this is as far as my thought process has gone. I get to this point and my head starts to spin because I say, "What about the single mom working two jobs and deciding between food and medicine; isn't her life real?" or the foster kid or the shut-in or so many other people...aren't their lives hard? Aren't they living real life and making it work....

and than I thought some more (I wrote this in my journal and stopped there because the sun set and I didn't know where the matches were to light the candle to continue to write so I went to bed and started again in the morning)...

So real is hard. Life is hard; its hard for us, but our hard is very different hard than that of billions of people who's lives are really hard.
but that is only half of what makes things real. REAL is fun, enjoyment, contentedness, laughter and love. These things I DO know and I don't think I've pretended to know them, but maybe I've made some of them a bit more complicated. Like Fun. I have fun when I go to the lake jump in a tube and fly around in circles, or I get on a roller coaster and scream on every hill, or when I rent a movie that has surround sound and 10 hours of extra features. I mean come one this stuff is fun, but yesterday I gave a kid a 10 cent kaleidoscope and he was amazed. I watched two kids, each had a stick and a leaf, and they played for two hours; i never figured out what they were playing but they were having fun.
The same goes for all the others; I know contentedness, enjoyment, etc. but I know them in a complicated way. Here they are simple, easier to find/see. There are times I find myself recognizing the simple way; like when Tim (another PCT) and I have a bouncy ball and start play monkey in the middle with just the two of us (try it sometime, its fun) and we just laugh at how much fun we are having. At home I wouldn't go over to Ryan's (Good friend back home in Michigan) house and say, hey let's play with a bouncy ball!" NO! I'd say, "Let's turn on the giant television with surround sound and play Halo with people in California." But I'm recognizing the simplicity. A Va'mama laughing with her sister at nothing, or an agogo (grandparent) smiling at a kids first whittling stick. I recognize them because I've seen them at home, at Christmas, or Apple Butter, or Sunday afternoons. It makes me glad that I haven't complicated my life too much.

But that is as far as my thought process on What is Real has taken me.

Anyway. Check out Tina's blog. it is
Sarah thanks for the Bible verses.
Josh thanks for the insight and and encouragement.
Klumper thanks for praying about language barriers (after site visit we will definitely be practicing hard-core)
Moms and Dads thanks for the letters and packages (we are going to have a sweet garden)
Renee thanks for the prayers
ANd I know I read more comments than that but after 4 days of meeting new people and trying to do it in a language that I hardly understand my brain in racked.
We really do appreciate all of the comments, they make us laugh and cry (Michelle) but they remind us how lucky we are and why we are able to be here doing cool things for other people that deserve our help.


Shane & Lane said...

Great to hear from you guys. It sounds like you are "real"ly enjoying all of it. Have fun with the ambassador. It sound so cool what you guys are doing. And the way you appreciate it. Your excitement is encouraging.

Only because I am preparing for a lesson on the topic... please keep in the word and choose to place yourselves under His wing. When you are rooted in, and clinging to Him you will thrive in your "real" life. I am sure you know that.

And on another note, if an elephant does destroy your crop, please try to touch him as he does it. (stay alive too) How many people get to touch wild elephants? Well maybe you don't need to touch him, but at least get a good look at him. You know what, it is not worth it. I really hope an elephant has nothing to do with your garden, unless it is that you fertilize with it's poo.

jjm said...

I enjoyed reading your comments here, Zeb. I can track where your thoughts were taking you: not wanting to dis-value the reality of the lives of others, but wanting to press forward toward something true that makes us more human. How appropriate to have been interrupted by the setting sun!

I think you're on to some good thoughts too. I find that the more hard things I choose to place in my life, the more alive I feel. Consequently, Andrea and I welcome inconvenience into our home on principle. Whether taking steps toward environmental sustainability or choosing health over medicine, pursuing intellectual growth or choosing to get outside, we seek the hardship that is being forced upon you and Tina right now. (Of course this is mostly true on our better days).

But so hard to do in America. Cook from scratch. Shun technology and entertainment. Own few things. It is swimming against the stream and threatens to marginalize you socially.

But I believe you're right, Zeb. We need to live simpler, closer to the earth, closer to struggle if we are to find ourselves. Otherwise, we forget the value of life, which quickly becomes forgetting that others matter or even exist. Now I'm curious to see how you will bring that with you when (if) you return to the US. Any insight between now and then would be . . . helpful.

Thanks. Blessings on your thoughts; may they continue to be inspired. Josh

MOM said...

Thanksgiving with the ambassador, how exciting! We are so spoiled by our "technology" that we really have no idea what "real" is. It's the simply things in life that matter the most. We are so proud of you both!! We Love and miss you both, bunches!! Mom R

Michelle Bekkering said...

I totally agree with what you are processing. Sometimes technology and "entertainment" as we know it keeps us from living in the most complete ways. However, I feel a need to challenge you to think even harder. And anyone who wants to answer my questions - please do.

Are you feeling life is more "real" because you are experiencing new struggles or could this feeling be stronger because you are facing people who are struggling to be alive? Do people find the meaning and enjoyment of life when they are faced with the frality of humanity? I would think working in a trama or ER would give you the same type of "real" you are experiencing. Knowing that if you do something wrong you could cost a person their life.

You are being faced with the demands that many people live with. Challenges that if not met successful could cost them, and their families their lives. That is an intensity you are not used to, and so the new experience makes you feel alive. But, do the people who have always lived like that feel alive?

I must admit, I feel "alive" when I see people fighting to live. I also feel the most alive when I see people fighting to find faith. I know I have never seen what you two are going through. And so I am not presuming to know exactly what "real" you are experiencing. Mybe someday Curtis and I will get a first hand experience. But, does life feel more real to you when you faced with the reality that the next meal you eat might be trampled by elephants or when someone you know has been struggling with accepting the love of God finally does? Perhaps we all feel life is more "real" by different challenges we face. Maybe reality is a subjective emotion.

This has been GREAT food for thought. If you have time next time to answer please do...but I know you will come with new and exciting news. So, everyone else that reads this...I need to see your response :)

Love you two!