as i prepare to bring a small group to africa in 2012 for a yoga & cultural immersion educational adventure i am reminded of one of the most powerful days from our trip last april...
though evan and i had both long been exposed to poverty (his first exposure came during his peace corps years and mine as a young volunteer for third-world house-building projects), rural ethiopia was beyond our imaginations.
one village in particular stands as a monument in my heart to do something - anything - to bring further awareness to the disparity of resources between the first and third worlds.
many of the children in this particular village had leaky noses and open wounds. they smelled of feces. their clothes were filthy. their bellies were swollen tight like small brown drums. one boys eyelids were blistered shut from an infection that i imagine could have been helped with a simple antibiotic.
a 15 year-old mother holding her six-month old baby approached me. she spoke to me in a language i did not understand and then held her child up to me. the baby’s eyes were tired and worried, like somehow he knew he'd been born into a hard life - somehow he knew he would grow old before his time. i reached out for the child, but then...stopped.
in my naivete i had not understood what the young mother wanted. she didn't want me to hold her baby. she wanted me to take her baby.
i politely replaced my hands at my sides. “your child. your child.” i took a few steps backward. the mother persisted walking towards me, nodding her head to say that it was okay for me to take her child. she said the only english words she knew. “you. you.” she the baby inches from my face.
in that moment i thought, why not? why not take that child away from this village to a place where it would have a worldly education and access to medicine and the best food on the planet. i could provide an environment - emotionally and materially - for this child to live a vibrant, healthy life. a voice within said, it would be selfish for you not to help this child out of this mess.
but was this really a mess? was this rural poverty really the sob-story that my mind had made it up to be? what if rural living was a necessary part of the balance on the planet?
i could feel myself becoming guarded and confused.
so what if the roads to this village aren’t paved. can you imagine a world where every road was paved? the destruction! so what if the houses are made of mud and dung? can you imagine a world in which every house had laminate counters? our landfills are already overflowing with non-biodegradable products.
and what of education? the fact is that not everyone should be educated behind a desk. some people must be educated in the fields and farms. some people must stay connected to the earth’s rhythm, not just to the momentum of industrial and electronic revolutions.
and, further more, not everyone can have access to medication.
wait, what? why not?
i wait for my mind to justify that one.
over 2,000 children a day who die from diarrhea in africa.
though it is always easier to justify someone else's suffering above my own, that is unjustifiable.
evan called my name, “lauran! time to go.” i turned to seem him getting back into the truck. "okay."
i faced the young mother for a final time. “i know you can’t understand a word i’m about to say, but i can't take your child. i wish you health and happiness. i will pray for your life and for the well-being of your baby. i'll pray for you." and then i left her and the baby in the mud.
never had prayer felt like such a cop-out.
as we drove away from the village thirty children ran after our car. they waved their arms and hollered with high-pitched squeals. i couldn't take my eyes off of them - their small bodies hurdled over the earth, their limbs flailed and the yellows of their eyes were set ablaze.
prayer was my only means of sanity. may all beings be free of suffering. i prayed until they vanished out of sight. may all beings find happiness. i prayed til our car touched pavement again. may all beings be content. i prayed til we arrived back at our $8/night ethiopian hotel and then, in the privacy of our room, i curled up in evan’s arms and cried myself to sleep.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
“Lizzy, no, sweetie. Don’t eat the butterflies.”
We arrived in Costa Rica nearly a week ago. Eight pieces of luggage, two dogs and two adventurous spirits. For the last five months Evan and I have been working towards this move. Finally, it is here.
Our pups, Lizzy and Quito, made the trip with the expected amount of stress. Now that they are off the plane and safely on the ground they are happy to smell the tropical soil and chase the mariposas (butterflies).
Evan and I are ecstatic and humbled to have made this dream a reality. He is now heading up the Latin American micro-finance projects for Whole Planet Foundation. After 2.5 years in Ecuador in the Peace Corps, integrating with the Costa Rican culture is as natural as breathing for him. Over and over again I hear the locals say to him, “You speak Spanish very well! Very natural. Where are you from?”
I, on the other hand, studied French for ten years. So at this point no hablo espanol. Luckily there are many similarities between french and spanish so I trust the language will come quickly.
We’ve made friends with a local Costa Rican couple, Fehdra and John. Evan calls them our “Costa Rican twins”. Fehdra, the woman, is a yoga teacher and John, the man, is a mountain bike fanatic. Yep, twinsies.
Though Fehdra doesn’t speak much english and I speak hardly any Spanish, we understand each other loud and clear when it comes to our love of yoga. During a recent dinner, she and I dominated the conversation with our enthusiasm for the practice of yoga. Yoga, like math, is a universal language.
As they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida! (Pure Living! Pure Life!)