Last year at this time I was living in eastern Africa, thinking about being back in the States as people ere getting ready for holiday shopping, Thanksgiving dinner, and then Christmas. I wondered what it was going to be like in the rural areas where I was living, in a place that so far hadn't gotten excited even over the local holidays.
It was strange to find that even the national holidays were nothing of importance. I laughed at how many times the banks were closed because of "National Day". It seems that every person had a special holiday if they had been in office, but in a democracy of only 40-years or so that wasn't so hard to understand. But it was the special holidays of growing up that I took for granted to be internationally celebrated. So the anticipation started growing.
As the days passed, one morning I sat on my terrace looking out at the northern mountains that were always green and seemingly close enough to reach out and touch, the strange ridge of irregularly shaped trees breaking the horizon. Allowing my memories to flood into a bran that had purposefully trained to be focused and without attachment to too much of the past. I was, after all, living in a land where there were no old friends, old traditions, and certainly nothing that was tangible to my personal past.
My children as small youngsters came first, the delight of Christmas and helping fix the Thanksgiving dinner. Cleaning for days before all the extended family would arrive for a dinner in a house far too small to hold everybody, but somehow it all worked out. Carpets that had to be cleaned after the big dinner and before the tree was ceremoniously placed in the living room. It all seemed eons ago.
I wondered what we would be eating for Thanksgiving, and then found there was no Thanksgiving holiday. Bummer! But then no turkey either and the chickens were so small that even stewed there was more bone than meat. Mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberries, and all the good stuff were basically non-existent. I could have koo-koo (chicken) breast with a small wing deep fried, served with ugali (white coarn meal made intoa real grits type for), I had mine with soft french fries.
While I sat in the restuarant with my deep fried chicken, fries, Coca-Cola and fresh fruit plate, I watched the people down in the turn-about on the street below. My mind and heart began to reflect on life in general and the awesome opportunities that I had been allowed to experience.
I have learned not to take life for granted, nor the things that are so abundantly given to us. To my friends in east Africa, a big pot of ugali and greens was a blessing. To have beans and/or rice was being rich. My friends thought it strange that I chose to walk to town on most days, walking with the villagers and neighbors instead of taking a matatu (van). It was important to get the whole experience. Coming back to the States, it is difficult to see food thrown away because somebody doesn't like it, 57-brands of chewing gum, and several colors of a handbag, dresses, and other commodities.
This year as I reflect on what last year was like and the lessons learned, I am thankful this year that I can know that the source of all things is a loving God who knows the beginning from the end. That I have had the wonderful experiences of living with other cultures and becoming part of them--as one race-humankind.