Repost from September 30, 2015
This was quite a difficult time of dealing with grief, understanding some of the deepest parts of pain and loss in this culture and participating in things that are hard even for Africans to handle when they have grown up here. Funerals here are often long drawn out events with lots of rules and expectations. Expenses are extreme for those who have so little. The possibility of angering an entire village are ever present and the village has the ability to block the body of the deceased until all expectations are met, fines for cultural bad behavior are paid and all parties are completely satisfied. Questions are often raised about how the deceased passed away and everyone close is on constant high alert for things or behaviors that could be perceived as sorcery or curses that finished off the loved one. Once accused of such behavior, clearing one's name is difficult.
My African sister's ethnic group is known for the crying they have to do. Every morning, those closest to the person who passed away must loudly cry and wail. This must go on for several minutes and then someone calms the group and they must stuff their grief and dry it up. At each time a new relative that has not yet been seen shows up, the gang must cry again. This goes on over and over until the funeral. Papa was buried in just over 2 weeks which is concerned to be a really fast funeral. I don't even want to imagine the amount of stress involved in longer affairs. In addition to this pain and the pain of having lost someone close, the closest relative must feed, house and provide alcohol for all guests and most of the village. Everyone must eat and drink to their contentment or trouble brews. One of the most difficult of things that I had to stand by for was a relative berating my sweet sister less than 30 minutes after we had buried her father. She was so grief stricken that she could not stand and watch her father be put in the ground, but before her tears were dried, this family member came to yell at her because her family hadn't gotten "enough" to eat when the funeral feast was passed out. I seriously wanted to crack some heads together! Being the only remaining close relative meant that almost all expenses fell on Viviane and she had done the best she could to ensure that everyone ate and ate well. It was a serious moment of difficulty with the culture for me. There were times when I could do nothing more than step away for a few moments and cry and then quickly get back to watching out for and standing with my sister so that she wouldn't have to walk alone.
So as not to completely depress you, I'll have to tell you some of the stupid things I've done recently. In general, I avoid sharing such things, but I've had to laugh a bit at myself and so thought you should get some joy out of these too.
Most of you know that I am notoriously clumsy! A couple of weeks ago I had run out to get the baby a little snack while I was out in one of the neighborhoods I work in. Fortunately for me, I was close to my African sister's house. I tried to take a step up onto a little concrete porch where the store was and my other foot slipped or something somewhere went wrong and down I went. I was holding the baby and did some immediate damage to my arms and legs in trying to keep him from hitting anything. In later assessment, I realized I reinjured my neck that I fell a couple of years ago and hurt, but in the moment I worried about none of that. I quickly listened to hear who had seen me fall. In general, when I fall, I can hear a gasp from all of those gathered watching who are horrified that the white lady has fallen and most likely hurt herself. Fortunately for me, I heard NO gasps. Jesus does love me!!! ;) I looked quickly in front of me and saw no one. So far, so good. Then I hop up as quickly as possible. I moved on up to the little store to buy what I came for and assess my wounds. Good, nothing broken. All limbs working, even if sore. I was thinking that I had narrowly escaped disaster and huge embarrassment this time, when I began to feel a gentle breeze on my derriere! No, surely not! I was wearing a dress that I wear often. It is not in any way tight but as I struggled to turn my head around like an owl to see if that breeze was actually something to worry about, I caught the slightest glimpse of what appeared to be a VERY LARGE rip. AHH MAN! While all of this was going on, I was also asking the shopkeeper for the snack I wanted for the baby and paying. Now, I could dash about 50 or so yards back to Viviane's house or sit down on a bench right there at the store. People are milling about at this point, so I decide to sit. It occurs to me that I have an extra piece of fabric in my purse so that I can tie the baby on my back. Now all I have to do it wait, like a weirdo, on the bench until someone I know passes and I can make them go get my purse. Again, Jesus loves me, so within five minutes or so, someone came. In a city as large as ours, with as many people that are always hanging around, I'm sure someone saw some of what went on, but I'm choosing to pretend that nobody saw. I'm sure I'll do something worse soon.
The other ridiculous happening in my life recently was on one of the days following the death of Viviane's father. I was making the drive back to my house after having spent some time with her. We live about 40 minutes apart across the city. I was on a road similar to an interstate, but with a speed limit of about 40mph. We've had some construction on this road and unfortunately, I saw that the road was backed up for miles as I got close to downtown. GRRR! I pulled up into the pile of cars and joined the ranks stacking up the road into about 8 lanes instead of the 4 marked lanes. After 30 minutes or so of stop and go, a city bus came up on my right. The driver stopped short of my vehicle because his vehicle was too wide to pass my also large 4X4 truck. After a few moments passed and their lane advanced while mine didn't, the bus driver decided to give it a try. It went OK until he got to my side view mirror and then came the tinkling of glass as the mirror bent back and shattered. I was really aggravated because he had seen there wasn't room, waited and then went anyway. I was stopped dead still for this and could at first see no way he'd have anything to say other than sorry. The city bus was full and began to unload fairly quickly to further clog the already congested area and the bus driver approached my window. "What do you want to do? Shall we just walk away?" Now I was expecting the possibility of him asking for us to just move on, but I thought he'd be offering to pay not walk away. In my surprise I asked why I would do that and he said I was obviously at fault because I hit him and I was not in my lane. NOT IN MY LANE!?! There were hundreds of cars on the road and NOBODY was in their lane. After nearly 45 minutes of calls and frustration, threats from the bus passengers, insults and a crying baby, Mike told me to just leave and we'd pay for the mirror. In the moment this was a really bad day! I got really worried at one point at what the angry bystanders were going to do. The bus driver was lying and trying to get me to let it go and I certainly wasn't thinking straight. It occurred to me later that the mirror was bent back showing that the bus hit me and not the other way around. Oh well. The damage was just glass and so far we've not even had to pay. In looking back it just seems like another bump in the road of this crazy life we live on the other side of the planet.
That's a little peak into some of what's gone on this month. Thanks for thinking of us and praying for us.