A friend wrote this week about her life in the Congo and said, “Life is simple but more complicated.” I drew a quick breath, “Oh my goodness, that is the best description of East Africa I have ever heard.” Driving by a man whose bike is loaded with heavy grass for feeding animals and another man peddling hard but hidden by a bedroom set piled 6 feet high and wide on his bike I think,
“Simple but more complicated.”
I am often “stumped” in my efforts describe this place. No words come. How can I describe this complex relational culture, the half of a day spent at the bank to do ONE thing, the heat that saps and taps you before 11am, the power and water cuts, the poverty, the dirt roads, the green unlike any other green, the light that hits everyone in ways it doesn’t anywhere else in the world? It’s all just… simple but more complicated and I would add beautiful but enveloped in the fallout of war and famine and all things unhappy about life.
I grew up with carpet between my toes and deep winters as my backdrop, and my children are growing up with bare feet on hot gravel and the equatorial sun imprinted on their hearts and bare backs. The things they see as children I never knew about when I was their age. Machine gun toting soldiers, hippos growling noisily in the lake, hot melons bought off the street corner, the Muslim call to prayer in our ears at 4:45am.
My kids know a world in which a light switch is no guarantee of light and the dishwasher is a person and not a machine. This is our Africa and it is definitely, “Simple but more complicated.”
My 3 year old leans against his daddy at 10 am while I write this and says, “Are you wet?” The response, “Nope, I’m just sweaty.” “Oh,” says the 3 year old. Sweat is just a part of life here. I was sweating late into the night this week making a version of corn syrup from scratch so that I could then add it into my fondant from scratch so that I could then decorate the birthday cake I had made for my newly crowned 7 year old.
Life in Africa just takes time, and you either give it what it’s due or live your life without cake… and who wants to live without cake?
Sitting at Bible study this week I chuckled where I sat (sweating) because the room was filled with conversations about forgotten things. “I forgot to bring chocolate chips to Burundi! How will we go two years without chocolate chips? Who forgets to pack chocolate chips?” A friend responded with an eager, “Oh, I can get you some, we have people visiting in 2 months!” Another friend said, “I brought so many, I can give you a package right now.” It takes a village working together for all of these expats to thrive outside their home cultures. My friend in the Congo is right…