As I sit here and count how long we've been in Africa I was shocked to learn it was only three months. I could have sworn it was at least five! As the hubs just said today, "One day seems like a week, and one week seems like a month." Maybe it's the heat, maybe it's the adjustment to a new life void of easy fixes, or maybe it's just because we are yearning for the day of our newest arrival due in September. Whatever the reason, we've filled these last three months with a lot of hardships, a lot of turmoil, a lot of new friends, a lot of dreaming, and a lot of doing.
It would take me forever to recount every story, but I wanted to try and highlight a few moments. A bit of a wrap up as we head back to the U.S. to prepare for Baby G's arrival.
1. Texas summers are hot. Peruvian jungles are hot. But nothing compares to the humid desert, nothing. Because of this we have seen struggles in our lives. The constant sweating, worrying if I'm too hot and putting the baby in danger, running the a/c more than normal and paying the high price for it later, and getting use to keeping things in the fridge that normally would do just fine sitting in the cabinet. But while all these things are trivial, there are repercussions that go beyond physical. The heat here can play with your mind. Tempers are on edge, men become lazier, women work harder, and life becomes more difficult. And to make it even tougher Ramadan starts at the beginning of the hot season here.
We have already heard countless stories of good men who have snapped and began beating their wives. Our friends have sat with those women, cried with those women, prayed for those women, and yet we all continue to wonder how someone could possess the ability to this. But then I think of myself when I haven't eaten all day, no water, working hard, and I'm hot, like really really hot. Sometimes you just snap. It's no excuse, let me be clear, but it makes me wonder if these are the "good" men, what are the "bad" men doing to their wives. My heart breaks. How I pray during Ramadan that the men will be restored and rejuvenated, reminded to love their families and others.
2. We have had the pleasure of getting to know our house helper and language helper. They are such sweet ladies. Our house helper is a young widow and takes care of her son along with her stepmom. Our language helper had two children and lives with her mom, while her husband works in another country. I can't imagine the life of a single mom here, but I'm glad they have family to help them. This week we cooked a meal for our language helper for our last session. She loves lasagna, so I gave it my best attempt at home made vegetable lasagna. It turned out great, and I can't wait till we return so we can introduce her to our little baby boy.
3. I've had the privilege of visiting several places where our NGO has worked over the years. While I haven't been able to visit as many places as I want or travel much outside of the city because of the pregnancy, it was still a joy to get to see a snapshot of what work will look like in the future. I interviewed women who had received micro-loans to start their own business (blog coming soon), I played with children who use to be malnourished but because of the food we have been giving them they no longer are, and I've met an incredible lady who runs a school for children who live on the street. There's also been visits to the beach, local clinics, sports federations, and more.
Out of all of these there was one place that struck my heart the most. In fact, we didn't even step out of the car, but simply drove through the neighborhood. I guess you call this the slum area of the city, but it's more of a squatter neighborhood. The government has come through many times and forced everyone to leave, but since they have no where to go, they just rebuild. And by rebuild I mean construct their tents made of sticks. Outside their small shelters are mattresses where men lay during the hot afternoons. Children play in the dirt, while the older kids walk around looking for mischief. The women are seen selling things outside their homes, cooking over a fire, or doing chores. It's a hard life. Goats mingle inside the huts looking for food, while the people seem tired of another long day.
As we drove through the streets of this place, I couldn't help but be stirred on how we can began to help these people. One of my prayers for when we return is to figure out how to begin to reach out to the people leaving here. Whether through games and activities for the kids or distributing aid to needy families. This, as I mentioned before, is part of the dreaming.
4. And finally, we have an amazing community of ex-pats. Living in a strange place can be eased when you have years of experienced couples at your fingertips. Many women here have gone through pregnancy in the hot season and even delivering in country! They've raised their kids, are still raising their kids, and helping others raise their kids. We take time to rest by retreating to the semi-private beach outside of town, we include others on game nights, team meals, etc. And if there is a problem, you will have several people at your doorstep ready to help in any way they can. I feel blessed by having such a resource that many people living abroad do not have. And even though we must say goodbye to several families and singles this month, there are more families and singles coming. So the void is always full.