little deeds

February 7, 2016


Praise and worship time is a tricky one for me, as it is for most other worship leaders I know, in that it is a struggle to balance the focus on helping the congregation to enter into worship with the ability to do so myself. Oftentimes, I think worship leaders end up with rare moments of being able to enter into a personal “lostness” in the worship, that are bookended by the more usual times of worry over logistics like finding the right notes/harmonies, how many times to repeat a chorus, or whether the key is a bit too much of a stretch for one’s vocal chords on a given morning. Not that I mind this fact: frankly, I love all that comes into play [;-)] with music, so these logistics are actually enjoyable for me. But at times I do long for that the space and freedom to just be in the moment.
In our service, the pastor chooses the songs that are a part of the service, while the praise team handles the introductory singing time. So one of the hymns we sang this morning as a part of the service, during the offering, was new to me. For much of the song, I was actually zoning out a bit, still thinking about how worship had gone today, and distracted by my amusement over the children surrounded me. But when I looked up and started to sing, I was instantly struck by the words displayed on the screen. There are only a few lines at a time, allowing for two languages to be visible at once, so it was easy to zero in on, and be wowed by, these words:
“Holy Spirit brighten little deeds of toil . . .”
The screen quickly changed after I saw them, and a part of me worried—for a moment—that I had imagined them. I was grateful, then, when the pastor launched into a second round of the hymn. And there they were again: those words. Oh, how beautiful, I thought . . . the words themselves, but also the hope—bright hope—that they carried.
I breathed these words with my inhales and my exhales as the day carried on. In between the business surrounding readying myself, and the household, for another week of the work/school/life crazies, I stole moments to savor this thought.
Yes, Lord: let this be my prayer to you now. Brighten the little deeds of toil that so often threaten to draw my eyes down, and to drag my feet to a shuffle. Brighten my speech. Brighten my thoughts. Brighten my life.

*For dinner tonight we celebrated Chinese New Year in the dorms. So part of prep involved making the traditional dumplings. After writing this post, I realized that this day’s version of the “toil” of meal preparation was a rather fitting illustration :-)

found wanting

January 6, 2016


This past week, our Sunday sermon title was “What is your request?,” based on the passage in Mark where Jesus asks that question of the blind man (Mk 10:51). He spoke of how we are privileged to be able to come to God with our requests. He warned, however, that our requests need to align with His will. The explanation at this point took an unusual twist compared to what I have customarily heard preached: he said that the danger of asking for what we want is that if we cannot handle that particular blessing, due to our own penchants and weaknesses, that which we have asked for will lead us into sin. This is why, he explained, we must not compare our own lives with those of others. One person, for instance, may be a good steward of financial blessing while another may end up squandering the wealth. I mused on this for a bit, appreciating the wisdom of the truth, and somewhat smugly proud to have resonated so quickly with my “truth” point of the sermon. But Then I pushed pause on that pride as I realized that I had not yet figured out a very crucial bit of the equation: namely, what it was that I was asking God for in this new year of my life. Of our life, as a couple. “What is my request?”
Asking this question in such an up front manner, however, I realized I had no idea! And as one who does not deal well with abstractions, this realization was a troubling one. “I want a concrete, tangible New Year’s request for God, dadgummit!,” was my mental exclamation [assuming, of course, that God does not mind such straight talk/thought ;-)]. Yes, I want it. Whoa, hold that thought . . . what did I just say? Eureka—that’s it! That’s what I want from Him! And so it was that I thought my way, in an only slightly circular fashion, into this year’s request for God. I want Him to be real in our lives this year, in a tangible, even tactile way; I want Him to be present in every crossing of the “t” and dotting of the “i”; I want Him to be with us. God with us. Emmanuel. Yes, may it be so. Bold, audacious, and demanding as it may be, this is my plea.

*This photo comes from our New Years’ Day party with the children from the orphanage. What better to illustrate “wanting,” I figure, than the face of a gleefully two-fisted cake-eating little one?

bright light

January 1, 2016


It rained on New Years Day and it felt like a miracle. After weeks of Harmattan dust filling our lungs and covering everything with its filthy film, the brief shower felt like pure oxygen. But even more beautiful than the cleansing of it was what the rain was falling onto: the faces of 25 orphans filling my home. I had almost postponed the party the night before, wondering what I was thinking to try to pull together a last minute party when event planning is so not a strong point for me. But I just felt it needed to happen: as I wrote to the orphanage director,
“go ahead and plan to send the children on over . . . It might not be the most perfectly planned or organized party, but we will all have fun, I think. I have water balloons, popcorn, and chocolate milk ready, at least: what more could a kid need? ;-)”
Sure enough, it was not the perfect party. I had the children sit on old drapes in lieu of picnic blankets (and the reason for the picnic being that it was the fastest solution to the fact that I waited too long to make purchases of things like kid-friendly dishes). The children drank chocolate milk out of washed peanut butter and instant coffee jars, and ate cake from their hands (granted, not a bad prospect for most kiddos!). Two belts tied together turned into a game of tug-of-war that my husband ingeniously turned into an all-kids-against-him extravaganza. A lack of dishes turned into a count-teddy-bears game.
But thanks to the help of a couple of good friends (who had only been summoned the night before as we rang in the New Year together), the party logistics came together. All the smiles were big, and genuine.
This year has been, in a word, heavy. I’m not sure why that is the word that came to me as I thought of this year as a whole . . . but that’s what it is.
The rain that fell today was a light rain. And as it fell, it washed the layer of dust off of our world, brightening it all. So as if a word was being spoken to me from He who speaks the Word, I felt as if there was a promise in the year to come. A year of lightness, and brightness: may it be so.

on this day

November 30, 2015


Yet again, it is time. This year my post comes late in the day, on a day of teaching, writing exams, meal prep and, now, weariness with the business of the day. But I remember this day, still. And even on a day of ordinary details, it marks my life, and my emotions, so that underlying each action is a twinge of strange, sad urgency.
Last night I dreamt of my mother. Today I think of her, as I remember my father. I have always loved the mental image of my mother, when she was younger, riding her horse. I imagine a beautiful sight, with her hair blowing behind her as she rides into the distance. Free. And mobile. So the photo this year is one of the inspiring glimpses I had this past weekend, during the overnight trip to the coast that we took the dorm children on. It was, on the whole, a time consumed with the business of “parenting.” But there were moments of pause . . . like this one, when I watched the master horseback riding instructor gallop along the beach once his own workday was done. I dream of the day when this will be reality, for us all.
That said, here it is: the annual post:

I remember, this day–November 30–in 1988. On this day, I awoke excited–no, more than that–I was ecstatic. I was running through lines of the Christmas program in my head, eagerly rehearsing for the program that night. You see, tonight we were performing for our families, for my family. They were on their way by this time, I knew, beginning the drive early that morning that would bring them along many lonely dirt roads, winding through villages and across open plains, to arrive here.

It had been 3 months now since I last saw them, when I boarded the little Cessna on the grass strip of our village, clutching my stuffed bear in one arm and holding my sister’s hand with the other. We stood there waving goodbye one last time on the boarding stairs, and then waved again out the window as we sped along the airstrip and lifted off into the air. I loved that moment of lifting off in the airplane–and have ever since–the exciting rush of becoming airborne and soaring faster and faster through the air.

That day, however, my excitement of the beginning was tinged with the sadness of knowing I would be away from my family for many nights now. The days were always full of learning, fun adventures in the bush with friends and with various creatures to be discovered and trees to be climbed. The nights were the hard part, though, when I fought the tears that often came in spite of my fierce will, silently dampening my pillow while I stifled the shortened breaths that may give away my tears to the classmates sleeping near me in rows of bunk beds.

The 3 months since that last flight had passed quickly–3 months of good books read, math problems solved, geography discovered, play weddings acted out in free time, and all manner of grade 4 activities. I had also turned 9 the previous month, and knew my family would now celebrate my birthday and my brother’s 4th birthday 3 days earlier, as soon as we made it back home. While on a shopping trip in South Africa, my Dad had acquired our first car, so the decided to make the road trip instead of Helen and I flying home as we had always done before. So, I knew they were loaded up in the Isuzu, along with 2 village friends–a teenage student of my Dad’s and the Zambian pastor he worked with in our Church.

So that afternoon, after various activities designed to keep all us boarding students preoccupied so we wouldn’t be bouncing off the walls with the excitement of our families’ arrivals, we all filed out the drive-up area to await the first arrivals. I had in my mind the perfect picture of what to expect, so as each vehicle arrived, I craned my neck to see my mom’s long arm waving out the window and Alex’s goofy grin peering out from her lap. But the cars came, parents claimed their clamoring kids, and my picture-perfect arrival still had not appeared. Finally, a lady I recognized as the mom of some friends who lived fairly near us went over to our Dorm Mother and said something to her, gesturing in our direction. She then came and told us to go ahead and get ready for the program–not to keep waiting for our parents there.

I was disappointed, but assumed they would arrive at any moment, so just kept waiting as we practiced our songs. My mental image just altered itself to adjust to a late clamor of hugs and kisses rushed in before the program started . . . but the program came, began, and ended, and they had not arrived. The next morning we were taken to the Cessna, and told we were going to go back to the village by flight after all. This time I imagined the whole family standing there on the airstrip, coming into focus as the plane landed, with eager smiles and waves–still, no. The parents of a classmate took us in their car instead–so of course I changed my expectation once more, this time thinking they were taking us to our house where the family would be, picture-perfect, waiting in front of our little home.

Instead we arrived at their house. Auntie Elaine (according to British habit, all family friends were “Auntie” and “Uncle” to us kids) finished up dinner preparations while we helped set the table. And then, instead of sitting down to dinner, she asked Helen and I to come and sit with her on the couch–”Anna, Helen–I have some really sad news . . . your Daddy went to heaven . . . ” Before the sentence was finished, I had burst into loud sobs, Helen looked at me and started crying, and Auntie Elaine and her daughter were both crying and hugging us.

I don’t remember any mention of the rest of the family at that point–nor did I wonder, as far as I can remember. The rest of the day, of the week, of the month, passed in a sort of a fog, in which my memories are clear but displaced, as if each memory was plucked from its proper place in the continuum of time and placed instead in some never never land of homeless moments.

I remember falling asleep with fitful dreams, waking up convinced I had dreamed reality, and that Daddy would walk in and comfort me any moment. I remember being reunited with my brothers, staring at Alex’s discolored and misshapen head, and carting Ian around carefully in his body cast, propping him up against walls . . . supporting him and holding his modesty blanket over his midsection as he pinned the tail on the donkey at his belated birthday party. I remember visiting Mom there in the Zambian hospital, horrified at the sight of my strong, active, beautiful mother lying there on the stretcher bed unable to move herself. At one point during a visit, the nurse had to turn her over so that she wouldn’t get a bed sore. As she did so, she let go of the sheet and mom was briefly exposed to us all in the room. I didn’t know whether to blush, sob, or scream–I wanted to just run away, to disappear forever into the endless, dreadfully beautiful African wilderness. I hated seeing mom like that, and dreaded the visits . . . and I hated myself for feeling that way, thinking there must be something wrong with me if I didn’t want to see my mother . . .

Somehow, time passed. My Daddy’s funeral passed in a blur of friends, strangers, languages I didn’t know, and wails I knew only too well. As soon as mom was strong enough to be transported, we were shipped to the U.S., where hospitalization and then physical rehab came for her. I hid in my books–in beautiful worlds of fantasy–to the extent that my grandmother still teases me for always having my “nose stuck in a book” as a child.

And eventually Mom was well enough to take over the care of the 4 of us again. I still don’t know for the life of me how she did it–a paraplegic supporting and caring for a home of her own and 4 not-always-angelic children. She did it well . . . she loved us well.

On this day, during my childhood, Mom beautifully commemorated the anniversary. She would buy what looked to me like hundreds of helium-filled balloons, bringing them home so that the house was bursting with balloons. Then she tied note cards to the string of each one, and told us to write notes on them–as many as we wanted, and whatever we wanted to say to a stranger. I remember writing things like “Jesus loves me this I know . . .” and “My Daddy died on this day, and he is now in heaven with God, because he loved God. I do too.” I wrote silly notes, but meaningful ones, longing, in all my childhood intensity, to somehow tell the world that I had a great Daddy, and that some day I would see him again.

I still catch myself, when I am still enough to listen to the deeper desires of my heart, craving moments of remembrance of my Daddy, and eagerly clasping to memory any tidbits about him that people from his past may be able to share with me. And thankfully my own mind clamped down firmly on all the memories I had of my times with him, out of a personal need for them and, I suspect, out of a nagging suspicion that someday, somehow, there would be a greater use for, outlet for, it all.

a slow trot

November 28, 2015


This is a portion of a text I wrote this morning, in reply to one sent by a fellow dorm parent. The original text was a worried wondering if we had made the wrong choice about the children’s activities today:

No-they’re recovering now. We knew they would start out unhappy, or suspected at least. But either way they would have …its just us trying to make the best call we can figure out. There’s not always a clear one, & we will I think be able to share & enjoy, each other’s when back together later today :-) I’m glad we can work with you guys …& don’t forget, you [two], that we have been given a mountainous job. Hang in there-you’re doing an amazing job!

The ironic part of this text is that most days I wish someone was saying this to me. Of course that’s the way it goes with life issues, oftentimes; we do our best cheerleading for others when the situation is one in which we have been needy for the same cheering . And these days, those situations come on a daily basis. Being responsible for children means a constant barrage of decisions to be made, and of demands being made. At times it feels wearisomely hamster-wheel-ish.

At times it feels agonizingly personal. At times hopelessly exhausting.

But every once in a while, there are moments that are nothing short of exquisite. One of these moments came very soon after I had written that text. The call we had made that day involved the possibility of a horseback ride … Which is the sort of activity we have recognized as potentially helpful for the sort of adolescent issues we deal with in our household . But it seemed too much to hope for: with fearful personality barriers when it comes to any thing new, and with our newbie barrier so far as figuring out how to make things happen, I was pessimistic. But today I watched a couple of west African children on round 3 of their rides, at their request. They rode along the beach as the sun rose behind them. From where I stood I could not see their faces. But I am quite certain that the smile on my face mirrored that on theirs.

the axis

November 8, 2015

How did my world become so insular? How did I become a planet orbiting around the axis of an adolescent’s emotional ups and downs? I have weathered severe family tragedy; I have been through seasons of poverty, both material and internal; I have lived in a war torn land, and waited out lock-downs while those in my community lost their lives to the nearby bombs that rattled the windows above my head.
How, then, is it possible for me to crumble, weeping, over minor issues like an ignored dishwashing duty, or a plate dished out with one too many offending vegetables? It is the banalities, these days, that make or break my sense of well-doing from one hour to the next.
The fact is that we an, er, “difficult” role, as dorm parents of a difficult child who also happens to be in a universally recognized difficult time of life, being an overly developed, and strong-willed, adolescent girl. Since our one-week “honeymoon” of happy willingness to join us for house duties and fun out outings, life has become a struggle. We have not figured out how to converse rationally about anything concerning household policies, and I do not have the gift of argumentation needed with this particular child.
What I have come to realize is that I must re-think ideals held about dorm life brimming with happy family hangout times and cheery heart-to-heart chats. In the here-and-now, my job is going to have to look radically different. And if I allow myself to be emotionally needy for anything more than sullen acknowledgements of my existence, I will be setting myself up for breakdowns . . . I’m afraid I must admit to saying this from experience!
For now, I may just have to accept that my job at this stage means simply making sure her meals and snacks are available, her clothes are washed, and that I am available for any other requests she has. There may be no thank yous, no warm fuzzies . . . but from what I have heard, mother’s worldwide experience this in a much greater scale that I can imagine, in my simple first-year dorm parent role.
All I can say is that I, who have always wondered how mothers do it, now wonder the same thing on a whole different realm of my reality. Hats off to you all, Moms!
*At church this morning I was sitting with the mother of a family who has been coming for about 3 weeks now. Since the first time I met them, I have been enamored with the brilliant smile of their youngest child. I find myself sneaking glances at her at the most inopportune of times, tempted to disturb prayers by my efforts to get a smile out of her. It is, actually, no big task: she is always eager to flash a big one. Today I asked her mom if I could take a picture of her, admitting that I just wanted to have that smile available whenever I needed a cheer-up moment. So the photo today is, quite simply, that cheer-up grin :-)

There is much to be said for intentionality and planning when it comes to the walk of faith . . . when it comes to life in general, for that matter. But sometimes, I suspect, there is just as much to be said for pure, un-thought-out, spontaneity.
Today we had a combined service. Our church shuttled everyone to a neighboring town where we joined with a local community plant. One of the senior members of our Korean community has spent his life here in this country and in nearby ones, planting churches. This is one of the now-established ones.
Over dinner tonight my husband and I talked about what a blessing it is to be a part of our church family. In a way, we didn’t really have to do the work normally involved in getting settled into a community, as new residents of the area, and country. We found this church within a couple weeks and, interestingly enough, this Korean community brings local culture to us, by way of weekly service opportunities, an international community in the church body itself, and events like that of today.
The truth is that I was nervous about this weekend. The logistics of a time-consuming commute both days (worship practice and worship itself) and of figuring out how to combine our worship teams—backed up against a demanding work week—were daunting gremlins in my brain for the days leading up to it.
But when it came down to it, as things so often do, the details came together smoothly enough, with less to fear than I had anticipated. It went well.
After the team had finished, and I was enjoying the [relative] calm of being a simple pew-dweller, I realized that I might have to resign my post. As the offering wound down, it began to also pick up the pace. The custom here is to parade down the center aisle, row by row, in order to deposit one’s gift into the box. When only a few were still in line, instead of slowing down the music, the leader instead picked it up and started a new, more upbeat song. I couldn’t see what was going on from my vantage point, but I suspect that some in line began dancing up in the front as they gave their gift. With the beat picking up, several other dancing-inclined folks hopped up and joined in. Curiosity made me get up to go see what was happening. Shortly thereafter, dancing-inclined-tendencies made me jump right in to join them.
If I had given any thought to this, I probably would have talked myself out of it. I would have thought through the fact that I had never been in this church before . . .that the only people dancing were Ghanaians I did not know . . . that there were at least 3 times as many people here today than I was used to being in a service with . . . that I did not know the cultural norms well enough to risk offense. But I didn’t think: I just danced.
After a couple more choruses of dancing, the leader slowed things down and, taking our cue, we filed back to our seats. I couldn’t stop smiling from that point on.
Later, during post-service greetings, I met a Korean who was related to someone else in our church. He smiled as he shook my hand and thanked me. “In my culture we are too reserved,” he said. “Thank you for dancing today.”
I don’t know what anyone else thought, but I was satisfied with this as decent enough confirmation of the feeling I had, and have, about the privilege of this morning’s worship.

all the nations

October 18, 2015

After as many years as I have been on this earth [:-)], with a large chunk of them involved in some sort of worship leading, I am generally quite comfortable with the unfortunate reality that sometimes one is “on” as far as personal worship-feeling goes …and sometimes not so much. Those notes I hit easily yesterday: maybe not quite getting them today. Or maybe this set of songs just isn’t hitting any worship chords [;-)] in my own heart. Or perhaps it is best to sing melody for songs I’d rather harmonize to, in order to help those just learning a new song. Yes,today was just one of those days.
As we neared the end of the song set, we began to sing a Korean one that we had just learned ourselves, as usually we sing in English, with the Korean lyrics on the screen for those who prefer. This one, however, seemed to be a popular worship tune that many in the congregation already knew, judging by the hearty nature of the vocals in the room. Excited to realize this, I shifted into harmony and relaxed, now that my voice was doing something more comfortable for it. Though I was still needing to pay a fair bit of attention to the lyrics, I let my eyes drift out to the faces of the congregation for a moment. That was when I had my “eureka!” moment: my eyes settled on an uplifted face that was emanating the most pure form of joy that I could have imagined. This 80-year-old gentleman, with his eyes closed and his hands raised in the air, was smiling so big he could hardly move his mouth to sing, though he was clearly singing from memory. The beauty of it brought a similar smile to my own face and, suddenly, my heart was in the worship too. For the rest of the set, my less-than-stellar vocals and lack of personal preference for the songs themselves didn’t matter at all. I knew exactly why I was there, what I was doing …and WHO I was doing it for.

*the photo I caught of one of the congregation member’s boys conked out in the pastor’s arms as we lunched together after church seemed somehow fitting to include in this post

the leader, chapter 3

September 26, 2015

Day 3 was the wild card of our trip. A suggestion had been to take a day trip to the nearby monkey sanctuary. While the other girls nodded excitedly at the prospect, I grimaced. I then explained that, thanks to far too much time spent protecting my belongings from thieving wild monkeys, and observing their unappealing social habits, I have a decided distaste for the creatures. So when day 3 actually rolled around, we decided to split the party. The girls would go see their monkeys, and Peter and I would stay in the village. By this point I had another seed of a thought: could I possibly repeat the exquisite experience of yesterday’s swim? We did, after all, know the way, after finding our own way back yesterday. Peter agreed to try out our idea, and we set out walking in the general direction. What we were to discover, however, was that if a guide were to notice a pair of walkers, and were to follow them all the way to the falls, he would be very angry indeed. He would berate the pair for setting out without a guide to lead them. He would tell them that if the authorities found out, we would get in a great deal of trouble. He would advise us to tell them, on our return, that we had simply wanted to spend time taking photos of butterflies while we walked. And he would suggest that we give him some money, to assure that he had the same story as to our activities.
We would never have wanted to get in such trouble so I tried to forget about my happy idea of the day: and we took many pictures of the lovely butterflies.
That night we all went for a sanbu. The girls regaled us with monkey tales, and Peter and I described our collection of beautiful butterfly photos. We passed a church and paused at the door to see where the music was coming from. When we did so, a trio of musicians summoned us in and we sat for a bit to watch them rehearse with sax, trumpet, and keyboard.
IMG_2860 Then we slipped back outside. One in the group mentioned out loud her wondering as to whether we had crossed the border into Togo while hiking. None of us knew, but Peter and I told her that we had seen the border patrol just down the road at the other end of the village. We walked down to see about the prospect of stepping foot across the line. When we got down there, one of the border officials came over to us, and we mentioned the idea; he said that he was sorry but we could no longer cross–it was too late in the evening. We would have to come back in the morning. Kara shook her head sadly, explaining that we would be leaving first thing in the morning, so could not do so. The man then scanned our group, looking at each face for a moment. He settled on one—the youngest in our party—and said, “I would like to marry a white woman.” Peter put his arm around my shoulder. Still looking at Amanda, he continued. “I would like to marry you.” At this, Kara (who, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned, happens to be a particularly loyal friend) brightened, “There’s a church just down the road—you can go get married now . . . if you let us into Togo!”
We did not cross into Togo that night.
We did, however, make it safely back home the next day, arriving once more creaky and sticky, and vowing never to make such a long trotro journey again . . . or at least not until our next holiday :-)

the leader, chapter 2

September 25, 2015

Day 2 held the main goal of our trip: hiking the mountain. This time, we would follow the leadership of a proper guide. His name was Charles.
The office where we purchased our tickets informed us that, due to the poor trail conditions, the long hike was closed: we would need to hike the short trail to the Falls. Disappointed to hear this, our trip organizer questioned if there was any way to hike the long way if we wanted to. The answer she was given left just enough ambivalence that, shortly after starting out, she asked the same question of our guide. He gave about the longest, circular answer, I could imagine, involving tales of other hikers asking to do such a thing, tales of other guides asked to lead them, and descriptions of the amounts of money involved. “I never talk about money,” he repeated finally, “but if one were to pay 10 or 15, or maybe 25 or 30, each person . . . because your safety is on my shoulders.” We solemnly nodded and repeated that yes, we would like to go the long way. This decision would be revisited (and questioned) over the course of the next 5 hours.
Several hours into the hike, nearing the summit, we had grown silent, slowing down in our chattering and singing . . . and encouraging each other that we would not die. We had grown weary enough that the feeling-like-death-was-imminent was just a fact of our existence. I was jolted out of my hiking trance, then, by the sight of Charles suddenly sprinting ahead of me, springing back and forth across the trail. Stopping after a bit, arms flailing and legs kicking, he hollered “Stop!” Then he said, “Ants—biting ants. Stop where you are and then run as fast as you can to pass the ants.” Adrenaline pumping, we each did as we were told, the others following my lead as I was the first behind Charles at that point. In the middle of my sprint, however, I looked down at myself at began to scream. I was absolutely covered. The others pitched into a party of helping me pull off articles of clothing and pull the ants off me as I cried out each time I felt a new bite, grabbing for them and crying out angrily. Once the majority had been removed, we kept going, with me periodically stopping to grab at a hidden one. “So guys,” I began, “you know how I was telling stories of my lack of animal fear?” (I had been telling tales of Zambia, and of being the “snake dancer” to scare away the snakes that had been spotted near the school dorm). “Well, I lied . . . I’m terrified of biting ants.” And of course I, who had been forever scarred by a near deadly run-in with the little monsters early in my childhood, would be the one in our party who managed to sprint straight into their welcoming arms.
On a brighter note, however, we had now reached the summit. It was all downhill from here.
From this point on I was a horse heading for the barn—or, perhaps more accurately, a sea turtle heading for the sea. With itchy crawlies from ant bites, plus my general watery inclinations, I was single-mindedly zeroing in on that waterfall, and on my dive into its pool.
We reached a fork in the path, at which Charles informed us that we were free to pay him: he would be leaving us now, as this was the point when we could go to the falls on our own, swim as long as we liked, and then make our own way back. It was an easy path back and he was too hungry to come with us. This last point made a great deal of sense, as he had completed the entire 5-hour hike with a single packet of crackers in his pocket (and no water with which to wash those crackers down). He was also carrying nothing, except for his hiking stick, and wearing flip-flops, to create an appearance of skipping along (periodically plopping down on a rock to wait for us to catch up) while we painstakingly trudged along.
Being free to pay him, we did so, and said our farewells before continuing on to the Falls.
It was all I could have hoped for.
That night, once we had all recovered, Peter and I went for a walk. The girls laughed at us when we announced our intent, asking why in the world we would want to walk after the day we had already endured. We explained that the concept is so relaxing that where we have been there is a specific word for an “after-dinner-stroll.” They were not convinced. We went for our sanbu. Peter followed some village men to find out about the strange giant “fruit tree,” and to learn its medicinal uses. I followed a trail of little ones, singing various language versions of “Jesus loves me” as we went.
And the next day . . .to be continued :-)


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