“normal” festivities

December 9, 2011


So here in this part of the world, we do White Elephant gift exchanges too . . . with a twist. We had an annual party this weekend for the ladies of my home and workplace. And ours meant an exchange of chadors, the most fitting–and practical–sort of necessary item possible. They were also, incidentally, rather lovely, with purchases from other Asian countries as well as our own. This came on the heels of a Christmas concert I was a part of last night, during which we had an service of lessons and carols that felt just like those I’ve sung in for many years. These seasonal events are nothing unusual in one way. But that is exactly what is unusual about them: here in this place nothing “normal” can be taken taken for granted, or taken lightly. Each is a time to be savored, and a time to give thanks for. *This visual is one of the chadors acquired at today’s party.

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finding peace

December 6, 2011


Last night in my small group I reflected on this year’s “On this day” post. We were studying anniversaries, and the ways G_d has used them throughout history. It was strange for me to realize how close that hit home to my own “anniversary.” Last year I was on location, as it were–in Zambia. This year I am most definitely not in that land of peace [poverty, but peace]. And this year I find my experience of the day as differently as the lands on which I have been in to experience it. I struggled with my emotions on that day. Not because I was overly sad about it. But because I was anxious to move on from the sadness. I was impatient to post a new story, a new photo. I was impatient to get on with the business of my life here. So much happens on any given day. So much is new, and unexpected. But there is also much simplicity in the midst of it all.
Today we are confined within the gates of the school, due to the nature of this day, in the country. And sure enough, that confinement turned out to be well-planned: this has been a day of tragic violence in the city. Strangely enough, though, in the midst of this tragedy, we here at the school are busying about with simple tasks and preparations. Working on holiday treats and decorations. Preparing for next week’s art classes. Planning for choir concert in two days. In short, living the happy mundane life that this season calls for.
So once more, on this day, the good and the bad converge into the whole of a life.

dance on

December 2, 2011


This week we held the annual elementary music & dance concert. It was a time of hectic preparation, as such events are. But it was a also a time of bittersweet reactions, and of roller-coaster emotions, thanks to recent events here at the school. Just before the concert, we had representatives from a US funding source come for a visit. When they came into the library, and were introduced to me, one of them [a journalist] asked me what I enjoyed most about life here. I hadn’t realized it till I said so but what I told her was true: I said that what I love is what seemed at first to be a negative, a hardship, to me. But it is not so negative anymore. The more I settle into life here, the more I realize that the same extremes that stress and infuriate me are also what inspire me. I told her that what I love about this place is the extreme nature of life. And so it is. From grit to grace, we experience it here. Watching the young dancers was yet another stunning reminder of this fact. A reminder of grace, and of what I find beautiful, here in this land of extremes.