Saturday, October 8, 2011

isaac vs. america

over the last 2 months that i have been here, some of the sierra leoneans that work in the galley with me have become legit, good friends. something that i was actually not really expecting to happen. this one's name is isaac. he is not just one of the people that says my name and asks me how my day is and moves on, but he is one of the ones that with every single conversation we have, makes it his goal to learn about me and where i come from and why i am the way i am. he was the first person to open up to me about his experience during the war, and our relationship has grown ever since.

i'll try to describe him for you. this guy is ridiculous. picture a 5' 5", dark black african man in his early thirties, missing a few teeth, built like a freakin tank, completely out of pure, solid muscle (and tells me every day that i have big arms but they are soft like a baby...), and will take a 6-inch deep metal pan full of searing hot steamed rice out of the oven with his bare hands. every time. this dude is crazy in the head, but he is an amazing man. he had been asking me for a while to come visit his house because he wanted me to meet all of his family and see where he lived. i kept saying "yea! totally we should do that, let's figure out a time..." just like i would do when someone who i had lost touch with while in college wrote on my facebook wall that we needed to hang out sometime (but for some reason, it never ends up happening...). i mean to be honest, isaac is a great guy, but in my head im thinking, "he lives like an hour away, im probably gonne meet every one in his village and they will all stare at me like they do everywhere and point and whisper and giggle and want to touch my hand, and i will go see his house, which i can already picture, and then eat some food that i will probably regret, then come home 10 hours later." remember, im just being honest. the only difference between saying "yea lets hang out!" in america (with no real intentions to go out of your way for it), and saying it to a west african, is that they dont just forget about something like that and let it go. after i had given the green light on the hang out, he was determined to make this thing happen. i was going to his house whether i wanted to or not.

so we made a time 2 weeks in advance for me to go spend the night at his house after work one night. (if he was going to remember the committment was an entirely different thing in my mind, so i just decided to roll with it and see what happened........)

he remembered.

 i dont think he actually ever stopped thinking about it come to think of it...
so here we go. spending the night at a day workers house. a little scared, not too sure where i was going, where i was sleeping, what i was going to sleep on, or eat, or drink, but whatever, lets just do it. it was an amazing experience, and an honor to get to see how he lived life away from the ship. i met everyone. e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. his brothers, his sisters, his nieces, his nephews, he friends, his neighbors, his pastor. they were all from an area called Kono, which was one of the places that was hit hardest by the rebels during the war because of the diamond fields there. they had all been uprooted and moved to freetown, and there they became family. they became family because they had no one else. if they were from Kono, they were his family. i began to realize that all these people i had met were not really his brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, but they were all he had, and in his mind, that is what they were to him. it is what they are to each other, not just him. i learned so much from getting to see where he lived and getting to actually sleep in his house. which was one room, with a bed, a window, and some clothes. yes it smelled, yes it was hot, yes i was certain i was going to get malaria, and no i didnt sleep, but good gosh, isaac could seriously not have been more thrilled that i would actually come to HIS house and sleep in HIS bed. he just kept saying how he never thought i would actually do it, and that it is unheard of that a white man would stoop to such a "common african man's level and sleep in his own bed" as he put it.... sad. this is the point where i wanted to get rid of any thing of any material value and throw it in the toilet. just a common african man? if i could be half the man that isaac is i would be doing ok. somehow they have been led to  believe that white people are more than common men because we have money.....thats an entire other can of worms though.

isaac kept saying to me, "james. when you go home to america, you are going to forget about me." or "james, any time i have made a friend from america, they will go home and never talk to me again. they just forget about me. please dont forget about me." at first i just wanted to reassure him with the ol, "of course man, i wont forget you! we'll stay in touch! here's my email...." but will we? was i serious? i could see in his eyes that he had been hurt by other crew members before me who had invested in him, said they were his friend, then moved on once they got home.

but thats the west, isnt it? the land of facebook and texting, insincerity and surface level friendships? im not on a soap box here, but you try explaining to a west african who has only known true friendship (meaning loyalty, sacrifice, and giving someone the only shirt off your back if they are in need) why us westerners cant seem to keep our  promise and at the least check in every now and then. ask how he is, ask how is family is. thats not even a sacrifice. i was kind of embarrassed to say the least at how cheap friendship has become to me. i pulled out my ipod and showed him my facebook friend list. i said, "isaac, let me show you what the term "friend" can mean to someone in america ....i started scrolling through a list of 800+ names that i have become friends on facebook with (after deleting about 600 others in the past year) and showing him my "friends." out of those 800 names i could probably pull out a good 15 or 20 that could be a friend like isaac was prepared to be to me, but i was embarrassed. it didnt make sense to him. he had a look of confusion on his face as i explained the idea of individualism vs. collectivism (not confusion by the big words, but confusion of the idea.). it really troubled him that we would live like we do, but he finally started to understand my culture. a culture of looking out for number one, getting more things, and when you have everything you wanted, getting new versions of what you have. i dont really have a lot more on that, because honestly i havent really processed it enough to write more. it is just amazing to me that the people here truly have absolutely nothing of physical worth to them except each other, and that is all that they want. they may not have an ipod or car or tv or job, but they have a community of "family" that will always be there for them.

 its about relationships, folks.

they live so differently here. relationships especially. it is a completely different ball game. it is things like this that i am finally starting to learn and get a hold of, just in time to leave. i will be here another 36 hours, and thats it. back to the land of set prices, traffic laws, and white people. im not really good at goodbyes...i kind of hate them, so i usually try to suppress any emotion and just get them over with. its not good, i know, its just a thing i do.

more later. i have loved this experience more than i could have ever imagined.
this wont be my last post, im sure ill have more to say, more pictures to post....if you want to surprise me with a big sign and a tall, cold glass of cow's milk at the airport, i wont be mad.

love you lot bunches,


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Alberta and Osman.

Alberta and Osman have both been here since I have been here and they are pretty incredible kids...Alberta's arm had grown onto her side because of a burn, and osman had to have his leg amputated. these relationships are why i am here.

It's been a little while...Sierra leone hollaaaa

hope center.

these are just a bunch of rando's from the hope center...sorry if it isnt the most exciting thing in the world, but it is my life here, and i love it. just giving you a little snap shot.

adventure abounds.

so a lot of things have been going on lately, and it is pretty hard to just hit them all, so first i will share with you a little adventure that some friends and i went on last weekend. we started off in lewis' van (that he bought in sierra leone to get around easier.....) driving about 4 hours north to a village right on the border of guinea. the village was actually the last stronghold that the rebels were in control of at the end of the war, so this particular village had seen quite a bit of death and and endured a lot of heartache. it was also a diamond mining village, which is what was drawing us 4 hours away from the ship. we werent interested in keeping any of their diamonds, we just really wanted to see how they actually do the mining and thought that they would maybe be willing to show us the fields where they pan for them....

dead monkeys.

it was a nice day, with a nice view, and a nice place to sit on top of the of the coolest rides ive ever had before.

what we arrived to when we finally found the village we were looking for. (most of the women didnt feel the same way about clothing that we do in america, so i tried to avoid taking those pictures...)

one of the chief's wives

lewis meeting with the villagers, introducing our group and why we were there

after much convincing that we werent there to steal their diamonds, they softened up a bit..

excited to see themselves on a camera

the walk down to the diamond fields

the pile of dirt on the right is an example of the kind of dirt they look for diamonds in....they just take a pan full of dirt and go into the water and start a lookin

the walk back to the village

next we went on a little canoe trip on a river between guinea and sierra leone to a waterfall...i didnt want my ipod to get soaked so there arent many pictures of the canoing...

soooo that was a good day, a lot more happened than what these pictures show, but it just took me over 3 hours to get these up, so my energy level to tell you more is pretty limited right now. but it was a blast and a great adventure. now for the hope center.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

dropped the ball a little bit...

soooo sometimes (always) when i get in the swing of whatever i am doing and hit a rhythm, the first things to go are things like blogging...calling people...effectively keeping people informed on what is happening. so i would like to say i am sorry for dropping the perverbial blogging ball for a bit, but i plan on writing more. why the lack of pictures and videos? ( i currently have 1,247 pictures/videos that have not seen daylight), even without the sun having its little mood swings with the solar flares, the internet on the ship makes me want to rip the computer off the wall, throw it through the window into the ocean, then blow it to pieces with a shotgun while i watch it sink to the bottom in hundreds of little computer shards. im getting therapy. but seriously, wherever you are, take a moment to appreciate clicking on a link and it loading within 60 seconds. or youtube. or skype. or uploading anything. at all. just appreciate it.

but now that that is out of the way. i will be uploading pictures and videos as much as i can, and probably do a good video update on everything that has been going on for the last couple weeks. i have been throwing children in the air at the hope center for the last 4 hours, and desperately need sleep, but i just wanted to say that i am alive, doing extremely well, very healthy, and excited about what God has for me in the next 12 days before i leave.

a for real update coming soon (in the next 24 hours, scouts honor). much love


Monday, September 19, 2011

White people and iPods.

We went about 4 hours inland to a diamond mining village...most of the kids had never seen a white person up close, much less an iPod...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

consistently colored grass.

i have a short post for you today. just a little something on my heart, a little thought before bed.
(if you read my facebook status already, this is just an elaboration...)

i have spent a lot of my life under the unconscious (but still conscious) understanding that when it comes to loving Jesus whole-heartedly in the current life situation im in, "the grass is always greener on the other side." i thought, once i just get out of highschool, i will really just let myself go. ill go to the honor academy, i wont have the same distractions and worries and drama of highschool.......
ok ok ok ok ok. once i get out of the honor academy, i will really be able to be on my own and choose to love Jesus and not feel like i am forced to, so it will be way better. college is going to be perfect. just me and Jesus.
after i leave Asbury, then i know it will really take off. ill be free from all these classes and stresses and worries...i wont have chapel 3 times a week to drain me of any real deep spiritual interest and i will finally be independent and on my own. i'll work in a youth group too.
i know, i'll go to africa and do mission work! then i'll really do it. no more reservations Lord. im all yours. the perverbial spiritual Jesus grass is so much greener in africa.

the perverbial spiritual Jesus grass is greener everywhere except where i am.

what i am learning (what ive been learning since about 17), slowly but surely, is this: the color of the grass is extremely consistent. it is consistently the same shade of green in every field, mountain, and valley i could think of going to. i serve a God that is the same as he was in high school, the same as he was in college, the same today in africa, and He's gonna be the same until the end. serving underpriveledged people in developing countries does not change the way He feels about me, and should never change how i love and pursue Him.

silly me. thank you Jesus for being so patient.

if you are waiting to find the perfect, opportune time to be whole-heartedly in love with Jesus, you can stop looking now. you're living in it, so run your race.

theres the thought for the night. on a different note....
i havent put up any pics in a while, so here's a few rando's. i need to be more vigilant with my camera.

this is just one part of the line outside of the Hope Center for their dental screening day a little while back. they had 2 dentists that day.

Dr. Fleming, the doctor i shadow a few days a week, and Joel, her interpreter. these two are amazing together.

the surgical admissions tent we work in right outside the ship.

the start of our hike up Sugarloaf mountain. our instructions were: "once you hit a dead end driving, get out and find the pipes. follow them until you see two blue dots. you should find the trail from there. nope.

pipeless and dotless. maybe we should walk for a few more hours.

we conquered. michael doesnt understand why white people purposefully look for ways to expend energy when they dont have to. like hiking. we got back to the ship a few hours later, muddy, bloody, and wet, and someone asked him where he had been, and he just blankly said, "i followed the white people up a mountain." it built character.


on our way to the beach. our taxi didnt do so hot with the potholes on this road. so we got out and hitch hiked. its a lot easier in africa.

love you all deeply. dont be afraid to go on an adventure.