Back home in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, USA… the same house where I’ve lived since age 5. Yet another thing to be grateful for, not being forced to move around constantly (though I think there’s an incredible amount to be gained from living in different places. Long-term question on my mind: is there a way to expose children to all that is gained from living in different parts of the world, yet they still feel grounded and have a sense of home? Would love to hear your thoughts on this!)
These post-trip entries are not going to be particularly structured… instead they’ll just be a place for tidbits of reflections to flow. They’ll also include a few of the poems I wrote on these trips. Silly as it may sound, it’s taken me a while to gather the courage to share poems I wrote, even with people as dear to me as those of you reading the blog! I think I used to be too critical of my writing, and therefore automatically assumed my poems weren’t “good”, whatever that means! And I was frustrated that none of the poems completely encompass all of the many facets of a place, its people, etc. Slowly I’ve learned that it’s ok, they don’t have to be “good”, if they allow me to emotionally process an experience, that’s fine… and if they can capture any of the feelings of that moment in a way that others can feel them too, added bonus 🙂 And that it would take so so many poems to cover everything, so better to start somewhere! Finally, the incredibly deep, soul-moving inspiration I feel from a single song, leaves me feeling so gloriously grateful to its artist(s), that they put in the effort to record that song and SHARE / GIVE BACK to the world! So my goal for myself is to have the courage to give back as much of myself as I can to the world through art.
So with that, here goes 🙂
Poems from Malawi…
(in the second one, GNI = average salary for a year, and Kwacha = the Malawian currency. Fourth one: mzungu = white person, jumba = plastic bag)
A woman walks slowly
Carrying her shoes in her hand
So they don’t get worn out
A dollar a day
= $0.79 a day
= 119 Kwacha a day
= 8 small eggplant
= 4 cups of rice
= 6 tomatoes
= 1 loaf of bread
= 1/3 a bar of Cadbury chocolate
= 1/10 a box of Kelloggs corn flakes
The whine of a bicycle as it creaks along
Serves as a car, a taxi, a cart
Carrying a man and his friend who hitched a ride
Branches for burning (for tonight’s supper)
Hundred pound sacks of maize
Or a pregnant women in labor
Whatever it carries, the roads are dusty and rough
Only partly paved, shoulders of dirt
Might is right, so the bicycles inevitably get pushed off to the side
Cars and trucks cannot see them at night
Headlights illumine them and their guide
Creaking slowly towards their destination
Setting off for a run down an ever-dusty dirt road,
Mothers pumping water watch me and let out a cry:
“Give me money!”
Implying that because of my white skin I have something they do not.
I shake my head no, jog on, and wonder at their assumption.
Could I ask,
“Give me your laughter and easy conversations, that make the time pass by without an iPod or television, and turn small jokes into rich laughs.”
“Give me your courage, that allows you to press on even after your child dies of a preventable disease.”
“Give me your perseverance, that helps you carry bundles of wood on your shoulders for miles, longer each day as trees get chopped away for dinner’s fire… and then make dinner that your husband will eat first.”
“Give me your patience, that lets you wait for someone to buy your pile of tomatoes at the market, as you sit next to 10 other women selling the same thing.”
Seeing me running, children full of energy run along beside me, shouting “mzungu, mzungu!”
“Give me money!”
Oh lights of the world, give me your determination, that leads you to a school with no desks and few teachers, where you study for exams because you see the value of education.
Give me your creativity, that helps you make a soccer ball out of plastic bags, a toy out of an old tire and a stick, a double-dutch jump rope out of little jumba’s.
Money can be given more easily than these things, but is it worth more?