Well, I have now been officially living in Africa for a month now, and it is incredible how much my outlook on life has changed. I’ve really been enjoying my time here, and I think I’ve gained a very unique perspective on how other people manage to live their lives. I’ve been doing some more work at the orphanage, helping them with their renovations. Working there has been one of the most eye opening things that have ever happened to me. The construction that happens there is so different from the Canadian idea of construction. It is truly incredible how much can be accomplished with so few resources. We were helping them to build over an open ditch, and we had to saw pieces of an iron rod for supports all manually, using a small hand saw. It took us each about 10 minutes to cut through, whereas with an electric power tool it might have taken 30 seconds.
It’s hard work, but it is real work. The people there all work incredibly hard. We watched a man fall of one of the building structures and break his arm. He was very calmly put onto the back of a motorcycle to be taken to the hospital. I can only imagine how distressing it was for him to have that happen. Not because he was injured but because he could no longer work. They don;t get sick days, or disability pay, and he’ll lose valuable work days. You could see it on his face. A job means the world to people in this country.
The thing that will stick with me most about my time at the orphanage is the compassion and generosity of the people there that we worked with. One of the days we worked over the lunch hour and we grabbed a quick bite at a roadside stand. We were still working when everyone at the orphanage decided to eat and they all insisted that we sit down and join them in a simple meal of Ugali. The fact that these people, who have so little, are willing to share their food with 3 white strangers is touching, and a perfect example of how sometimes those who have the least are willing to give the most.
Perhaps the fondest memory I will take with me happened the last time I visited the orphanage, and was put to work painting a wall. In the room beside me, there was a man who was cementing the exposed bricks, and as he worked he sang. His voice was clear and beautiful and he sang in Kiswahili, so I did not understand the words he was saying, but his song resonated with me. Why, I have no idea, but coming here I have learned to take pleasure in the uncomplicated, beautiful aspects of life; performing a simple task such as painting a wall that will mean a great deal to someone else while listening to a simple song is about as beautiful as it gets.