Spending time in Kalukembe for Holy Week has been incredibly special for me. Not only have I found the environment to be a nurturing place for reflection and meditation, I have also been able to hear choirs singing in the distance, people wearing their best clothes, and a general sense of community.
During my walks from the hospital to my home early in the morning and late at night, I have had plenty to reflect on. I will be honest in saying that I have felt insecure many of times and been frustrated with my inability to communicate, but I understand the universal language of joy and I am so thankful to share my time with the people of Kalukembe.
The Drs Cummings have three small children who are pretty adorable. Lucky for me, they like to play at all hours of the day. So, when I arrive at the Cummings` home after a full day of being at the hospital, I get to explore the Angolan nature in the yard, build Lego cars or read Curious George. One afternoon, we sat out on the grass talking about Typhoid while listening to the storm roll in. Pretty nerdy, no? On Saturday, I helped make cookies in bulk, because Priscila and Dan often bring some as treats for the sick children at the hospital. Eliel, one of the Cummings boys, was helping me stir in all of the ingredients. In reality, there was a 1:3 stir-to-taste-test ratio. I too could`t help but sneak a taste or two as we layed the dough on the cooking sheet. I am so appreciative of being reminded of what it means to have the energy and faith of a child.
Since I have officially been in Africa for a week and packed pretty darn light in order to bring over all the asked for supplies for the C.E.M.L. Hospital…..I have found myself hand scrubbing my clothes a few times already. #livinglikealocal One day I left my socks on the window sill to dry while I was gone for the day. When I arrived home that evening…they were gone. Lesson learned. I now dry my clothes at the Cummings. They get a better breaze anyway.
Remember the story I shared about the chicken as a gift (see previous post)? Well, at the end of the work week (which was Saturday, since the Cummings are the only doctors) Dan asked me to go see if it was still in the kitchen of the hospital. So, I walked over to the kitchen and managed to put together a sentence that the ladies understood. They disappeared, returning with the thing, handing it to me. If only you could have been there to see me struggle to put together another sentence to explain I was just checking on it and would pick it up later. The ladies laughed so hard. The chicken now sits quietly under the sink in the house, awaiting the fateful day…
The homes here in Kalukembe are made of adobe clay and a plaster-esk type of material. The red-orange earthy color is really beautiful in contrast to the splashes of color from the clothes on the line and the vibrant green plants growing from all the rain. You may or may not want to know that the concept of bathrooms do not really exist here. Latrines exist, but they are usually dark and infested with mosquitos. Instead, nature is the peoples bathrooms. I now find myself watching my step as I walk around.
Easter Sunday was very different from any Easter I have every experienced. There were no dyed eggs or baskets full of candy. Instead, I awoke to the sounds of music in the distance and people dressed in their Sunday best. I joined the Cummings for breakfast (pancakes!) and church service. Due to the production of getting three young children ready, we arrived almost an hour late to the service. Do not worry, it had yet to start. We tried to arrive incognito, but being pasteywhite was a dead give away. Many of the children stared and wanted to play. The service was outside under the trees, and the entire village was present! Just as we settled in the back (we had to bring our own chairs), the children and singers paraded in. The service ran a little over 3 hours, full of singing, scripture readings and homilies from the pastor.
In the afternoon, we sat on the porch eating goiabas (guavas) and cookies. I learned the story of how the Cummings became a missionary family and learned Angolan geography. Later, I burned off the cookie calories laughing as Zeke (the oldest Cummings boy) played (aka wrestled) with a neighborhood boy. To end the day, we walked to the local futbal field to watch a game. We stood behind rows and rows of people lining the field. Once again, for some people we became the thing to warch instead of the game. I should have challanged someone to a staring contest. Maybe next time…which will be any time I pass someone. When one team scored, many rushed the field and began to dance, flip and sing chants.
It was nice to spend the day off and really soak up the village culture. I am pretty sure I will never get sick of the sunsets here. I am amazed at the palate of colors that are cast into the sky as the sun falls behind the clouds.