On my way home from Kwamhlanga, I pondered how to describe my weekend away. My host mother had invited me there for a sojourn to her mother’s house. The town wasn’t far, but we would be staying overnight.
What was the occasion, exactly? “Church.”
I suspected there was more involved, since she had broached the subject weeks in advance and invested the days preceding in amassing buckets of handmade amakheki (sweet biscuits or ‘fat cakes’).
“What will we be doing?” I ventured, in my elementary Zulu.
Despite the apparent logic of these replies, I couldn’t quell the sense that something more awaited me.
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What’s it like to eat in Peru? Smile at the menu. Divide the prices by three. Round down. The exchange rate is over 3.20 dollars per sol.
Fresh squeezed fruit juice? $2.50 for a double-sized glass. Chicken avocado sandwich with coffee? Three dollars.
On top of that, the food here is all “organic”–without the label and without the markup. When you shop for fruit, you let the seller know if you’re planning to eat tomorrow instead of the same day. That way they can bring you produce a shade less ripe.
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What happens when you have long hair, and you sleep in a dorm full of girls? You braid it, of course! — or, rather, the girls do. Then your friend opens her treasure trove of hair ribbons, and she gives the girls a gift they will wear every day for the rest of week, whether it matches their outfits or not. In fact, some of the girls only bring one set of clothes. You notice that, and wonder why.
At least, that’s what Rachel and I did at Camp UNPES. During the first and only meeting between staff and volunteers, the head man, Roberto, encouraged us to love the children without restraint. “This isn’t America — you can hug them and pick them up!” He could have warned us how much love we would receive in return. Read the rest of this entry
Our first Sunday afternoon in Ecuador reflected the pace of life there — for the missionary family at least.
After our early morning dining and outings, we relaxed with the kids, welcomed the new guests, packed up for camp, and detoured to the beach on the way. At times like these, Kevin and Beka often can’t confirm our plans until days or even hours beforehand. Living life with them requires a flexibility and calmness comparable to a weather vane’s: ever pivoting, ever erect.
This particular day, the breezes blew fast but fair. Read the rest of this entry
“Here, you have to pull the head off.”
“I’ll do it!” Joe pinched my food expertly and twisted the offending body party loose. The remains, cloudy and moist, jiggled in my palm.
I steeled myself. “Camera ready, Ezra?” He nodded, hoisting my equipment into position. The lens blinked at me. I produced a smile. The shutter fired, and I bit down.
Beka had entrusted Rachel, Evie, and me to her sons’ care for the morning. Read the rest of this entry
The boys share a room. The girls share a room. The baby sleeps in the shower. All in all, seven people live in a wooden house built by Kevin himself. Dusky red-leaved plants line the yard; a frilly tree from Florida sprouts medicinal properties in the back. A wall painted sky blue encloses this patch of jungle. About a year ago, the family admitted the need for more space. Now a two-apartment guest house reclines, across the yard. Our first night there, its tin roof sheltered us from the downpour outside. The rain pounded as if from a shower nozzle, forcing Rachel and me to shout to each other over the noise. Read the rest of this entry