Days pass by...
That was a free insight,
the next ones going to cost you.
(muzungu = foreigner, essentially)
Okay, so on my second Thursday here I went for a walk.
Now Thursdays are a little different for me because I teach English in the morning
rather than late afternoon as all other days.
So after my beginner English class I went for a walk
knowing there was no limit on when I had to get back.
Thus, I decided to try what I hoped was a new shortcut to a hotel by the lake,
that I had discovered/been shown by a lady whom I had no idea what she was saying
but that sure said a lot as we walked.
So this shortcut I took, across the road,
down the hill, past the bakery that smells as good and pleasant as you could imagine
a room of fresh breads and buns would.
Down the street, past many shops, and into a narrow early with a steep staircase leading down towards the direct path to the Hotel La Roche.
Currently my favorite spot to work and prepare lessons. (photos to come in the future).
I spent a little while at La Roche and then decided to head back to the house.
I took an alternate route back, which I thought was the scenic but longer route.
It was actually shorter than my shortcut.
I had just taken a wrong turn, or two, the first time walking it.
Cest la vie.
Now as I walked back I came on the intersection directly across from my place,
but for some reason, perhaps it was the onslaught of taxi drivers on the main road
suddenly and overwhelmingly me a ride or other forces unknown,
I took a right instead of heading across the street to the house.
Okay I was definitely avoiding the taxi drivers.
I took a right, I figured that I could just walk down the busy street a ways,
and, because I was feeling particularly self conscious that day and didn't want to look like a wondering, lost muzungu, I would round the corner at the bottom of the hill and take the side street back up to the house.
However, as I walked down the street, as I had a previous day,
I developed another young-tag-along.
Not Victoire, but another boy, his name I could not catch amidst his other Swahili words.
He was leaning against pipe fencing and once he saw me he immediately also started to walk.
This boy was a little different than Victoire though.
Everything about this boy spoke of street kid,
from the dirty face, stained white shirt,
and the tear along the back of his pants revealing no undergarments.
He spoke in quick Swahili and I could catch only one word,
"Saidia" - 'help'.
Now I will tell you this, I have had no trouble saying no to many kids and people.
I know the need is real here,
but the need is not for my money.
So when some kids have practiced their English with the words "Give me ze money."
I will tell them, "hapana, pole." Which is my best attempt at saying 'No, I'm sorry."
But with this young boy I felt something different, not sure why.
I wanted to do something.
But not here, not with so many people around
and where what would be intended as a kind action for a boy
could turn into pain as I'm sure more would come asking
and I would not be able to give to all.
So I kept walking, praying over a plan.
And soon enough we came to that bakery,
the bakery where the pleasant aroma of fresh bread is perhaps
not as pleasing to some as it is to I, who can, at any time, enter and have of whatever I want.
So I decided, I'd go in, I did need bread myself anyway,
and if the boy stayed with me, perhaps it could be something to offer him.
The boy didn't come in with me, perhaps knowing
he would have been scooted out by the shopkeeper.
But he waited outside, I imagine hoping in his heart that I wasn't just buying for myself.
I purchased a bag of buns, shoved it out of site into my backpack
and found the boy waiting.
I don't know what he was thinking,
seeing me go inside the shop, knowing I was buying something,
and then coming out 'empty handed'. Knowing that I was hiding the bread.
I wanted to somehow still show him love,
and let him know that I wasn't giving him the cold shoulder.
"Unakuya". - 'You, come.' I told him as I started to walk and cross the busy street,
a little abrupt perhaps, but again, the best language I could muster.
While we walked I kept thinking about the words of Jesus about how
to give a glass of water, or a morsel of food to the poor, is to give it to Jesus.
But the image of the muzungu here is so twisted,
I don't understand it, I cannot even pretend to.
But I really don't want to be just a source of money,
I want to be a source of love.
I do want to feed Jesus in the 'distressing disguise of the poor', as Mother Teresa once said.
But I guess I do want to do it right as well, helping without harming.
With right motives of heart, thinking about the long term,
beyond the moment of "look at me because I have given food to a hungry child."
I have little idea though which of my actions are good
and which are misguided. I cannot tell you whether the choices I have made are the best or not.
But I digress.
We walked along. I had a route in mind, intending to find a less busy place where I could take out the bread and give him some.
Now, as a small note, I want to admit that
I have developed a curious condition of taking wrong turns in Bukavu,
and this walk was no exception.
Though I knew the way,
the knowledge of the way slipped out of mind for a second,
and I found myself and my small companion walking down another road.
I recognized the place though and knowing the new way I,
like a gps, redirected myself and kept walking towards the house.
Along the way were more attempts at small talk.
"Muji mukubwa sana". - 'The city... is very big,' I said.
....good one Andrew.
He nodded, and aat least I knew he understood a bit.
I managed to ask him if he lived nearby and he nodded again.
I asked him it he had eaten today and he shook his head, 'hapana'.
By that time I had had breakfast, lunch and a small snack.
"Yesterday?" I asked. "Ndiyo"-'Yes', he responded. That was good to hear at least.
We continued to walk until I saw this place where some old concrete foundation
from a house or a wall, which I do not know, sat in a small ledge overlooking
a large portion of the city.
A clean seat with a view is what I saw. An opportunity.
So here I went and sat. The young boy with the torn pants walked a few steps,
realized I was stopping and then, as I beckoned him over, came and sat down by me.
Here I unzipped my backpack, pulled out some bread and handed it to him.
He took it, and started to work his way through it as I looked over the city,
trying to think of how I could show him Christ's love.
I looked over the houses, hills and trees thinking about this, then tried some swahili again.
"Ni...uh..Ninapenda miti." - "I like the trees. " He nodded again.
"Unapenda miti?" -'Do you like the trees?".
"Ndiyo." He responded. I was glad he didn't hate the trees,
that would have really killed the conversation.
At this time now, it should be noted, that a muzungu sitting on the side of the road in Bukavu
is not a common site. And down below this ledge where the boy and I sat was house.
There were a number of children playing outside the house,
and seeing me one yelled up a phrase I never would have expected.
I sent the word "Jambo!" - "Hello" back down,
and my response to them,
my acknowledgement of them was all they needed.
Three boy rushed up the hillside and joined us on the ledge.
Their names I do not remember, but their ages, 9, 9 and 12, I do.
Down below another girl remained, probably about 13, but she was caring for
a toddler and a young baby, siblings I supposed (but I didn't know the word to ask),
so she could not join the others.
She would listen from below though as I tried to spur on more conversation about the trees.
Seeing a bamboo tree I pointed and asked in Swahili 'This tree, what kind is it?"
They answered with the Swahili name, and I told them the English name as well.
"And that tree? What is it?" I asked again, pointing at another.
(I have been having a lot of trouble remembering the words for 'that', 'this' and 'those' in Swahili, so I was proud of this accomplishment.)
"Avocado." One boy responded, it sounds a little different in Swahili,
but similar enough to English that I got excited to say the English word for the tree as well.
I do like avocado trees, though the fruit is not my favorite.
Now as time passed
I had definitely drawn a lot of curious onlookers wondering about this
muzungu sitting by the road speaking in chopped up Swahili to these children.
A young man yelled a greeting from a house atop a hill with a steep staircase leading up to it.
I think I had chatted with him my first time down this road.
I answered back with a quick greeting.
Three young men then approached as well,
wanting to chat, to use what English they knew.
Before long they were saying that a lady down the road was inviting me over there too,
curious as well, I'm sure, of what I was doing here.
So, with 'always be relational' in my mind,
I got up after a bit and made my way over there,
feeling a little bad that my focus on the tattered boy
seemed to have gotten lost amidst the new crowd.
I said a farewell to the kids from the house and walked over to where a couple
jolly, plump woman were calling us over.
Perhaps that's not the best way to describe them, but its true!
The first young boy got up and walked with me as well,
whether it was for companionship or more bread I don't know.
Part of me hoped it was for companionship,
because then I could have known that I had shown him I would be a friend.
Part of me hoped that it was just for more free stuff,
because then I wouldn't feel as guilty to lose him amidst the people.
Just being brutally honest...
The young men that I was with could speak a little English,
which was good because the women talked so fast in Swahili I couldn't catch a word.
We were somehow having a fun time and they invited me to see their small sowing shop
which I entered and where the conversation continued.
The boy didn't come in though, and after a little while he walked off.
I know this because they told me my companion was starting to go,
and asked if this was alright.
I nodded and said it was...
I stayed in the shop a little while, chatting, laughing, and feeling a little uncomfortable at times.
Observing the old but reliable machines,
dusty photos on the wall,
and fabric and clothing in the process of repair.
Then as the conversation dwindled, I stated that I must be on my way
and started to make my way back home again.
Soon to be detoured by two guys my age with excellent English
sitting on benches at the bottom of the hill with the steep staircase leading
to the house from where a young man had previously called greetings down to me.
I chatted with them, I climbed the steep staircase.
I discovered the father of the house was the king of a nearby tribe.
I chatted and laughed, too loud at times.
And then as the young men had an appointment to get to
I made my way back to the once, once again, walking with them for a portion of the way.
Now, I will meet with the people at the sowing shop again tomorrow.
I expect that I will see those living in the house atop the steep hill again.
I do not know if I will see that young boy once more.
And he is the one my heart is going out to right now.
I want to be his friend.
I hope I showed him love,
but I wish I could have done more.
I went home feeling that I should have done more.
"One piece of bread" I thought to myself as I entered my house that day, that was all I gave.
One piece of bread and some conversation about a few trees. What a meager offering.
But, I remind myself that God continues to see the boy.
My prayers go from my heart and reach to him through God's hands.
I have hope in the God who has worked miracles
with small pieces of bread before.
And pray He will do this again
in the life of that boy, who, as I do, also likes the trees.