Friday, 27 July 2012

That Place of Breath.

There is a place,
It's not far from my home here
and I would like to share it with you.
It's found between my house and my church where I teach.
Now let me tell you how to get there.

To begin, you must of course leave your house at the Mission and the comforts therein.
Before you exit you must find a watchman who wil close and lock the gate behind you.
Then, walk down the dirt path,
past the man with the carpet of shoes for sale laid out on the dirt,
and around the piles of bricks and sand destined
for the construction of houses. People's high hopes cemented into the walls.

At the bottom of the hill you make your way past various shops,
food and goods, salons, electronic sales.
Peering inside some to see walls of powdered milk and Nyanga drink.
Keep walking past the women sitting on the side of the road
selling clothing and wiping the dust off of used backpacks.
Then, cautiously, makes your through the intersection,
dodging motorcycles and running from Landcruisers
as you remember that the pedestrian never has the right of way.

Then you reach Nyawera market,
this may be the most interesting and frustrating part of the walk.
Weaving your way in and out of people,
bumping into some, patiently waiting behind the slow ones.
Your attention may be caught by the snap of a finger
as some vendors try and lure you into buying, among many other things,
 eggs, oranges, sausages, mangos, avocados, bananas, toothpaste, chocolate cookies
 and some of those small, silver dried out fish
that you tried for the first time yesterday and they actually weren't too bad
(even though you only ate the bodies and secretly threw away the heads). 
All the while now as vendors have been vying for your attention on the left,
the motorcycle taxis having all been hoping for your business on the right.
Every look or greeting you give them they see as asking for a ride,
but you assure them that you are able to walk on your own two feet,
and then you try and avoid catching the eye of any more drivers. 

Surviving the market, though you will receive no t-shirt for this act of valiance, you continue on.
The road, still paved at this point, a rare thing, hosts scores of vehicles
and a few police officers who direct and guide with their whistle blows
in a hopeful attempt at creating some sort of order in the chaos that is Bukavu roads. 
The road, whether paved or dirt, will now be your constant companion on one side.
while the stores and vendors will host all sight on the other.

As you make your way onwards you see the Media store
with the fat sumo wrestler painted on the wall outside,
and where you had entered and were somewhat disappointed by their selection of DVDs.
But what did you really expect?
Then there is the sister store of Victoire Bakery
with their truck often parked in front delivering breads and buns to be sold.

You begin to climb again. In a city built on mountains
no matter where you go, you cannot avoid ascending and descending the hills
in order to get to your destination.
You pass by the immense crater in the road which very effectively acts as a speed bump
for the huge trucks barreling down the road.
 Unfortunately it also entices the motor bikes to use the sidewalk as a smoother lane. 
With some of the recklessness you think how a hundred miracles must happen a week
just in the fact that not more people are hit and killed.

Then there is the outdoor bookstore.
Two very large, slightly slanted wooden platforms
which sit beside a broken-down Mitsubishi SUV and huge mat full of women's purses.
The two platforms are full of books, mostly written in French,
a sparse selection of material readable to one limited to the English language.
Every time you pass by these stands, though, you think of taking a picture.
For they are built overlooking a great expanse of the city,
so while in the foreground you see the books resting, waiting for a hungry reader,
in the background you see all the hills and the houses thereon.
However, not wanting to be one of those shutter-happy tourists,
you resist from snapping a photo, and think that perhaps in your last one or two weeks here,
then you will capture this image to bring back with you.

Onwards and upwards. More hill, more dust.
A man in a green flannel hat smoking outside of his shop.
The U.S. President smiles at you from a bag of Obama pops
in a child's woven basket amidst other candies, biscuits and rolls of mints.
You debate buying some of the pops just for the novelty of it,
but not now, perhaps in your last one or two weeks here.
After having passed this way many times,
a few of the children now greet you as you walk by,
you smile back and offer a greeting of your own. 

The dirt road roundabout, the giant Primus Beer banner.
The small Catholic Church with its table of religious merchandise on sale.
More women selling pineapples, casava, oranges and tomato soup.
The carpenter's shop and the hillside bed-frames. 
The roadside thrift store, a value village worth of kitchen utensils, toys and clothing.
The college and its students, finally a few other people wearing a backpack
so you don't feel quite so odd.

We're almost there now, to that place.
Just have to avoid being impaled
by the three men each carrying a twenty foot long pole on the heads;
a reminder never look down always keep looking forward, up and around.
There is the small corn garden, the barbed wire fence,
the huge unguarded hole dug to reach a pipe and that has not yet been filled.
The hole that you always picture a motorcycle falling into and sending its driver flying forward.
Perhaps a morbid fear, but a real one that is maybe not altogether irrational.

Up just a little further and around a slight curve.
There you will cross the road and climb a small, steep bank.
Atop the bank is a field, of sorts, filled with garbage, several trees
and about 20 young boys playing soccer.
Once in a while you joke with them, pretending to interrupt their game
or greeting them with a series of claps in a rhythm that they will copy.

This is so near to the place now.
For you will walk only about 10 or so more steps,
and then you will reach a place where you stop ascending the hills
and there, where you can either look back and see the boys in the field,
or look forward and see below you a makeshift gas station
 standing before another huge expanse of the city,
it is there that the wind begins to blow.

That is the place.
That place, where the wind begins to blow,
is a place I find myself connected to more of the world.
A place I find myself both in Congo and in Canada.
In both a dirty soccer field and the fields behind my house.
I have found, that even here, thousands of miles from home,
that when the wind blows it carries with it things I already know.
I have been surprised with how familiar some of the scents in the wind have been,
scents such as those of soil, and of trees and plants growing there from,
even, somehow, of familiar perfumes and of visits to relative's houses. 
In that place,
I feel the air wrapping around me in an embrace not too unlike that
which I have felt from my farmhouse porch.
I am taken away, but really I am brought right to the place stand.
For when that wind blows, no matter the kind of day I was having,
whether my walk to this point was one of cultural frustration
or of joyful thankfulness to be experiencing life as I have been,
when that wind blows I rest a little.

Frustration and distraction subside there for even just a moment. 
Making you a little more ready to see the world with eyes a bit less perverted
by your own single perspective.
You can recognize how the girl running through the trash in her dirty dress
is somehow far more beautiful than all the prom queens walking their red carpets.
You can feel more compassion for the boy standing in the ditch
 as he pulls something out of his pocket.
A toothbrush.
Which he then uses to scrub the dirt off of a glass bathroom scale
 in the hopes of attracting a buyer.

There in that place where the heart is softened,
 I feel the comfort of home in a place so far.
I feel a little of the breath of God,
and am thankful for the memories of home given life through that breath
and giving me rest enough to continue on with a thankful and more malleable heart. 
This is the place where, for me, Congo meets Perth County,
or wherever your heart may be rooted.
Where home travels abroad
through the breath of God,
and you are reminded that that is where your home truly is.
In that breath, wherever it may take you or find you,
whether it is made manifest in the wind or in whatever form,
That breath is your rest, your comfort, your home,
Where ever you are.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful ...... on so many levels. You truly have a gift for writing in a way that allows your readers to walk alongside of you as you journey. Thank you for repeatedly letting us in.