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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Friday, February 29, 2008

The Grass More Green

It may be hard to discern, but in this picture, but the kids on the other side of the fence are watching "rich" bazunga children play in a small swimming pool - obscured by the tree. This was taken at the Sailing Club, which is the sort of place that caters to Bazungus if for no other reason than its prohibitive cost to most Ugandans. But the image here, and my experience of it, really got my thinking about things...again.

The boys stood there for at least an hour and just watched...just WATCHED! And I thought, how odd it must be to be so poor and see right next door comparatively wealthy foreigners having a little party. Can you imagine it? They see it all the time.

I would not make for a very good long-term ex-pat in Uganda. I see how most Bazungus deal with their "staff" and I would just have a very hard time dealing with it myself. I know it might just be me, but how do you easily discipline the mistake of turning your white underwear pink after someone just spent four hours handwashing your clothes for about as much money as you would spend at McDonalds for a snack? I realize the perceptive money gap...but I still would have a hard time...maybe its because I am so used to cleaning my own house and so I would just have such a hard time dealing with an employee who I felt was constantly doing me a favor.

I suppose employing Ugandans for doing work you could do for yourself is good for the economy here...I guess. But the money gap is more than relative, it's literal too as is demonstrated by the fence you see in that picture. And it weighs on me. I do not know what Ugandans say behind our backs, but in our presence they often (not always and not everyone) treat you as you would imagine an English Lord would have been treated in 1910. I cannot explain it very well, but I know I do not like it. It makes me feel very uncomfortable...I imagine it may spoil you after awhile if you return to the states to find you are just a normal Joe-Blow and people are not willing to submissively call you sir, tell you whatever you want to hear, and bend over backwards around you in the hopes that a few dimes may fall their way. (Though the recognition of its often insincere nature, would likely also drive you to really appreciate not having a big deal made of you...alas some people I am sure feed on it) I can almost here them: "So let it be written, so let it be done...here's 5 thousand shillings.") I know I'm being simplistic...just the other day I found myself unable to talk a vendor down on her price, but there is an icky feeling I get sometimes when that ugly wall that separates the wealthy from the poor is run into.

It is balanced by the sense I get while amongst those I consider my friends with whom I can agree that the west, despite all appearances is in reality neither healthy nor wealthy. Poverty isn't only about money.

I've bid those friends goodbye now and am soon to head out to Entebbe for the long, long, and lonely commute home.

May the hours pass swiftly...home...I love the word for all it entails and reminds me of.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 5:02 AM [+]
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3 comments


3 Comments:

I have lasting memories of being feted by congregations and schools, seated as if at head table (but it the only table), loaded with food and bottles of warm orange soda, with hundreds of pairs of eyes watching to see if I would eat their offering. I asked my host, seated next to me, how much does a bottle of this pop cost? Next question, How much does a person make for a day’s labor? A day’s work, I learned wouldn’t buy it. Nor would a week’s pay quite do it. So I quietly asked the Lord, What do I do? Answer: Don’t forget this.

Have a safe trip home. And thanks for serving these people that have been on my heart for many years. - James (of Portland)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:26 AM  

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James,

Some thoughts on this topic -

The kingdom of heaven, the church, and St. Paul all endorse the master/ servant relationship. All three exhort masters and servants to make good choices and love their neighbors. Notably, St. Paul did not speak against slavery, but reminded slaves and slave owners alike that God was watching...

Modern "egalitarian" societies are still fundamentally hierarchical in nature, even while denying it. You've described the same sort of uber-respect behavior among your professional colleagues towards the senior scientists in Seattle.

If people who's skill set does not lend itself to other work do not have an opportunity to either grow that skill set or find work as a servant, how will they live?

The desert fathers, while uniformly poor, maintained a master/servant relationship w/ their diciples.

I think what you're observing is a consequence of the fall. Could it simply be the case that in Uganda, the lines are drawn a little more starkly for you to see?

Personally, I've seen "help" work both well and poorly indeed. In retrospect, it's success has always turned on the choices made by both parties. Maybe in the economy of heaven, the differences we're drawing between rich & poor, ascendant and subservient are really quite minor - just the differences between what particular lessons our soul needs master to move on. In the end, we'll all be judged - rich and poor alike...


SF

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:11 PM  

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I think what "weirds me out" about it all is my lack of experience with it. ..and how borderless it is. In other words...the egalitarianism in the workplace pretty much ends once you leave the doors of your office or lab...by that I mean if a high and mighty doctor cuts you off on the road he get no less of a "the bird" than some poor dude in an old truck.

Whereas in Uganda, if you have white skin and are walking about you are treated differently. Like a boss is to us as work, so can a muzungu make a big difference in the average Ugandans life.

I do not doubt that providing employment for Ugandans as "help" is a good thing...but man is it foreign to me. I can count on my fingers the number of times I've paid a kid to mow my lawn and so having someone at my house everyday and taking care of all chores including washing my dirty underwear by hand is so bizarre to me and my experience. It's like worlds colliding: work and home. The line between professional and personal gets blurred...a line I usually drew at the entrance to my property. I dunno if this makes sense.

Oddly, it seems some ex-pats adopt this role easily in Uganda and I've seen their eyes glaze over as I try to explain how strange it all feels to me. Race perhaps adds to my weird feelings too...oddly enough...blowing the lid off redneck stereotypes: me a redneck feels especially uncomfortable with the racial aspects of having "help" whereas someone I know who's a city liberal commands the "help" as well as Scarlet O'Hara.

Maybe I have redneck guilt...but I'd feel more comfortable helping the help do the laundry than sitting and watching.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 7:02 AM  

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