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.
In talking with people who are in some way traveling with me from the US to Africa, I frequently hear the same story that suggests how ignorant many of us are with regard to life in Africa, or more specifically here in Uganda. Many of us are asked questions that betray the impression that we will be living in straw huts with dirt floors. Now, not that this doesn't exist for it surely does and many live is such humble dwellings. But many Americans, it seems, really have have no idea how comfortably one can live here.
Now, that being said, frequent power outages, unfit for drinking tap water, awful roads, no traffic regulation, very poor medical facilities quickly remind one that they are not in America. None-the-less, people who've been to Africa know just how wrong the sterotypes can be of most Americans who create mental images of this beautiful place.
However, I really must point out that everyone sterotypes. The rich sterotype the poor and the poor readily return the favor. Similarly, Ugandans have a great litany of sterotypes for us Americans. Some of them I readily fit into, such as is realized whenever I step onto a scale. But many others I have enjoyed shattering to the point of the absolute disbelief of my conversant.
One of my favorites activities is to surprise Ugandans with the news that I live on a small farm and raise chickens, ducks, goats and nearly all of my own veggies. I have watched eyes widen with disbelief and many have come to me directly and doubfully seeking resolution to the impossible news they have heard about me. Yes, I don't spend my weekends traveling upon the resources of my vast accumulations of wealth, but rather may be found putting up fencing to eventually help feed my family. It's just not on their radar to expect one of these visiting Muzungas to be a farmer. (Even a part-part time one like me.)
So it gives me pause to consider that perhaps we have too much let Hollywood, Rock/RAP "Idols" or other overy visible sources be our ambassadors. Would we not do better to show how down-to-earth we can be? I've never made it a point to hide my personal ideal of the heroic American and so I'll happily admit that the likes of Wendell Berry would, in my opinion, be the best ambassador/representative we could ever hope to have. The yeoman farmer who clings to values such as hard work, personal responsibility, lofty ideals, and individual liberty - these are the things/people who have made us what we are....ahem...were(? I hope not, but do worry) Anyway, I have a sneaky suscpicion that farmers (agrarians) all over the world have a great deal in common, all living amidst and from the dirt of which we are said to be composed.
One of my colleagues was oddly asked by a Ugandan recently if he thought he could ever kill a chicken. I just smiled and waited for the question to be put to me, while Zac Brown's song "Sick 'em on chicken" played in my head. Despite the urban Kampalan life, it is implied that comparatively few have completely lost touch with the dirt...the rich red dirt of the "Pearl of Africa."
Yes, its true that we do stereotype, and are stereotyped. Well said.
Ahhh, the love of dirt under one's fingernails. The sweet smell of a garden after a rain. The feel of soil as you hoe, plant seeds, weed, harvest. The crunch of the beans as they are snapped. The slimy feeling as one splits a pea pod to 'shell' peas.
On my other blog, Reading in My Garden, which is linked to my 'What is a Real Christian' blog; I have a four part series, detailing my gardening history. Much of which is owed to my dearly (recently departed to heaven) Dad. I grew up also growing what we ate, and eating what we grew! At another house, we too raised chickens to sell the eggs. They can be quite a handful!
Thanks for the 'garden reminders'
You are right, once you get the love of soil in your heart, it never lets go. You are also right, only those who have worked with soil can truly understand.
Ah, stereotypes...I recently talked to a first time tourist in Phoenix AZ and they actually said their concept of Phoenix was Indians living in Teepees in a desert. Ummmm...yeah. I think they watched too many 1950's Westerns. I hope you can post some pictures too.