Benjamin finished the Melbourne marathon. I am very proud of him!!!!!
Ptolemy is purring, snuggled on my lap, Eowyn and Coco and Bens are cosy in bed, and I am feeling thankful for them all. Poor Freya has an awful sore all around her neck, where somebody put a rubberband. It is summer, though very chilly, but I don't mind. I had a sense of feeling connected to eternity, outside time, Jesus being such a strong rock. I had been feeling very afraid for Coco's future well-being, which happens to me sometimes. Anxiety is rather unpleasant. I think I'd much rather not experience it. Imagine that!
Yet, as a wealthy Westerner, can I EVER really walk in her shoes? I had 3 days off over the last 7 days. On one of them, my ten thousand steps involved ambling southwards with Benjamin along the Withywindle in the morning, and northwards with Bens, Eowyn, Coco, Mateja and Maia in the afternoon. On another of my days off, I wandered through the forest to Seren and Jonathan's, and then walked with them at a leisurely pace. Yesterday, I walked along lovely trails and through Princes' Park to a tranquil Taize meditation on Jesus' death and resurrection. My line in the liturgy was 'Can we enter with Jesus into his pain? Can we enter with others into their pain? Can I embrace my own pain?'
I remember my first day in Kirema, Uganda, Mrs Sewagoma dancing along the path, smiling and talking with me and laughing. It all seemed so amazing, this new place, the lush, green tropical beauty. I tried to imagine what it must be like to be her, and realised that there's a sense in which I can't. As a Western woman, I have the privilege of power, of options, of choices, of international travel, and of leisurely days off. There's not a day when Mrs Sewagoma doesn't have to walk a long way down muddy trails to get water which is filled with small fierce creatures, microorganisms which could kill the orphan children she cares for, if she doesn't carefully boil the water for long enough. Even then, many children in Kirema died from diseases which came into their little bodies in the water.
I am sat at my office at work. On the wall are pictures of my beautiful children, nieces and nephews. I am thankful for my family's privilege. I wish we could share it with Mrs Sewagoma's family, with the many folk whose water gives life and yet brings death. The clear, clean water pouring forth so easily from our taps - if only I could transport it to them. And the money we have raised together, thanks to your generosity, is enough for a village to have a well dug, and maintained. Fresh, clean water will transform people's lives. Just one village. And yet, that is amazing, really, isn't it? Water for one village! Wow! Thank you for joining with me in this endeavour.
Hello! It's the last day of my tricky little scheme! I had planned to walk this morning to church, however was running late, so biked with my lovely little family down the Withywindle. It is a rainy Sunday afternoon, the kind where snuggling in bed or on the couch or in the bath with a good book is a heavenly activity to undertake. that's what the rest of my little family are doing! The icecream truck has just been, Bens has a loaf of bread baking, & Coco is working out how to manufacture her very own crisps! I, on the other hand, am obliged to fulfill my commitment to walking ten thousand steps a day. So I am going out for a walk. In the rain. For a very long time.
Oops, I've been forgetting to blog. I haven't been forgetting to walk, although I must confess to doing so somewhat begrudgingly! There was a message today from Care, the people who are organising this endeavour, saying that we (you, my team, and me!) have raised enough money to provide a well for a village, and to teach them how to maintain it, and provide the tools. This gave me shivers. Real people in the real world are going to have water, because of our partnership!!!!
This morning I walked rather than ran. It was cold and windy, and dark when my alarm clock went off, today being the autumnal equinox here in the southern hemisphere. As I walked, I thought about Mrs Cate Sewagoma in Uganda. Her husband had been tortured to death, in her presence, during the terrifying era when Milton Obote was in leadership. She lives in the village of Kirema, caring for 5 orphans, whose parents were killed during the civil war. Her hut is very brown, and had no roof, as the rains had washed it away. I stayed there one night, on a hard piece of wood which was the most luxurious place for a guest to stay. There was a little circle of plants with a bucket of water, for me to wash. I felt very cared for. She was sweetly apologetic, explaining that the goat had eaten the soap. She walked with a little skip to her gait, and smilingly taught me how to say 'webele miriamo', thank you very much in Luganda.
I raised some funds for Mrs Sewagoma, and sent a bank cheque, and no banks would honour it. She had no income, and this international bank cheque was just an impotent piece of paper for her, money that she might have had. I felt very angry and frustrated and helpless as this story unfolded. The injustice and disempowerment runs so deeply. Helplessness, individually and collectively, is difficult to contend with.
I wish somehow some of this money we are raising now could go to Mrs Sewagoma. I know that the way international aid is structured means that it's only the lucky ones, in the communities being supported, who get access to the funding. My last week in Uganda was spent in Rakai, with a World Vision worker named Mary. It was such a relief for me to see the infrastructure of an agency at work - being a sole practitioner in Kirema had been very hope-quenching. I'd experienced helplessness when I had set of with such a lot of hope and idealism.
I think that is why I like this opportunity - a marriage of my Third World life and my Western life, usually so far removed from each other. Still, it is disquieting not to be able to practically assist Mrs Sewamgoma.
I'm really not sure what this project is officially called, so I shall rename it each day - I like naming!
This morning Coco was sick, with a sore tummy. As I made her toast with vegemite, and peppermint tea, I thought to myself "This is more like the lives of my African sisters." Coco's face looking up at me was so trusting and loving. She didn't want me to leave, and we did meerkat kisses and horse kisses and dinosaur kisses. Eowyn and Benjamin are also unwell, however, not being morning people, their farewells were somewhat sleepy!
As I ran out into the sunny, cool morning, I realised, with a little shame, that when an impoverished woman's child is sick, it often means they will soon die. I remember, conducting the antenatal clinic at Kirema in Uganda, almost every woman who came to me, pregnant, had lost at least one child. "On the first day, she cried all the time, and was hot. On the second day, she was quiet. On the third third day, she died," said a young mother, looking down as she spoke. Fever, diarrhoea, dehydration, little things easily cured in wealthy Western doctors' surgeries and chemists, taking the lives of people's darling children.
Coco had asked me to pray the circle prayer for her as I ran, 'Jesus, encircle Coco & Eowyn & Benjamin, keep sickness out and peace in.' I am feeling very sad at the moment for my dear friend Jennifer, in Seattle, whose two year old little girl Lydia has just been diagnosed with cancer, and will be having an aggressive course of treatment. 'Jesus, encircle Lydia and Jennifer and Chad and Ruthie and David. Keep healing in and harm out.' We are small and vulnerable, mothers, sisters, daughters, standing together in this world of sorrow. Running slowly uphill, a little puffed out, hoping to somehow connect with the sisterhood, despite the disparity in our wealth.
So, here I am at the office, after a long hard day at work, anticipating my walk/run home with an exhausted and somewhat crestfallen anticipation. Perhaps this is a little bit more what it is like for my sisters who are very poor, around the world. I lost a lot of blood giving birth to Eowyn, and felt weak afterwards and was given blood transfusions. There are many mothers in developing countries walking around with very low haematocrit (from losing blood giving birth and NOT getting to have a blood transfusion, and from a diet low in iron and vitamin C and other nutrients). Their energy levels would be way lower than mine after a long day at work - I have a great diet, I'm healthy, I'm fit, I'm strong. I'm going to enter into the sense of exhaustion and lethargy I have, as a means to feel connected to those for whom I am undertaking this endeavour.
Thanks for reading and coming along for the ride!!!!!!!!
Today I began a seven day challenge, to walk 10 thousand steps per day, in solidarity with the impoverished women in the world who have to walk an average of just that, every day, to get water and firewood and such. I ran out our driveway with a delightful Coco cheering and clapping, and waved to her as I bounced along.
A beautiful rainbow encircled my way, reminiscent of the rainbow picture of Venice at 'Radiance - the Neo-Impressionists' which I indulged in yesterday, by Cross or Signac or somebody...
As I ran, I thought about the women in Uganda who would walk to get water. The path was muddy, and the big oblong plastic containers of water were muddy. They balanced them on their heads, with the most amazing, agile posture, necks like swans, queenly amidst poverty and dirt. Their feet were bare, with a little line around the side of dried mud. Some had babies wrapped around their backs in large squares of cloth. The babies would peep out at me, contented at life being as it was every day. (My projection, of course!!)
I tried to balance one of these water containers on my head, having filled it with just a little water in a very muddy stream, and it swayed precariously hither and thither, slopping water and hurting my neck. I clumsily put it down. A little seven year old girl named Esther laughed at me, her brown eyes sparkling, lifted it up, put it on her head and walked primly along.