Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wed. Aug 14: 1st Day of School/Facing Poverty

Andrea: Getting everybody up and going this morning was indeed dramatic, but not in the way we'd anticipated. There is some sort of bee here which seems irresistibly attracted to light, and they can squeeze into the house through gaps in the poorly-fitting doors and windows. Since it doesn't get light until 6, Eric discovered that if you turn on the kitchen light at 5:15 it acts like a homing beacon for bees. You can wait until they fry their wings in the bare light bulb, drop to the floor, and whack them with a shoe, but we discovered it is easier to pull the kitchen curtains shut and turn on the porch light to lure them away.

While Eric was driving the kids to school I gave the house a serious sweeping. In the midst of that a woman came up to the house and called out something in Chichewa. I went out and told her in English that I don't understand Chichewa. She sat down on the ground by the front porch and untied the little boy from her back. She was trying to communicate something by acting it out but I had no idea what it was, nor what I should do. For lack of any better idea I made some tea and put jam on a couple of rolls, and sat down on the front porch floor by her. I drank my tea, smiled at the little boy and played peekaboo with him around the pole that holds up the corner of our house, and watched her shovel an astonishing quantity of sugar into her tea and dip her roll in. We laughed over our inability to communicate and she kept acting out whatever it was she was trying to get across. The best I can guess is that it was about the cloth she had tied around her waist for an outer skirt. I think she was trying to tell me she uses it for a blanket as well, though for a little while I thought she was asking if she could go to sleep in our yard! Near as I can guess she wanted me to give her another one; hers was ragged and had a big tear. I'm pretty sure she wanted me to give her something. It was easier for me that I couldn't understand her words, I suppose. That way I could choose to interpret it as nothing more than a social visit.

Knowing what to do when people ask for things is one of the hardest parts of living where there is so much poverty. A wise Honduran pastor told us when we moved to the village where we lived for almost three years, that we shouldn't give anything to anyone before we'd lived there six months or so. That would give us a chance to get to know people and hopefully start to get a better idea of who might be trying to take advantage of us, who's just going to head straight for the bar with the money, or whatever. Good advice I think, and we followed it. Not that it was ever easy to decide what to do when faced with requests for money. We didn't want to get the reputation of the house where you go for handouts, and I think sometimes when we did choose to give it made those relationships more awkward; but there was no getting around the fact that we were much wealthier than many people there, and their needs were real. Once again we find ourselves staring poverty in the face and not knowing how to respond.


  1. I am so thankful that you are blogging about these thoughts and issues. Rachel and I struggle with this too even here... can you let us know when you get the answer?

  2. Awesome to hear of your adventures and get a mental picture of what you're experiencing! Also love the Joel observations!