Thursday, April 03, 2008

Africa Decisions

A friend of mine who spent about 4 months in Nigeria with her family told me that women over 40 should not go to Africa.

I had just survived my own 3 1/2 months in Kenya and tended to agree with her, especially if you take a family. Africa slaps you around like not too many other things in life. There's the oppressive heat, for one thing, and the physical challenges of trying to care for and feed a family in an unfamiliar, 3rd-world setting. Worst is the barrage of suffering and grief you witness: abandoned babies, young boys sleeping on the street, beggars, countless AIDS funerals, injustice, corruption, and desperate poverty. And Africa brings out things in yourself and your marriage that you never knew were there, things you don't have to face if you always stay in Harrisburg.

But here I am, going back. Only for two weeks this time, and a lot better prepared on every front. In fact, I am squirreling away so much stuff that the children have a running joke going about every cookie I bake or garment I wash, "I suppose you're putting that away for Kenya."

I am starting to have serious questions about doing this again as an over-40 woman. All the realities should be easier this time around once I'm there, but I've decided that I can't handle all the decisions and details. Thank goodness Paul is taking care of the big stuff--tickets, schedules, rides. But I'm dealing with what do we need for food during that long layover in Amsterdam, and if we go on the boat ride there, what jackets do we all need, and are they clean. Oh, and I need to buy Ben some decent polos or nice t-shirts and should I get the men's small or the boys XL, and should we bother with shots, and which ones, and where, and where are all our immunization records, and oh, I should copy all our passports--one copy here with Paul's brother Steve and one in our luggage--but oops, Steven hasn't signed his yet, gotta have him do that after school. And who is going to care for the animals and do we have enough cat food on hand and oh, I can't forget to call and cancel the newspaper. And how many outfits do we each need and do the boys have any blue jeans that aren't holey and have they both outgrown their sandals from last summer? And do I have a copy of Amy's itinerary in my folder and should I get a wireless mouse for my laptop like Matt said or just pull one off the office computer?

This is the point where the power goes out in my brain and I can't think any more to save my life. I was not like this at 30. It's kind of scary.

Meanwhile, I am also working on a place for Emily, and after many emails and calls and a fleece-laid-out-and-wet-with-dew on Em's part, she is going on an adventure of her own, first to my brother's in Oklahoma, and then to Kansas to stay with friends (or friends-of-friends). She can go to school there (where the principal was in my youth group growing up) and stay with people who used to live in Kenya and know about health issues. Many thanks to everyone involved here, and also to everyone who emailed and said, Yes, send her here! She regrets that she can't visit each of you.

Break's over; time to go make more decisions. Is homemade play-doh too juvenile a project for teenaged orphans, and where is my recipe, and how should I transport the flour, or should I buy it there, and where is that email that says how many boys are there, and what ages, and what size t-shirts should I get for the tie-dye project?

Quote of the Day:
Me: (to my children) Please have children while I'm still young enough to be a fun grandma.
Unnamed child trying to be clever: Well, it's a little late now. . .


  1. Warning to ucttbc: Too many comments like that one and it just may be too late...for have grandchildren.

    Just a little uncle-y advice.


  2. children -- that's what I meant.

  3. Who on earth was that rude and insensitive child? I hope you gave that one a good hearty spanking for that comment.

    Linda K.

  4. Kudos to you for going. And my prayers will be with you also. My 40+ female friend from Seminary went to Kenya to do a womens conference in January before all the upheaval was settled. She went, walked among the soldiers and did amazing things. Sometimes you just have to do what the guides tell you not to do and let God do the rest.

  5. So just how far around is Emily going to get while she's visiting her uncle?? I guess she's far enough removed from the Amish to not visit every shirttail relative within twenty miles. She may come watch me paint my kitchen if she needs a diversion.

  6. I suppose Emily is going to Hutch, and Pilgrim High and--such guess work--am I right? Who are the lucky friends of friends?

  7. "Over 40? I just hope you're not into hot flashes yet! Heh-heh!" I laughed wickedly. I think you ought to print out a copy of this post and then mark off each item as you take care of it!

  8. To UsedToBeFromThere--You're right. Emily will be staying with Marvin and Lois Mast briefly and then longer with Lorne and Grace Kuepfer. Miriam ("Mrs. I.")arranged it all for me.

  9. Just letting you know, Dorcas, that the brian dead part gets even worse after 50! ~ribbit98

  10. Oops! I meant BRAIN dead! (See, what did I tell you!) ~ribbit98

  11. Your children sound like ours; they assure me that teasing and insults are really their love language.

    Also......I'm an over-40 mom who lives in Haiti full-time. A couple of things I've learned (i think)--make lists when the brain IS working; do what you can, and God is faithful to complete the work. Don't waste your energy and brain cells sweating the details.

    Praying you have a safe and profitable time in Kenya.

  12. thank you!! :)