Monday, March 1, 2010

Sunday, 28 February 2010 Musings from church…

Well, I was hoping to post some pictures of “my” church, but am awaiting permission. Here are some shots of homes in my village.

I love the one with the heart-shaped landscape. When the home-owner, loosely speaking, initially constructed this landscaping, the grass was short, there were no weeds, and the heart shape really stood out against the weed-free red dirt. You can still see the heart-shaped lawn here, but it isn’t as dramatic as it was. (I waited to long to photograph.)

Others are of “typical” structures you can see in the less-affluent sections of my village. Just like at home, there are degrees of wealth here. Also, just like home, the haves seem to have plenty while the have-nots nothing. There never seems to be a middle ground when it comes to wealth.

And the blue box is of a ubiquitous “phone store,” which apparently populated much of South Africa during their cell phone boom. These containers still remain, colorful, albeit quiet. Every once in awhile you see one open and can’t imagine how hot they must be inside, conducting their phone calls.

Oh, so back to church.

Since my church service is conducted in Setswana, I have no idea what is being said, so I basically have two hours to contemplate. Actually, since the service is a Catholic service, I have somewhat an idea of what is being said so I kind of know what’s going on. And it’s been pointed out to me that it would be very easy for me to find EXACTLY what is being said if I truly wanted to.

I kind of like to sit and contemplate among people who are praying. And the music is lovely. I love how ALL the people in the congregation sing, with full, vibrant voices. I always smile to myself thinking of one of the priests in a former church I attended admonishing the congregation for NOT SINGING.

But Setswana people sing boldly, loudly, and magnificently. Even and perhaps especially, the men, with their rich baritones run up and down the length of my spine. It’s beautiful.

This week I noticed that the Stations of the Cross are out of order. Their stations of the cross are small framed pictures of the scenes of the crucifixion, and they are out of order. For example, the scene of the dead Christ lying in Mary’s lap comes before the actual crucifixion. And he has risen before he is lain (laid?) in the tomb. I’m not sure if I should mention this or not.

I seem to have these on-going issues with the kneelers in the church. I’ve commented before about how they are plain 2x4s, unpadded, and sharp. Not only are they uncomfortable to kneel on (not that kneeling is supposed to be comfortable), but almost every single Sunday, a small toddler falls and cracks their face on the sharp kneelers. And since the toddler has fallen from the bench, the impact is pretty dramatic.
The child emits a high-pitched scream, a pitch never achieved by any other creature on the planet earth, except by a child who hasn’t yet learned how to communicate. You know the child is in intense pain because once they’ve exhausted the scream, they spend a full 30 seconds inhaling for the next of scream. They put every bit of their focus into these screams and exhales. It is heartbreaking to hear.

An aside: when my first-born son was only learning how to toddle, we were both in my kitchen and I was busy at the stove. My son was gleefully pulling himself up on my solid-oak, lathe-turned chairs when I heard this same alarming scream. Apparently, and I wouldn’t know this until days later, he lost his grip on the chair, while standing, then swung around in full momentum and cracked his eye socked on a detailed (grooved) leg of the chair. I tried to comfort him the best that I could without knowing what really happened, but as you can imagine, he was inconsolable. I wish I had known at least to put ice on it.

A day later his eye was as black as a prize-fighters and that black eye earned me some nasty looks from other shoppers in the grocery store!

So, back to the unpadded kneelers of the church. So, a child is injured weekly. Also, there is an absence of the polite gesture of raising the kneeler so that people can move freely in and out of the pews to take communion or offer gifts. What this means is that you risk a broken leg trying to negotiate your way to the alter.

I notice this lack of a polite gesture on the public taxis too. Rather than entering a taxi and moving to the back of the bus, the first seat is always taken. In this way, the last person to enter the taxi is the person that weighs 300 pounds and is carrying 7 large grocery bags and has to negotiate over all the people who have taken the first seats.

So, if we have a Sunday without children wailing and no broken bones, we are lucky indeed.

What else I usually notice is, when I look down at my lap, I think, “whose old lady hands are lying (laying?) in my lap?”

That’s because I’m having my mid-life crisis, I think.

I’ve been asked, “How do you get along with your other volunteers?” And I love each and every one of them dearly, but for the first time in my life, I’m often thinking, “I’m old enough to be your mother.”

So yes, I notice my hands are swollen, fat, and covered with age spots. Nice. And I notice too, that my pale skin is quite unlovely compared to the lovely tones of brown all about me. The Tswana people have the loveliest skin on the planet!

About 20 years ago, I learned to live “for one day only.” This was remarkable for me for many reasons, but I loved the fact that I no longer needed to make “New Year’s Resolutions.” What’s the point of trying to have goals for a whole year when you can do it a day at a time?

2010 was the year for me to “revisit” New Year’s resolutions. And although I don’t wish to call them this, I did make two, or set two goals to strive for: one was to quite complaining (am not doing well with this one) and two, to take Sunday’s “off.”

I struggle with my life flying by and I think it’s because I stay busy every single second of every single day. So, I’m trying to take Sundays off. But I’m not doing well with this one either, because I’m finding myself “working” a lot on Sunday, trying to get my classes up and running.

So this Sunday, I was relatively successful in having a Sunday “off.” I went to church, spent the afternoon doing things with my hands: laundry, sewing, and gardening. (Now you might count these as ways to stay busy, and perhaps they are. What I’m mostly trying to avoid on Sunday is “thinking” working: reading, school work, language work, etc., anything that requires me to “think” my day away.)

And Sunday was nice.

Here’s how spoiled I am as an American: If I lose a button or a seam rips, it’s off the store for a new purchase. When my pillowcases/lawn bags began ripping at the seams, I thought: “I need to buy new pillowcases.” It took me several days to figure out that I could SEW them instead. So, I spent an hour mending and replacing buttons. It was nice.

I played in the garden, but didn’t push myself. It was hot and I didn’t feel great, so I found a picnic table and laid down on it under a row of trees. I lay (laid?) there more than an hour watching the birds. It was wonderful.

So, that’s me on Sunday.

Soon, Karen


  1. It's funny because we also go to the Catholic church in our village and their stations of the cross are also out of order. The things you notice when you can't understand what people are saying (but I like it in general because I do have an idea of what's going on since I know the order of the mass and it's definitely not as long as many of the other churches).

  2. Well, I'm reluctant to say so, because it will horrify my mother, but one of the things I like BEST about worshipping with Catholics is that their services leave me plenty of time to enjoy my Sunday! :-)