Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Life in Africa is so fragile.

Yet as soon as I write that, I think of the hardy life that I know here; people who survive in the most difficult of circumstances. Resilient, stubborn, odds-defying survival is normal.

Like Tait's friend, who shall remain unnamed, who lives around the corner from me in a tiny building that is a bar of sorts. Her mom sells beer to make a living and she lives behind a thin partition, a veil that may or may not protect her from the night. And yet, every morning she dresses smartly and walks proudly to the school where she is training to be a secretary.

On the one hand, then, life is not easily crushed here. Like indigenous plants, it finds a way to beat back against the ravages that come against it. When over-grazing strips the earth, the tangled weeds eventually come up and make the land unusable until the grasses have a chance to return. It may take 50 years, but it will happen, (if we don't interfere, that is.)

But conditions are harsh. Not for me, particularly. As I have said before, we don't live at a hand to mouth level and so we are not held by the whims of condition. Poor harvests may increase my grocery bill, but I will still put food on the table for my family.

Conditions are harsh for my African friends because life is not padded in any way.

Last week a man I know lost his sister; a family lost their 37 year old mom. She was working outside their home, where she has been working every day. She was going about the business of splitting rocks into smaller rocks, to be sold for use in construction. The family land is on the edge of a gorge; a dramatic gorge that provides good rocks for splitting.

But she slipped. And she died. And that was the end of that.

I suppose that her work had her in danger every day. But she likely never thought about it. What where her choices? This was an available job that she could do. This norm of people working jobs that put them in danger is accepted. Providing for your family may just simply require that of you. So she broke rocks with a hammer on the edge of a cliff every day.

I know that accidents happen all over the world. But when I consider that this will be the third funeral that many in that community will attend within the span of a month, I do pause. A road accident... an infant succumbing to disease... a fall... Even after all these years here, I remain disquieted by the fragile nature of the hardy life I see around me.


Carla said...

Maybe it's because of such fragility that the people around you strive to live... I love hearing about life in Africa and I'll be thinking of you guys this week xc

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. It puts so much into perspective.