joy, pain, and the things that redeem
A little bit by my husband Seth.
I did the drive by shooting of the man with the Mozambican mango and he did not feel the clip. He was forever frozen in the dust, having already pulled the fraying fiber from the half-eaten fruit flesh. When the picture was developed, the scene was blurred by too slow of a shutter speed. You could not make heads nor tails of his face, save to say it was a face, but you knew more than anything that he needed redemption.
There were these men in their middle ages, teenagers really. They worked in the meat section of the market, a place where more flies gathered than people. The cow head was sitting on the table, tongue out. I pointed to it with my camera and one of the boys reached down and moved its lips up and down as if puppeteering; the cow asked where the rest of its body went. The tongue slid from one side to the other when the lips were raised. The boys laughed and put e coli clad hands on my shoulder, shaking gently as a sign of solidarity. We all laughed. Third world jokes can be visceral.
There was this little girl in the video that Mike sent. She was in a crib. She was two and she only moved her eyes, ping-ponging between the lens and some off-camera western wife who was wondering whether it was okay to reach out. There were too many cribs and not enough workers, I think. I cannot be sure because I have never seen that orphanage. It was only a video and people can do so much with trick photography. Photography can be so tricky.
The tailor and I traded. He gave me two ears of corn. I gave him a “thank you” in English. He laughed, in Portuguese I think.
The shepherd died two weeks after I returned home. He was caught in the electrical crossfire between a storm cloud and the ground. He went up thankfully, like the Southern Cross.
Kristin has this picture. The little girls, the dark black ones with the skin that reflects true sun, were braiding her hair. Their fingers were gentle and I expect that Kristin never wanted to lose those braids. But she did, because everything that salves homesickness is so temporary.
The matriarch, the old one with the gap in her two front teeth, showed me a smile that seemed to span from Lichinga to Nampula. She made me bean greens and told me that they would certainly be better than Amber’s. She was right. Amber only makes collard greens and she generally makes sure to rinse all of the sand from them. Even if the matriarch gave me a parasite, a small one albeit, she did it in love. Those are the moments when you’re happy that everything is temporary.
People tell us that we should stop talking about Africa so much, that there are more important, or at least less confrontational things. We have these responses, the silent ones that are both unhealthy and cynical. But we swallow them hard and keep praying. We’ve all spent such little time there, Mike, Kristen, and I. I can’t speak for them, nor can I speak for the Mozambican, the Kenyan, or the Ethiopian—I wouldn’t want to. But what I can share is this:
there are only a few things worth talking about and the things that redeem you are the greatest among them.