Sunday, February 7, 2010

"Melting away" (Kristen F. Konkol)

Before your ears even hear it, your nose is attune to what has taken hold. The wind picks up and the sky darkens as the massive and swollen storm clouds invade the clear blue skies. With the first heavy drops the earth is moistened and the fragrant smell of grass, soil and wet foliage lifts the eyes to the sky. Soon thereafter the downpour of bulging raindrops soaks everything in a matter of seconds while the bolts of lightning widen the eyes and the boisterous thunder claps and rumbles.

As we are in the midst of the hot and humid summer months, the scorching days bring with it the nemesis of equally impressive thunderstorms. A few nights ago as the “smell” of rain came wafting through the veranda door, another sound accompanied it…that of a faint “ping”. My hunch came true and sizeable hail bounced off the ground. As I walked out to investigate a smile came over my face (thankful the car was in the garage!) as I bent down and picked up a 1 in. diameter- sized piece of hail. But my smile was short-lived and quickly turned to concern. I have always loved to listen to and observe a big storm. Something about them has always captivated me. But lately I have begun to look at how this wonderful and positive thing for the earth, the farmers and those of us who are fascinated by storms can also be a life-altering negative event for others.

Although some of us are blessed with the opportunity to take in a storm in the comfort and safety of our homes, others across the country and around the world are not as fortunate. In many areas throughout SA people are forced to make their homes in a variety of makeshift ways. One may scavenge around for pieces of scrap metal, old signs, wood or any variety of plastic sheeting to build and “waterproof” the roof over their head to provide shelter. Many of these roofs of metal sheeting are covered with large rocks, old tires and other weighted objects to put pressure and secure it in place.

In addition to this style of home, others make a frame and double-rowed lattice of sticks approx. 6-8 inches in width for the walls which are then filled with a soil/hay/manure/rock mixture. This earthy base is then topped in the same fashion as the aforementioned roofs if a squared off home or a cone-shaped thatched/metal roof if build in a circular shape.

…my smile becomes concern. Just as the strong walls and terra-cotta tiled roofing of our home kept us sheltered to enjoy the storm, others lives literally melted and blew away. The heavy rains rushed down the hills and valleys melting away and collapsing the walls of many homes while the high winds and pressure of the rainstorm blew and scattered the roofs and walls of other homes to shambles. One “fascinating” and “captivating” storm for me spelled a dismantling of the livelihood for others. I am, as often happens, humbled while my circle of understanding expands for those Brian and I walk alongside here in our wide variety of experiences in SA.

We were also in the midst of this “blessing for one, challenge for another” tension while hiking up Thaba Bisou in a rural part of Lesotho in December. During the ascent we were joined by a local teen, Ditdu, who wanted to walk with us and give us some facts about the area of King Mshoeshoe. As we continued talking I began asking about his family, school, etc. All too familiarly, unfortunately, he proceeded to tell me how his parents had succumb to HIV/AIDS and he was raising his younger sister alone. Although the holiday season was upon us, he was not looking forward to it. He would keep his sister at home as she didn’t have a new outfit to wear to the festivities and they could not afford to bring any food to offer the homes they would visit. He said that the holiday was not a joyous time for them. Once again I begin to look at things differently. Just as my allure too a thunderstorm was given a new perspective, my view of the joy/challenge tension of the holiday season was altered in walking alongside Didtu that bright sunny morning in December.

These tensions we live in each and everyday are a constant reminder that we must be open to change and willing to learn and observe in the context of our global companions. As we walk side by side with the many warm and welcoming people of South Africa and beyond, perhaps the best gift which can be given is that of broadening one’s perspective and world view. For we are simply the mouse taking small steps around the elephant giving us additional pieces to the bigger picture!

With peace and love,