When I pulled my favorite blue sunglasses out of my purse today, I noticed they looked bent. When I put them on, the frame was crooked. “What an analogy for life sometimes,” I thought, “seeing things a little blue and off-kilter.” There are simply those days when, even as someone who strives to be positive and look for the silver lining, enough negativity seeps in through struggles of friends and family and shocking world events that it’s hard to look on the bright side.
Do you find that sometimes more information is not necessarily better? (This is why I stopped watching the daily morning news before arming myself with coffee and a hot shower). Why let stories sensationalized with fear and disaster shape the beginning of a beautiful day? I can read all that later in the day once I’ve found my footing.
Especially, lately, as we connect with neighbors and colleagues, and learn more about the community around us, we are discovering a very dark side of Africa. She is the dichotomy of Beauty and the Beast. In particular, Swaziland is a beautiful country, but its citizens are not empowered. Kids have to bribe corrupt employers with their only savings to get a job. Women have little voice. There are very real accounts of car accidents from treacherous roads, deaths from malaria, abject poverty, unnecessary loss of life due to lack of training and equipment at local clinics, child victimization and horrifying witch-doctor, black magic rituals involving cannibalism in the forest. Stories so incomprehensibly awful that it sounds like savagery from the Middle Ages or something out of Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness (basis for the film “Apocalypse Now”).
Is this possibly happening, really happening in villages just kilometers from our house? In 2014? It will scare the hell out of you, and make you feel frustrated with third-world solutions; defeated that so much is broken, you don’t know where to start.
Deeply disturbing “muti” killings are frequently reported here; a kind of ritualistic religion, where body parts are harvested to gain power, wisdom, and good luck. This especially happens before elections. (If this sounds like I am making this up, there are plenty of newspaper articles to read, such as this one): http://www.iol.co.za/dailynews/news/swazi-albinos-fear-muti-killings-before-elections-1.1521290#.U1tVQcfYUwg
This is when trying to understand cultural differences is vital in order to feel sane. Priests visit schools to exorcise demons of possessed children with “many heads.” Natives with AIDS are told to bring a chicken to the village doctor, who slits the chicken’s throat and waves it in circles above their head to heal them. And they believe in it. Believe it works. Or they think sleeping with a virgin gets rid of HIV, even in the face of so much good education from NGO’s and AID organizations here. Thank goodness for the doctors, missionaries, leaders, and volunteers who are driven and determined to help. They must have to constantly keep perspective, focusing on saving lives when they can, and making a difference for the greater good of humanity where they can. I applaud them.
I wonder how they don’t throw their hands up in despair and give up, but then I see a joyful child who has nothing, waving and smiling with light and innocence that melts your heart. And the genuine peacefulness and friendliness of the Swazi people, the potential of this country, and its gorgeous, breathtaking views. At the end of the day, there is more good than evil that surrounds us, more hope than defeat. More beauty than beast.
Keep perspective out there,