Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NGolala Village

It seemed fake – the first time we walked into the village of NGolala [pronounced Guala]. Because it was really that – a village in the middle of Sierra Leone, Africa. Just like photos I’ve seen and movies I’ve watched, here it was right before our eyes and all around us. Across a road, down a narrow dirt pathway and through the jungle is how you get to NGolala Village from the COTN property. With Sarah as our guide, we made our way down the stone staircase to the stream that passes at the entrance to NGolala. Nestled in the middle of bush and trees and thick jungle are more than 50 homes made of mud, sticks and thatch roofs. They are scattered here and there – some close to one another, others at a distance. Little dirt pathways lead to this section of houses and that section. We are greeted by children carrying water from the stream up to their homes for cooking, washing or drinking. They smile at us and greet “Aunty Sarah,” water dripping down their faces and arms – their little bodies full of muscle. We stop at each home to greet each family, cooking women or a grandmother sitting on the porch, lest we leave anyone out. “Buah” [hello], they say to us and “Buah, bicea,” we answer back, hoping we’re pronouncing the words correctly. We shake hands; we smile; we laugh together when neither one of us can speak to the other very well. And yet, we recognize that both sides want to know more about the other.

Here, life seems so basic – its about working to get enough food for your family to eat that day, cooking it and keeping the house running by washing clothes, cleaning the home and raising the children. Sleep comes when its dark, on the reed mat spread out on the dirt floor and under the thatch roof. The early sun awakens everyone for another day. There are distractions in life here, sure, but they are very different than our Western distractions of TV, media, social commitments and everything else that flashes before our eyes each moment at home. Here, life is just a lot more basic – simple. The reliance on God also seems a lot more evident here because the people must trust in Him to literally survive – for their next meal, a job, protection. We in the U.S., we can pretty easily rely on ourselves for all the essentials in life. This, at times, might also make it easier for us to just push God out of the picture.

We continue through the village – trying to take it all in. To grasp the different way of life right before us. When we shake hands with people, there is a genuine look in their eyes that we don’t always see at home – a warmness in their voice that sparks our curiosities – Why do they care so much that we’re here? Why are they so happy to greet us? Why so welcoming to strangers of another color?

We left that day trying to make sense of the jungle village that we saw and the many hard-working people we’d met. Life here is so very different.

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