Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ama Comes out of her Shoes

February 15th, the Second Sunday before Lent, Elmina

Ama was born on a Saturday. In Ghana everybody has a day-name. I was born on a Saturday, so my day-name is Ama. We are twins, except that I am almost a half century older than she is. Ama is a slip of a girl.  At 7 or 8, she is the youngest of five children.   She has the inquisitive and winning smile of her father and the beauty and graciousness of her mother.

The first time I saw Ama, she was playing with her brother and sister. Standing on the wall in the shade of her back porch calling after them, the impression I had and still have of Ama is one of perpetual motion. Not fidgety or anxious, she is weightless like a feather. Unlike a feather, she has direction and purpose, not all of it clear. There is some internal spirit rather than logic that moves Ama, She moves without regard to the ground under her feet and that is why she comes out of her shoes.

There was the time she and her sister carried an impossibly heavy aluminum wash basin full of wash water by its handles from the front of the house to the back porch. Stopping every 10 yards or so to rest and giggle, they finally neared their goal. Once Ama reached the cement, her feet lifted out of her sandals without breaking the rhythm of her steps. I didn't see them come off; one second they were on, and the next they weren't. That was all. Her will and and the momentum of her load propelled her forward and the sandals were holding her back. So they stayed there atop the earth, each sandal a memory of a girl who, rather than wearing them, had passed through them on her way. When she reached the safety of the smooth cement of her porch, she didn't need them really, except to protect from stones.

Craig and I are staying with the faculty and students at here during our month in Ghana. The seminary is a haven like Ama's back porch where we are known and where we can come to know not only the students and faculty, but a culture and way of life unfamiliar to us. As Craig teaches and as we venture into the town, we learn more and more. Many times we learn by being disabused of our assumptions. Although everyone here is here to learn and teach, it is the layer underneath our common pursuit from which we learn the most. We are child-like in that we do not understand the timing and phrasing of words, the distance between people, the seriousness of small things, and irrelevance of big ones. It is those things that make us conscious of how fast we at home move and how we barely listen to one another. How we are only loosely connected to our families by Ghanaian standards and there are few ties to bind us to the place where we were born.

I hope that one day Craig and I will be seen not so much as the foreigners in the midst of them, but that the momentum of our common burden will propel us forward and we, like Ama, will simply come out of our shoes.


sharon shutler said...

Meta - this is my second attempt to post a comment which shows my technical disability. Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I was particularly moved by your last log and reminded that we fail to pay attention to the small things in relationships which in the end are the big things of life. Please keep blogging

Sharon Shutler

Marian Musings said...

You're description of Ama and her shoes is pure poetry! I think Africa agrees with you. I'm glad to see that all is well and Ghana is working great things on and in you.
Love and Peace,

mibi52 said...

Wonderful meditation, as all your posts are. Thanks so much for sharing this experience with us.

Please pass along a message to Craig - we got the scores. On a 1-4 scale, I got three 4s and four 3s. Thanks be to God. He will be pleased to know that one of the 4s was in Ethics.

Blessings and grace on the journey, and stay hydrated with clean water!