Like the time the bus I was on got in an accident. We all got off, I didn’t know which other bus to flag down (because I had gotten on at the station), and I wasn’t sure how else to get to the station. I chatted with two ladies and made sure I got where I was going and paid for me on both buses getting there.
Twice I’ve had sweet older ladies step in on my behalf on a situation on the bus. Just the other day I was sitting in the front aisle seat and it was a busy time of day, so the bus was full and some men were standing. One guy was standing with his arm on a seat for balance and his elbow was literally like an inch from my face. If we’d hit a bump or something I would have been elbowed in the eye for sure. This sweet lady nicely said something to him and he adjusted to I didn’t get clocked in the noggin. Another time some teenager boys were getting on the bus and one kid was holding some stick/toy thing and it thwacked me on the head as he was getting on. I didn’t say anything because it was an accident and he was oblivious but she made him apologize to me.
A couple of times people have offered their seats to me on the bus so that I won’t be sitting in the sun. (I think some think that us khawajas will melt!)
At the bus station there are a lot of beggars and many are kids. Frequently young girls will latch onto my arm and start begging for money and won’t let go. I will gently put my hand on their shoulder and explain that I don’t give money to kids and will give some candy, peanuts, or dates if I have some in my bag. Usually this is enough to dissuade them, but sometimes it’s not and they won’t let go of their grip on my arm. More than once a well meaning man will say something to the girls and they’ll let go. I hate doing it, I hate that I can’t do more for the kids in the moment, and I’m sure that what the person says isn’t exactly sweet. But…I dunno. I am thankful for the help. It does break my heart to have to look past many beggars. And to see little kids sitting on cardboard begging. Especially alone. Girls as young as 3 walking from person to person to try to get money. Growing up thinking that is typical of life. It just hits me sometimes and I’ve found myself blinking back tears as I walk through masses of people to my bus at the station. There is so much more to life. It’s a tragedy.
Sorry. Where was I?
The kindness of strangers. Yes.
Though life here is tough the loveliness of the people definitely offset that.
I love, love how happy people are to see each other. Always warmly greeting each other. It’s nice for someone that you see multiple times a week to see you, smile, and greet you warmly. Whenever I get to once of the centre’s, especially the younger boys, when I come in there are usually a few voices that say “Ohhh! Bess.” (Because in the local dialect they pronounce the “th” sound like “ss,” so here I am Bess). It’s still funny to me how some of the staff seem surprised and enthusiastic to see me though I see them multiple times a week. I love it!
The other night I was chatting to a lady next to me on the bus (in Arabic, of course, because my Arabic really is improving! Yes!) and when she asked where I was from I said the US, then said that I love her country. Because of possible rocky political situations, when people ask me where I’m from I usually follow my answer with, “but I love your country.” We chatted for a while longer then later she sort of shook her head and said to herself “An American that loves it here,” in a kind of amazement. That was cool for me. It’s not the first time I’ve gotten that sentiment. Many people don’t understand why an American would in the first place be here, but especially actually like it. When I was on the plane coming back from Kenya this summer I was chatting with an Ethiopian guy who travels here a lot back and forth for business and he said to me, “You’re an American. You could be anywhere. Why are you in the desert? It is not beautiful and it is so hot! Why would you choose to live in the desert??”
Though this isn’t exactly the area of Africa I always pictured myself to be, this is where the Lord opened the door. I think it’s a lot easier to cope with anything when you feel like you are where you are supposed to be. And I do. I’d be lying if I said life was easy here. It is actually a lot harder in almost every way. (Especially when burglaries and house fires are thrown into the mix!;) ) But God gives strength enough for each day and walks beside with every step.
…Even in the infrequent moments when the kindness of people is not as apparent. Like the other morning when I was running. I go just as the sun is coming up, when not many people are out. But because not many people are out it means that many of the stray dogs are out. And someeeeetimes they bark/snarl/chase/scare me. (By sometimes I mean usually once every morning). One of the first times two dogs were chasing/snarling/barking/scaring me I picked up a rock, pretended to throw it, the dogs backed off, I ran a few feet, they started again, I pretended again and so on. This continued for at least a block and two men just stood there watching this unfold without helping me. I’m sure I was a sight to behold and an entertaining story for them to share with their friends later…but they still could have helped! (PS I now always run with a stone in hand).
With that, a concluding statement to tie up this rambling of a post. Um…if it wasn’t for the kindness of the people the rest of life here would be much, much harder to cope with. And I have stuff to smile about every day. And that’s awesome.