The 2-week gap in my blogging came about because of my absence from Zambia. Going back to the USA for a brief visit was all of the following: overwhelming, wonderful, and troubling.
The overwhelming part was the faster pace, the multitude of products for sale, the garbage-free streets, all the contrasts with Zambia. I could turn on my computer and the Internet would be there--no waiting, no need to use a mobile Internet device. The roads were smooth. Stores were huge and full of stuff. I kept getting lost in Target as I hunted for items from my list of things to take back to Zambia: wind-up flashlights, good pens, basketballs, and more. Shopping for computers for MEF was a dizzying experience in Best Buy. The technician would explain various features and the distinctions between this laptop and the next one. Even with price range and most important characteristics specified (as cheap as possible while assuring durability and reliability for general word and data processing purposes), there were still many choices and decisions to make. I kept noticing that everyone was wearing shoes all the time, and few people walked anywhere in Tucson.
The wonderful part was being with my children and grandchildren and seeing friends. We had a delightful event for the Andy Nichols Fund, held jointly with the Dr. Augusto Ortiz Fund, to celebrate the continuing work on rural health, border health, mobile health outreach, and advocacy for health care for all. One of the students who received a Nichols Fund scholarship told about her project just over the border in Mexico. She is working with a group of people with disabilities. They have designed a durable custom-fit wheelchair which is stable when used on rough and rocky roads. They now manufacture these chairs for others as well as for their own use.
In addition to this event, we held a brief commemorative service and placed Andy's ashes in the columbarium at First Christian Church while I was home in Tucson. The columbarium was Andy's dream. The garden area is a peaceful place to visit, and it felt good to remember him there. It seems hardly possible that it has been ten years since his death...
The troubling part of the visit was encountering the regressive policies and practices that dominate the political scene in Arizona. So many of the decisions and actions at the state and national level are eroding the foundation of our society. Where is our sense of community? Why is there so much greed and fear? How is it that we are not outraged by the dwindling middle class and the growing gap between the super-rich and all the rest of us? We are starving the universities and transferring much of the cost of higher education onto the student. How will they manage that debt? America is becoming less a land of opportunity and more a place of struggle to provide for basic survival necessities. Should there be so much need for food stamps and community food banks in a country of such abundance?
Here in Zambia, life is also a struggle, and many people do not have even the most basic needs met on a daily basis. But life seems fairer somehow without the huge discrepancies in salaries and lifestyles. And here we sing and dance a lot. America somehow felt a lot grimmer.
I have decided to stay in Zambia until December 2011. There is meaningful work for me here. It is a time of learning, reflection, study, and service. I believe that I am meant to be here for this time. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.