Come already

Daisy season will never ever get old for me ūüôā Can’t wait to be enchanted once again by these Northern beauties.

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The hymn “Fairest Lord Jesus” has been on my mind the whole day! I can’t help it, I am anxious for spring. I grew up on hymns, it doesn’t matter how many contemporary songs catch my attention, hymns will always hold a special place in my heart.

Fairest Lord Jesus,
ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish,
Thee will I honor,
thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.

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2 Fair are the meadows,
fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer
who makes the woeful heart to sing.

3 Fair is the sunshine,
fairer still the moonlight,
and all the twinkling starry host:
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer
than all the angels heaven can boast.

 

Chance Encounters.

Today I decided to take a walk after spending much of my Saturday glued to my laptop doing my assignments for the counseling course I am taking. I was antsy to finish my workload for two reasons. One, there is this show on Netflix called, Major Crimes that I thoroughly enjoy and I allow myself to watch an episode as a treat every time I finish my work and the other, the sun was out today!!! This week has been rather dreary and the impending gloomy long winter nights that are just around the corner make me want to spend every spare moment taking walks outside!

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Well, I finished my assignment and between watching Netflix or taking a walk, I chose the walk. I wasn’t really particular of where I was going, I just let my feet wonder, I found a spot by the lake and sat, soaking in the warm rays and for the hundredth time I wondered…how does an African end up somewhere the sun will soon stop shining by 3:30 in the afternoon?

A lady starts talking to me, I recognize her as one of the ladies whose baby I took pictures of when she had her boy dedicated. I am completely taken aback that she is talking to me and sharing so much, to say we are acquaintances would be stretching it! I sit and just listen, sometimes there are pockets of silence other times I distract her by drawing her attention to the antics of two dogs near us that are starring up a tree at a chipmunk that they so desperately want to catch but until they grow a pair of wings, that’s just not going to happen. We chuckle as we watch the chipmunk chew on something orange in peaceful contentment.
The small breaks of laughter help as what she is sharing is heavy. I remind myself, often people don’t want advise, they just want to be heard, so listen. She talks some more. Like a wood carver painfully crafting a piece of art, she chips away at the block of wood and slowly an image is formed. Its not beautiful, it is sad, painful and frightening to behold but it is her life. Her story. She talks for over an hour, repeating some truths over again maybe unknowingly stressing to herself how important I had to understand that particular truth. I listen some more and ask the odd question.
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Now that the artist has carved this image for me, now that I have this image in my hands, I wonder, what do I do with it. To look for too long at the tears, the brokenness, the pain and the death that polish off the image to give it its final look¬† makes me feel like a moth being drawn to a flame. We all know how that ends. So I take careful looks but don’t stare too long. As she talks, occasionally I look at the yellow leaves cheerfully brightening up the blue sky to remind myself that even in someones darkest moments, surely there is hope out there.
I cling to hope, in the last year I have come to appreciate it so much. It is my life line, my buddy and on those days my buddy is not with me, life is a horrible existence. The ladies life is currently devoid of hope. I know what that feels like in bite sizes, I pray I never feel the overwhelming tsunami of hopelessness that so many I have come to know struggle with everyday.

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This attitude that Christ calls us to have, “help carry other peoples burdens,” is no easy task, unless one gets to choose what burdens they want, which in real life rarely happens if you have set your mind to live a life like Jesus. This burden bearing reminds me to constantly go back to the teachings of Christ that always encourage me, I am not alone and even as I help shoulder someones heavy memories, I can turn to Jesus and he will do the same for me, breathing hope into my heavy laden heart and giving me the strength to go out there and be unafraid of chance encounters like todays.

Sirens

Sunset over Lake Superior

                                                                     Sunset over Lake Superior

Sometimes when rookie cops come to Pikangikum ( police come in on a two-week rotation) they play the siren as they patrol trying to make children laugh. Maybe at the beginning of my first month here I would have found that funny but by the end of it I had joined a lot of locals whose hearts quickly seize up in fear over what the siren is telling the community. I realized how deeply that sound affected me when about two weeks ago as I was teaching a class of grade 8s and the intrusive sound cut me off mid sentence, I froze in fear and my mind went completely blank, it took me a minute to gather my thoughts all the while trying to decipher in what direction the police truck was going and selfishly praying it was not going to any home that I know. Even when I leave Pikangikum for a couple of days break and I hear a siren I am filled with fear, it takes time to calm my heart, reminding myself you are not there, you are here.

The rookie cop soon learns that in Pikangikum, sirens for most mean someone is close to death or someone is already dead. Most times that type of death is suicide. The rookie learns the lesson and doesn’t repeat that game again.

Since coming here these flowers are a constant reminder to me of how fragile life in Pikangikum is.

Since coming here these flowers are a constant reminder to me of how fragile life in Pikangikum is.

Between January and May this year, Pikangikum has had 4 suicides and countless attempts.

This is my first time writing about suicide, I cannot over emphasis how extremely sensitive this issue is. Maybe next time I will have the right words to unpack a little of what goes on in my mind when our fears are confirmed and someone has gone.

Adapting, like a daisy.

A lot of my thoughts since arriving here have revolved around “acclimatizing.” If you never knew, let me tell you now, thinking can exhaust you. As I am the only African living on the Reserve here are few differences that I am encountering and no one on the Reserve can relate to.

(Please remember that when I say “African” its a general statement, I know I cannot speak on behalf of the¬†continent :D)

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Africans use a lot of hand gestures and physical touch when talking together. It can be a gentle push, interlinking of hands as we walk and talk or just a light tap on someones arm to emphasis a point. In Mozambique, we greet with a kiss on both cheeks, hand shake or occasionally a hug. For us physical touch shows you are engaged in the conversation. Here on the Reserve, that rarely ever happens. I have a constant voice in my head when I am hanging out (whether it’s with the white folk or First Nations) “don’t touch, don’t touch, they don’t do touch. DON’T TOUCH!!” The more comfortable I become¬†with new friends the more I want to revert back to my African ways.

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My stomach is picky, there is food it just won’t approve of, most of the time its the ready made or pre mix eatables. I never grew up on this kind of food and no matter how nice it taste it doesn’t take long for my stomach to revolt against whatever it is that I have eaten. I am slowly figuring out which foods my stomach doesn’t¬†care for and take them in small quantities. I cannot afford to have a picky stomach, our one and only grocery¬†store does not have much variety… in time, surely it will adapt?

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By far what has been most challenging to adapt to is understanding what poverty is in North America. Before coming here, some people I knew who had been to some Reserves in North America told me of the terrible poverty that I would encounter. When I got here, I quickly realised that my understanding of “poverty,” is through African “lenses” and I need to take those off and put on North American “lenses” to see what they mean when they say; there is poverty on the Reserves. If I were to document the life of one person here and then show it to one average Mozambiqan family, I can assure you, they would not think people are poor on this Reserve. BUT compared to how the rest of Canada lives, at least in this Reserve, there is poverty and I am slowly beginning to understand that, it just doesn’t come naturally.

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Daisies are lovely flowers, it doesn’t matter whether they are growing by a lake, beside a dusty road or in a well manicured garden these flowers thrive and no matter where you find them, there is no mistaking that what you are looking at is a daisy! I want to be like a daisy, to be able to adapt to different situations but still not lose what makes me Shula. I don’t think there is any formula on what it takes to adapt to a different culture perfectly. There are days when the idea of going out and meeting up with people is too much, sometimes I give in and just stay at home, after all when I am by myself I don’t¬†have to explain why I act or speak differently from everyone else. I know I have made mistakes and will make more, my only hope is that ¬†in all this adapting, I never, ever lose¬†the key ingredients of what makes me, me!

 

I can’t help myself

Everyday I find even more small inconspicuous flowers to “ooh and aah” over. I can’t help myself, I just had to share these little beauties with you.

Sometimes one can get so absorbed with how difficult and unfair life is that we completely miss the small acts of goodness and mercy that follow us were ever we go. whose specific duty is to encourage us through the valley, help us stand a little taller on the mountain tops and give us the courage to live lives that constantly give hope to those around us. Thats why I have this blog, I don’t profess to know everything and there are days I just dont understand God but the way I see it, it would be a crying shame if I didn’t do my part to share ¬†Christ love that I have to those around me. Like switching on a lamp and then covering it with a blanket … pointless.
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Small pleasures.

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I very much enjoy taking pictures of flowers, I easily loose track of time or that I am hungry, today it¬†was a pounding headache that stopped¬†me from taking more shots ūüôā It was a “please feed me NOW,¬†I am hungry.” kinda headache¬†LOL!

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Part of adjusting to a new environment is practicing the art of observing without talking too much (talking too much means one is not listening enough, no one likes a know it all) I find that taking shots of flowers is the perfect way to practice quietly observing one situation with as many different perspectives as possible, that’s why I can take 10 mins or more on just one flower trying to get that one shot that makes me happy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeing in a new environment and culture can¬†be mentally exhausting but I know in time I will assimilate ūüôā

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I am thankful for Spring, anytime I need to practice the art of silence I just have to step outside and observe nature around me, looking for the little things that not many people will notice. Today I was practicing taking shots of small wild white flowers and editing them. I am not completely happy with the shots but in time I will get the hang of it.

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