Saturday, May 2, 2015

Africa Has Candy

Have you ever gone on a missions trip? Have you made your packing list weeks in advance and made sure to leave room for things like candy to hand out to children you pass on the street or in villages? I would argue that almost all of us who have traveled to the developing world have done just that. I know I have.

But I'll let you in on a little secret. Africa has candy. A lot of it. In fact, if you go into a small boutique here in Mango, you can find that at least one-third of what they are selling is some type of candy. Ginger candy, chewing gum, mints, fruit-flavored hard candy, cookies....the list goes on! The funny part is that most of the children prefer this candy to the things we bring over from the US. Our American candy is often too sweet, or have flavors or textures they are familiar with at all (and don't want to be for that matter!)

Unfortunately this phenomenon has led even the smallest village children to immediately start demanding candy from any Westerner that happens to walk by.  So why do they do this if they already have access to all the candy they would ever want or need? Why are they asking us for candy, when they may not even like it as much as the candy sold for 1 cent down the street? I believe it's because when we give them something, even something they already have, they assume it's better. It must be better since it's from America, right? They start to long for something they never thought they were missing, and weren't missing in fact.

We have a very sweet American radiology tech named Michaelle here at HOH. I love her for so many reasons, but what I think is the most amazing is that she hands out candy to kids after their Xrays. And while this seems to undermine my previous 3 paragraphs, it actually doesn't, because she hands out small pieces of candy that she buys from a local store here in Mango. The candy is familiar and accessible, because of course, who doesn't want a piece of candy after they stayed real still for their X-ray?!

All this is to say that Togo, and many parts of Africa, have their own candy. Meaning, they aren't missing something just because they don't have exactly what we have. If I were to ever write a book at the end of my experiences overseas, I would title it, "Africa has candy", and write about all the incredible resources, physical and non-physical, that these countries already possess.  Kids are kids, no matter where they are in the world. They have their own ideals of what is fun, silly, and sweet! Of course, this idea is not just about candy, but I think you get the idea. An idea that came to me while I was sitting on my porch one day and was having a wonderful time with the children that live at my house. As they were trying to take some" selfies" I just kept thinking about how children in the US would be acting the same way--making faces, laughing, comparing photos with one another. We laughed until our bellies hurt. While there are things in life they are in need of, I don't ever want them to think that they are missing out on something.

There is MUCH to say about the hospital and things going on, but I will save that for a post next week. I thought I'd give you a glimpse into my life away from the hospital and at my home where I share a living space with  6-12 Fulani adult woman and children and any given time. (99% of them are NOT French speaking, but only speak Fulfulde, which I am trying my best to learn rapidly!) They have become my Togo family. I'm very thankful that the Lord has allowed me to share life with this extended family, and that despite the peaks and valleys of emotion at the hospital, there is always joy waiting for me at home.


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