And now for something different. Over the years, Midwife without Borders developed the tradition of providing an inspiring, midwifery related Christmas story. This year’s holiday season however, I find myself travelling rural Tanzania, where power supply and internet connections are not very reliable, and my mind is occupied by many things but story-writing. Thus, I will stick to some short Christmas notes - and an invitation to keep following my blog, as more stories on welcoming new life will come in 2020.
The landscape here is abundantly green, with a bright sun breaking through the impressive formations of clouds scattered across an otherwise blue sky. This year, the short rain season is bringing about quite a few intense showers. Over the last few weeks, we have had to deal with scenarios ranging from getting stuck in the mud and needing oxen to pull out the car, through aerial views of big flooded areas, to witnessing a heavy thunderstorm pulling down electricity lines, coconut-trees and beach pavilions on the idyllic shores of Zanzibar.
Life in Tanzania is full of apparent contradictions. One day, you find yourself soaking with heaven’s waters, while on the next there’s no water at all. One day, you find yourself on an idyllic beach, gazing into the face of a drowned man, whose death you witnessed without being able to help him; the next day, you’re a witness to the killing of a black mamba that crosses your nightly path. One day, you find yourself in a pediatric ward full of bad smell, flies, and sick baby’s; the next, you’re complaining like a baby about comparatively small problems. One day, you taste the best seafood ever; the next, you survive on a boiled egg. One day, you find yourself relaxing in a ceiling bed; the next, you spend scratching the ensuing bug bites...
This is my first Christmas in Tanzania (and in Africa as a whole), and it is something of an estranging experience. Everything that I link to the Christmas traditions, spirituality, and context I grew up with, I cannot find here, as they take other forms. That is of course logical, but still, somehow, away from home, these things seem to matter more than I would have ever expected.
And thus I set about creating a home away from home, by making a Nativity scene with the few things I could find in and around the house: an unused curtain, some volcanic rocks, two paintings I received as a gift from a couple whose midwife I was two years ago in a local hospital... I used a few paperclips to fix everything, some leaves from the trees around the house as decoration, a steel mug to hold a candle, and topped everything off with a rosary. I had brought along some wooden Nativity figures from the organization Aid to the Church in Need that completed the scene.
I wanted to bake something, but alas, there is no oven here. I put my last baking hopes in making banana pancakes for a Christmas breakfast, but the pan I had hoped to use, wasn’t delivered on time.
As I write these notes, I hear hungry dogs roaming outside, chewing the bones that were left of last night’s chicken. Today, I won’t chase them away, especially not since I noticed that one of the dogs is pregnant. This year, let it be Christmas for all creatures, but especially for those who hunger for food and struggle to survive, and those who crave money, power or position. May the vulnerability and disarming charm of this newborn Child inspire all of us to look at the world with fresh eyes and to care like a mother, to lead like a mother, to defend life like a mother, to respect the womb of every mother and not least our own mother Earth. Let the star of motherhood guide our lives while we search for the kingdom of love.
Merry Christmas to all of you!
PS. And to those cops that stopped and fined our taxi on Christmas Day over a so called stuttering tail light: let’s not hamper the light of the world, that was born today ;-).
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!