Freak Show

I wander into the bathroom each morning and am surprised at the woman I see in the mirror. This experience, this place has aged me well beyond my years and the evidence is written all over my face. My body feels frail, weak, exhausted; certainly, I’m a different version of myself than before I moved to Africa.
The stench of burning garbage hangs thick in the air most days; it’s hard to know if it is overcast each morning or if the pollution only makes it appear that way.
I’ve become mostly accustomed to the points and stares when we venture out of our apartment and into the chaos that is the city center. Grocery shopping is an adventure and going out to eat is us just begging to be on display, much like a circus freak show. It can be quite uncomfortable at times.
Mostly, though, the people here are only curious and the majority of run ins we’ve had have been very positive. At the hospital yesterday, Jecoah and I walked into a tiny room crammed with desks, scales, nurses and a Dr so that he could be weighed and measured. The Dr had originally seen him back in September just a couple months before Brad and I initially arrived in Kinshasa. The nurses seemed genuinely happy to see him and immediately began talking excitedly in Lingala amongst themselves. My translator said that they wanted to know if I was married and if I had other children. I pulled up this picture on my cell phone to show them:

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They were so kind to me; they smiled and laughed and passed my phone around and each one commented that my husband is handsome, that our daughters are beautiful. Jecoah stepped on the scale and one of the nurses recorded his weight and height. She was clearly pleased to see how much he’d grown since she last saw him. Just before we left my translator told me that they’d said, “She is a good mama.” I wanted to cry but the last thing I needed was to draw more attention so I only smiled and nodded instead.
I am a good mom. Still, I battle constantly the guilt that comes with having chosen to come to Africa and to live here, apart from my husband and my precious daughters, indefinitely. Not once since I’ve been away have I worried that they might’ve missed a meal or that they went to bed at night not knowing that they are loved. If I were home at this moment I couldn’t say the same for my son.
So, I will continue to wait, to hope, to trust. Still, my heart is weary and the ache for my family to be whole again is ever present.
Thank you to everyone who has loved on my family since I’ve been gone. That we are so beautifully supported by so many is so humbling and overwhelming. I look forward to reciprocating and I pray that I have the opportunity to do so very, very soon.

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2 thoughts on “Freak Show

  1. Thank you for the update, as troubling as it is, Shellie. Your poignant descriptions remind me of my thoughts and feelings while in Viet Nam. Third-world countries just don’t hack it when compared to our beloved America, do they?

    To look on the positive side, hard as that is, you may have just 4 months to go. That’s my prayer – 4 months or LESS!

    Love, RY

    PS What’s a “di?”

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