Sunday, June 10, 2012

by Jen Huizen

A word exchanged
two hands embrace
eye to eye
smile to smile.

There are no real need for words
in a country so ripe with this
ancient form of basic
human decency.

Yet still they are spoken
still they stand
unchanged by time
as they have been in other worlds.

I begin to wonder
how I have forgotten
the power which lies
in simple words
of acknowledgment.

These basic
day to day promises
which have been
misplaced in my life.

Words that come
out of my mouth
at the right time and place
so that no one will take offence.

When you must relearn words
in another language
you are brought to
this kind of thinking.

When did I begin to lose
the true intent of such words,
burry them deep in filing cabinets,
push them to the back of my mind,

to make more room
for things
I am told
are more important.

Tucked behind
grocery lists
electrical bills
Christmas wish lists
and tax returns,

these words have been given
the silent treatment.

Spoken but not remembered

said but not understood.

Without my
electronic documents
without my
pieces of paper to remind me of things
purchased and returned,

I am forced to look out the window.

On the dirt road is a woman
hidden behind an impossible
bundle of sticks, heading uphill.

Our vehicle passes
so close to her body
that I fear we will hit her
but she remains unfazed.

She has no vehicle
no electricity to pay for
no money to fulfill
christmas wish lists,

no income to claim.

Her life demands
hard work
and I am sure here aches
are many

but her baggage seems
somehow more manageable.

Maybe I will consider opening
my box of indisposable files
and redetermine
what is truly necessary.

I will bury the rest in my garden
allow the earth to break it down
into something more usable
more constructive.

I will sit on my porch
and wait for spring.

Maybe then I will find
some room in my garden
for the word


**Author's Note:
I was compelled to write this poem after traveling through the country and visiting some of the projects CIDA and Farmers Helping Farmers have helped fund. Everywhere we went (these are only a sample of the hundred or so photos I have) be it big or small, on behalf of a whole community or one individual, there were signs up thanking Canada, CIDA, Farmers Helping Farmers, and in some instances such as one of the Meru region schools, a very small specific area, like Souris, PEI. I think people here would find it difficult to believe that PEI is one of Canada's poorest provinces. It is truly amazing to see the continued commitment and benefit of these relationships and I am in awe of what these friendships have fostered.
Every day when I am on farms I hear the word asante as often as you'd expect to hear the word "like" in Canada. It is just one of those words which somehow makes its way into virtually every sentence. I find myself saying it more than I ever would at home, and found myself wondering why it has somewhat fallen out of favour in North America. Is it that we are less grateful? Expect more inherently so feel we have less to give specific thanks for? Or is it just overlooked and slowly over time has been phased out. While I cannot speak for everyone, for myself I think it has just become a word in my mind that is attached inherently to specific sentences, or is an automatic responses when someone for example, opens a door for me. I have come to enjoy using it so much more frequently here, as it is not simply an automatic response, as I had kind of felt the first week we were here because it was used to often, but a true, genuine, thought out expression of gratitude and happiness. After returning from our tour of the projects, as our taxi was bustling down a very narrow dirt road one morning, we came across a woman carrying a truly epic bundle of sticks. They were tied to her back and slung over her forehead with a piece of fabric and as our car rushed past here, we displaced her from the road, forcing her into the ditch. I turned back to see what her response would be to this, in my opinion, rather rude interaction. She did turn at look at the vehicle, but only for a moment, before lifting her hand, waving briefly and continuing up the hill. This is the point when I realized all of these words of gratitude I have been hearing are nothing but the honest truth. People do not say it on autopilot, or without truly and fully meaning it. For all of these reasons, I was almost forced into writing this poem, so I in my own small way, could return the gratitude. Thank you to all of those who made this trip possible for me and hopefully before my time is up here I will have a new way of looking at some of the things we take for granted in Canada, like the word, thank-you.


1 comment:

Farmers Helping Farmers said...

Beautiful poem Jen. You have captured so much of the Kenyan spirit with your words!!