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The Purpose Driven Life

Recent Posts
(06) Sadly Typical
(23) Running out of things to write
(26) I have no idea




My Journal

If you keep up with my journal entries on a regular basis, keep checking back here for the most recent entries. There are two types of journal entries, the daily grind and the purpose driven life.

Journal: the daily grind
The daily grind is the normal journal entry, detailing what I'm up to as well as my thoughts on various issues. If you haven't kept up on the postings, check out the monthly archives, or start reading from the beginning.

On to August (The Beginning)...

Journal: The purpose driven life
I am currently going through a study book called “The purpose driven life” by Rick Warren. It is a 40 day study guide that is a number one seller on the New York Times best seller list. I am finding it quite good. Every now and then I find that an entry is particularly relevant to my situation in Togo, and I gain insights that I would not have had I been in Canada. I would like to share those different perspectives that I get from this side of the world.

On to the Purpose driven Life...

Friday Februaru 6 2004
Sadly Typical

The picture below depicts most of the children in a family. Their father, Jean, has 12 kids between two wives, 8 with his current wife.

Children who lost their father to AIDS
Jean's children

Jean has AIDS.

He found out when Kathleen and I first arrived. Kathleen has been counselling him about what AIDS is, how to prevent getting sick, emotional support etc. For the past four months. Jean seemed like a real success story, because after talking with Kathleen, he really started to realize that he was in trouble, and wanted to warn everybody about AIDS and how to prevent it. This is a really good thing, because most Africans will just deny the presence of AIDS. He went right home and taught and warned his kids about everything.

Jean died last week. The photo above was taken at his burial.

Jean's wife, Affi, is left to look after the 8 children.

Affi is sick, probably with AIDS, and is pregnant.

We went to Jean's burial ceremony last weekend. It is probably the 5th or 6th burial that I have been to since I got here, but is the first burial of somebody I had actually met.

I didn't know Jean very well. I'm pretty "hands off" that kind of stuff since I the computer guy, so I will leave the rest of the explanation of this experience to Kathleen. You can read about it in her journal entries.

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Monday Feb 23 2004
Running out of things to write...
Well, I am getting strangely accustomed to Africa. Running over chickens and taking public transit with twice as many people in the vehicle as there are seats doesn't seem so strange anymore.

As a result, I'm running out of things to write about! I'm sure that there is lots more interesting stuff, but I'm used to it now so those interesting things aren't really occurring to me anymore. Just think, what would you write about if you were asked to write something interesting about Canada? You'd probably stumble for a little while, because it's just so... normal.

Well, seeing people go pee just about anywhere just about anytime is normal too ;)

So, if you have any questions about Togo Africa, things that you want me to write about, send me an email and let me know, and I'll try to put a little something together.

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Thursday Feb 26 2004
I have no idea

I have been trying to figure out how to respond to people when I get back to Canada when asked the question "So how was Africa?"

Now, what kind of a question is that? Those four words are so incredibly loaded. There is so much "it was good" and so much "it was bad" and so much "it was a growing experience" and everything in between.

African woman with eggs on her head
No more ladies trying to sell me eggs off of their head through a taxi window...

However, when asked "How was Africa" I think that I have decided to respond with "I have no idea".

THAT captures Togo in four little words.

You see, nothing is as it seems here. This phenomenon is really quite hard to describe, but I think that I can say with confidence that a tourist from Togo would leave with an entirely different perspective than my own, as they would only have peeled off the first layer of what exists here. I think that I have peeled off a few layers and have discarded the first layer as mostly trivial. And being this far in, I can see that there are many more layers that I have not yet discovered. I realize this more and more every day. You might say that I am in "layer unpeeling mode".

When I get back to Canada, I expect that I will still be in "layer unpeeling mode", consciously unravelling things about Canada that I never saw before, but where always there. I am curious to see what I will discover.

Mud Huts in Kara Togo
No more mud huts peppering the mountainside...

I'm not scared of the re-entry "culture shock" that I might go through. In fact, I think that I will slide back into the Canadian groove quite easily (except it will take me a little while to get used to food prices). I proved this to myself when I was in Accra Ghana, in an area that was actually developed and modern. I felt suddenly at ease, like I was myself again. It's funny what one's surrounding does to a person.

In of the biggest "culture shock" issues that I had coming into Togo was the complete lack of familiar support structures. Naturally I tend to be a pretty "independent" in my approach to life, meaning that I carry my own burdens, keep my struggles to myself and resist assistance. However, over the years I have realized that this is a weakness of mine and that we exist with people to be with each other, holding one another up. "Lean on me" so to speak. And so, I have been making an effort "lean" over the past several years, and getting used to it. Here that was all gone. If Kathleen hadn't of been here and if my host family hadn't been so incredibly understanding people I think that I would have just flipped out. It's amazing how therapeutic a "vent session" can be with an ear who feels the same things, when it feels like you I am in it all alone!

African boy in Kpalime Togo
No more gangs of children insisting that I take their photograph as soon as I whip out my camera to take a picture of anything...

So, back in Canada I will be back with my "familiar" support structures; family, close friends, my church family, and Future Shop. Some missionaries that I have talked to have said that they have trouble because when they get back, "people have moved on with their lives, and done so without you."

Well, to that I can say that "The Internet is a wonderful thing". I have managed to still feel like I am part of peoples lives back in Canada from all the way over here, and I can't wait to hearing about all of the gaps since I left. Generally, while many of you were good at sending me encouraging emails and telling me how much you enjoyed my website, most of you were very poor at telling me what was going on back at home! I will assume that you mistakenly think that Canadian life is all too mundane.

Strangely enough, allot of the things that I thought I would be just DESPERATE for at this point (See the first half of "What I miss about home" poem), don't seem like it will be such a big deal anymore. I have now gotten used to "the little things" of my African home (See the second half of "What I miss about home" poem). I'll miss the ridiculous amount of greetings that go on; I'll miss the unique African hand shake (kind of a shake with a snap, or many snaps depending on how well you know the person), the people who I'm closest with and all sorts of "little things".

I'll REALLY miss foufou. :p

Tim Berezny eating red red
No more plantane bananas, foufou, pate and all their crazy tasty sauces...

I expect to be surprised at what I have forgotten to be normal. To bite in to something like a chicken and think "THAT'S how it's supposed to taste", or to bite into a Banana or a pineapple and be appalled at what we accept as fresh fruit in Canada (Some of the pineapples I eat are grown literally across the street).

Playing soccer in the shadow of a slave castle (Ghana)
Many fewer reminders of the realities of life in most of the world and of history's mistakes..

ABOVE : Teenagers playing soccer on the beach in the shadow of the cape coast slave castle.

I am excited to be going back to Canada. A part of me says “Ok, I get the point; I've learned my lesson, time to go home.” But if I forget those lessons when I go back I will have gained nothing. I would be like a man who looks at himself in the mirror and then forgets what he looks like when he walks away (I read that in James last night). I'm pretty sure my perspective has been permanently altered. Here's hoping I can put that perspective to use.
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