Sunday, August 8, 2010

It is good for us to be here…

07 August 2010, 14:07

So I feel like this entry will be a little bit more serious…or at least part of it, out of necessity and not out of some sort of need to "balance out" my experiences here. Granted, I reserve the right to be a little bit less serious toward the end, and that may, in fact, be out of a need to balance out the entry…so there.

I left the BBCCOE just after posting my last entry in a bit of a rush. I had planned on leaving, running over the Christ the King Cathedral for Friday daily Mass (Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord…whoop!), then heading to the store to buy a SIM card for our newly acquired house cell phone, and then being back at the house by 6 so that my roommate and I could get out of the house and get some dinner and see Inception at the local cinema. That was the plan…instead, I found myself in an experience that I would not have anticipated before coming here.

As I entered the Cathedral, which by the way we in America would mistake for just a normal parish Church because of it's relative simplicity, I noticed right away that something was different. The Church was much more full, and the majority of the people there were wearing black. In retrospect, I should have put two and two together, but of course I didn't. Instead, Vincent the Electrical Engineer said something to me about this being a special Mass that would be conducted in Setswana, the local language. "Okay, that's fine," I said and smiled. I proceeded to start reading the Office of Readings for the day, which, by the way, were amazing and fruitful (I encourage looking them up and giving them a slow reading). I was truly pleased with the readings, speaking so eloquently and truthfully about Christ's Transfiguration and how it took place in part to inspire the Apostles and encourage them even when they would later fear their Lord was gone forever. It spoke, if I remember correctly, about the glimpse into the glory of Christ and His promise of Eternal Life in Him for those who are faithful. And, the readings mentioned spoke of the awe of the Apostles and Peter's words "Lord, it is good for us to be here." Indeed, they said, it is good for us to be in the presence of God, to climb the Mountain in prayer and worship to be with Him and to glimpse His glory, to rise high above what our bodies sense and see the world as God's world, and to appreciate being there to witness it.

I took this all in as the Mass was about to start, and kept trying to remind myself of the notion "It is good for us to be here," as everything that was to take place was unfolding. As a group of local people proceeded in dressed in black clothing and golden robes, they sang beautifully solemn songs in their own language. It was clear that they took pride in their singing, because it was so perfectly arranged and truly sounded as if it came from heaven. Then I noticed behind them about six or eight men carrying a casket. I realized of course then what was going on, why everything was so different, and lastly that I had been blessed to stumble upon this sacred event.

As songs were sung before the Mass began, I started to realize how appropriate it was for this to take place on the day we celebrate the Transfiguration of Christ. As the pall bearers proceeded toward the front of the Church where Christ in His True Presence resided in the tabernacle, I envisioned it as a trip up Mount Tabor, with the deceased essentially walking into the Presence and Glory of God. The choir, with their angelic harmonies, contributed to this feeling of approaching this Glory, and I thought "How wonderful to be assured of the lasting Glory of Christ even in the face of death and sorrow." How much must Christ's strength been obvious on that day when remember this promise and the encouraging and inspiring vision Peter, James, and John were blessed to witness! In the face of distress, heartbreak, and grief, when it may have felt that all was lost, we were reminded, just as Christ intended, that "Lord, it is good for us to be here." Where else but in the Presence of Christ could have been found such grace, such Love, such wonderment, and such confidence in the face of such sadness?

As the Mass proceeded in Setswana, I was reminded how blessed I am to be a member of the Church Christ founded upon Peter thousands of years ago: the Catholic (that is, universal) Church. I loved thinking about how, despite being present for the celebration of the Holy Mass in English, Latin, Spanish, Korean, Italian, and Setswana, I knew what was being said and what was happening in each part. I loved that thousands of miles from home in Gaborone, Botswana, the Mass was the same as it was in Houston, College Station, El Paso, and Rome. How wonderful a gift for us, how beautiful a glimpse into Christ's glory, how amazing a participation in the wedding Feast of the Lamb, how incredible a taste of Heaven on Earth, how awe-inspiring a parallel to Christ's Transfiguration, how true that "Lord, it is good for us to be here!"

Surely this is why after three days of traveling, arriving in Botswana, and feeling so lost at first, and after three more days here and feeling so far from everything…surely this is why at Mass I felt the comfort and Peace of being "Home."

The Mass eventually continued and concluded, and all throughout I thought of how wonderful as well to witness something of such depth and solemnity from this culture. Truly I never would have imagined attending a funeral Mass in Setswana, let alone how fruitful and appropriate it would have been given the feast day. Indeed, as a friend once reminded me, and as I hear that friend reminding me again and again as time goes by "God knows the desires of your heart, and He will grant them." How true indeed, and to think that He knows our desires even better than we know them ourselves!

End serious part.

As I left the Cathedral, I looked at my watch and noticed that, as the dwindling sunlight and growing darkness suggested, it was already a quarter after six. I headed straight for home, and, taking the shortcut by the clinic and through the alleyway close by, made it home in good time (about 14 minutes). Changing out of my clothes that smelled like clinic and the kicked up dirt from the walk to and from home, we headed to the Sun Hotel just across the way to catch a taxi.

I don't know if the people working there realized that I'm a poor student, or if they even care, but rather than call a cab I kinda prefer to walk over there and act like I'm someone actually staying there (ie read "a foreigner with money"). We jumped in the cab and were greeted by our driver, who stated his name was "Steven" or "Boy". To be safe, I stuck with Steven. To be sure, this taxi ride made us feel the most American we had ever felt since being in Botswana. Steven's radio, unlike his taxi, was shiny and new, and it was blaring songs that you'd expect to hear back in the States, profanity and all! In any case, he was a blast, and as we neared the Mall we told him we would call him again when we got a SIM card for our phone (to do this, we split his number and each memorized half, since we had no phone in which to store it and no pen with which to write it…we were prepared, weren't we?)

We jumped out of the cab and I headed straight to the Pick 'n' Play grocery store (grocery stores in a Mall…right?) where of course they had SIM cards and prepaid airtime for sale. After taking about 20 minutes to figure that whole ordeal right, our phone was on, working, and we graced StevenBoyTaxi with our first call. I felt like a woman must have felt after being given the right to vote…it was empowering! I could do anything, be anyone, or go anywhere!!

Okay, so maybe it was just nice to have some sort of means of contacting the outside world….

We proceeded to walk over to an Indian food restaurant in the mall, where the service was a little, how can we say…slow. The food was great, though I am surely no expert nor even really experienced in the world of Indian food. However, the vegetable samosas and butter chicken that my roommate (who has lived in India all told for over a year's time) helped me pick out were swell. The butter chicken was sweet and, well, buttery, but hit you with spice as soon as you swallowed…awesome. All in all, it was great food for the price as well, with both of us eating with drinks, appetizers, and full meals for about P250 ($35) total.

The service being slow, and my tardiness, however, made us miss the start time of the movie, so instead we decided to go next door to the "Linga Longa Bar and Grill" and people watch. As we watched to locals interact, dance, and yes, sing karaoke, we each tried one local cocktail and called StevenBoyTaxi to pick us up. Safe and sound and home, I showered, read a bit, and fell asleep as the concert at the Hotel/Casino next door played on till well past midnight.

This morning, then, has just been a lazy morning thus far. Snoozing my alarm (set for 8 initially) until just after 10, figuring out this laundry machine here and hanging clothes out to dry…how domestic! Now, as I wait for my fourth load to dry (no, I did not wear everything I own, but the washer is tiny…not to mention cryptic in its hieroglyphics of how to use the different cycles), I'm just updating the blog and about to get ready to the Mokolodi for to meet some cheetahs (and hopefully a bunch of their friends)!

This trip is helping me to appreciate my family, my work, and my faith all the more. I miss everyone back home, but in all sincerity, it is good for me to be here….


  1. Chris,
    I'm glad to hear that you're doing well and are adjusting. I'm especially glad that you have found comfort and a little bit of home because of your faith. Reading your blog today was truly inspiring...I felt like I'd been to mass with a great homily. We love you and are so proud of you.