even though it’s a whole other day dream

I’ve always been what I refer to as a ‘mirror kid’.
after being bullied multiple times as a child I began to realize that there is an art to acceptance.
1. You find what people want most from you.
2. You give them what they want.
3. you throw in a few shocks every now and then to keep them guessing.
for the most part… that system has never failed me.
I’ve lived countless years of being the teacher’s pet…
or the child who thrived off big groups…
a child who didn’t have to waste time looking for their personality,
but more so… just filled the gaps of what people wanted.
A mirror reflection.
When we dropped our luggage off at Brisbane, I wondered why our Chaplain had booked us into such a dingy motel.
I didn’t have complaints though… I was too excited and ready for the Solomon Islands.
The stop-over at Brisbane meant very little to me.

I found it difficult recalling what the most noticeable thing about landing in Honiara was.
Flying over the Solomon Islands was like flying over most empty parts of Tasmania.
it was empty of high rise buildings and planned cities.
huts dotted the landscape like freckles mapped out by the sun.
as the plane landed I watched as a ute drove by, transporting luggage in the back.
a closer look told me this ‘luggage’ was actually people.
I’ve never felt more watched in my life as I struggled through the streets of Honiara.
driving past the crowded slums and broken streets.
burnt cars littered the sides of the roads.
the gutters were stained with crimson,
the remnants of spat out narcotics, that are sold from every street corner.
it was as though I was driving through an abandoned wasteland.
only there were thousands drifting through the streets, aimlessly searching for some form of purpose.
and always the watching.
every now and then my skin would be touched by strangers,
disbelief that anyone could be so pale and so fragile.
I felt more breakable than I’ve felt in my entire life.
my mirror was vacant.
These people saw none of themselves in me. I was read for my colour.
instead it was the children there who tried to mirror my expectations.
“cately… will you forget me when you go back home?”
“can I have your address? I’ll write to you when you’re back in Australi”
“cately… will you pray that God will give you presents to give me so that I remember you?”
you could pick a westernized child from a mile off.
the ones who were used to showing the white people what they wanted to see. Showing them enough to make them a good person for helping out.
I felt so ashamed of my skin.
it grew tighter as I adjusted to the heat,
and I couldn’t conceal my desire to clean myself of ignorance.
on the first day at SWIM (Short Workshops In Mission… a place for missionaries to stay whilst in transit), I left an open packet of lollies in my pack, which wasn’t closed.
within a few hours, naturally, my back was swarmed with ants.
to this day, I have no idea what type of ants they were… but whatever they were, they weren’t nice.
I was exhausted, my bed was crawling, my skin was crawling, and I felt so different and stupid and tired.
by the time I’d arrived in buma village, my image of the western world was clouded with so much rage and resentment.
we were greeted by the villagers.
ironically buma is a village of two thousand,
the same population as the village I’ve spent my childhood being raised in.
the first thing I noticed about buma was the absence of mirror children.
every now and then I’d stumble into a teenage girl or two who suffered from an infatuation with white people, but for the most part the children were free from expectations.
they roamed naked and content.
I’d awake to hear the sounds of their laughter and chatter every morning outside my window.
they waited to play with us wherever we went.
“hu na nem blong ui?” they’d ask me over and over.
I began this trip believing it would impact my drive for social justice issues.
I had no idea the kind of spiritual impact it would have on me.
wontok (essentially meaning ‘one talk’ or ‘one family’) is the only sense of social security implemented within most of the Solomon island communities.
People from the solomons conduct their lives valuing only the love they have for God and for each other.
most of the children I met had malaria and/or other infections.
yet malaria to them wasn’t a fatal disease. It was a sickness that gave them a ‘bad flu’ every year, and would sometimes kill young children.
but death wasn’t something to be feared. Death was often spoken of in a liberating sense.
their poverty wasn’t in hunger, but sickness… and yet, they still seemed content that their lives were expected to be short.
“it often does not matter how long one lives… but how well”.
the world seemed so close the day that this sunk into my head.
that I may live a life where my soul is saved through grace, but my life in Christ has been wasted… through and ever present fear of sickness and death.
in those fleeting moments before sleeping at buma, I felt an incomprehensible loneliness that I’ve never felt before.
and yet, the loneliness wasn’t of contact with humans. I felt more comforted by relationships than I ever had before.
for the first time in a long time I felt so detached from everything I’ve been raised to value. I felt so poisoned by the materialism and consumerism of the world I’ve been raised in.
infected, not by malaria and HIV, but by my own emptiness of truthful happiness that we all have the potential to discover.
I was no longer a mirror kid. I was me. the world I was standing in was my mirror, and the reflection was a warped image of false contentment.
the hardest part of the entire trip was flying back over Brisbane on Thursday afternoon.
harder than eating rice and half cooked fish.
harder than using a latrine in a ‘third world country’.
harder than leaving the children behind.
harder than a pack full of ants.
I cried hard as I looked down to australia’s own series of broken streets.
flashy cars, fucked up advertisements, shiny buildings.
full of people who have been raised to know that whatever they want, they can have… if they work hard enough for it.
if ‘developed’ means you value money, power and a long life over love for God and for every living human, then I’m not entirely sure I want that label.
money would be worthless if it wasn’t the one trading item that everybody wanted.
after all, isn’t it just scraps of plastic and metal?

I dumped my luggage onto the bed at Brisbane that afternoon,
and wondered how on earth I’d ever questioned our Chaplain’s decision to stay there.
this B-grade motel was far better than 80% of the accommodation in the Solomon islands.
the roof wasn’t made from banana leaves, and you could sleep well knowing you weren’t sharing your bed with geckos.
It hurt a little. Seeing the motel for its flashiness and knowing that only days earlier I’d cringed a little at staying there.
with the mirror shattered and just my own heart and mind to guide me, I feel a little empty.
but for the first time in so long, i feel okay with that.
i’ve got no-one to impress.

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