On cold and snowy Colorado nights, when with the turn of a knob I can have a hot bath, I think of you. On beautiful sunny days when the sky, framed by evergreens and rugged mountains, is a blue you can’t believe until you see it, I think of you. When it rains and the rivers and streams turn to rust from the rocks and hills around them, I think of you, and the red dirt of Zimbabwe. It’s as if the rocks I climb here wash away until they become the dust that coated my feet as I walked the streets of Bulawayo, where you became my mother.
I have many mothers. The one who birthed me and to whom I will always belong. The one who fed me cow tongue in the house beside the volcanic lake, and the one who fed me cow intestines in the house with the chicken I tried to kill – but couldn’t – for Christmas dinner. The one who fed me blood sausage and let me pick an orange rose in memory of my grandmother, who died before I could make it home. But you taught me to eat like there’s no tomorrow, to dance like an African and to live like I belong, 9,000 miles from where I thought I did.
I might never have met you. The idea of you, of going away to the place you call home, has always been in my heart. The gumption, though, might never have grown. Without Nicaragua, without that first summer abroad that changed the way I look at the world, I might never have left for Zimbabwe, or Ireland, or any of the places in this world that are taunting me with their beauty, their people, their need and their incredible richness. Nicaragua was like dipping a toe in the pool; now my fingers are prunes and someone’s calling me for lunch, but I won’t get out.
I prayed for someone like you. I asked for something simple, for a place of comfort where I could relax, be myself and if I had to, learn something. I got you, with your tiny cement house and lumpy extra bed and cold dinners when there was no electricity or water.
I got a woman who worked sixty hours a week to support three kids after being dumped for some young thing in the big city, then sat down with me and a cup of tea and asked about my love life while we listened to Alicia Keys. I got a woman whose kids laughed and laughed at my American fumblings of Ndebele words while teaching me how to tell off guys on the bus with “Sungibhowa” – you’re annoying me. I got a woman who loves God fiercely and through her poverty and suffering, lives with joy.
I got a bigger story that spans continents. I got another family and more love than I expected or deserved. I became someone whose decisions and responsibilities carry more weight, and whose understanding of global citizenship reached a much deeper and more genuine level.
Thank you for sharing yourself with me and including me in your story. I promise to take care of it.
Amanda Koch lives in the quaint city of Green Mountain Falls, Colorado. She went to Hesston College, spent summers working with Mennonite Disaster Service and took a year off to work in Oregon before getting a degree in social work at Goshen College (and SST to Nicaragua in 2011). Since then, she has worked in Zimbabwe for a year with Mennonite Central Committee; been a respite caregiver for kids with developmental disabilities; WWOOFed in Ireland; and is now slinging bottles at a local winery. She foresees a month or so of hiking part of the Pacific Crest Trail in summer 2015, and perhaps someday soon figuring out what she’ll do when she grows up.