Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cultural Frustrations

I am so incredibly frustrated with the culture this morning. Tanzanian culture says a woman is not a woman until she marries and then she is only partly woman until she gives birth.

Tedi is my house girl. But she is SO much more than that. She is a friend. Yeah she cleans my house, but really, she is a part of my family.

Tedi has been married 3 years and hasn't had a child, so not only is she herself brokenhearted, but she is somewhat ridiculed and mocked because she has not done her duty as a wife. Her husband Fredi is amazing. Uncharacteristic of most men, he doesn't care. He loves his wife and instead of punishing her for her failure to produce an heir, he weeps with her as she yet goes through another miscarriage. She has had three, and as with most women each one becomes harder to endure and breaks your soul.

Today when I welcomed Tedi and asked how she was doing. She was incredibly honest. Usually Tanzanians respond immediately with. I am good. But she said, Oh Dada Pamela, I am not feeling well. I almost called you last night to pray but I was afraid. Yesterday when I left I was feeling fine but in the night time I had a terrible war. (interesting choice of words I might add) and I was throwing up, in terrible pain and I didn't know if I would survive the day. She continued to say, but I am OK today. Fredi and I prayed and prayed and God helped us. I didn't sleep much because of the pain, but I am OK this morning. Just a little pain. She goes on to say she was gonna call me so I could be praying to but she was afraid to do so because of the hour. I quickly reminded her, Tedi, I rarely go to bed before midnight, you know this!!! After the slight reprimand for not calling, I was torn. My heart immediately went to the thought that most likely she already knows it and she is probably having another miscarriage.

All I wanted to do was be an American who would wrap both arms around her dear friend and just hold her and cry with her. Tedi wept tears as I probed. What kind of pain. Where? and then the hardest question...Tedi I know the burdens of your heart, and I hate to ask this, but is there any chance you are pregnant? She doesn't know. There is a possibility, but God knows and will take care of her...and her tears start to fall. In this culture, it is inappropriate for me to embrace her. Her tiny little frame could easily be swallowed up in my embrace and I so desperately want to just wrap her in my arms as I know our God would. So I stand frustrated. The most I could do appropriately was lay hands on her, and pray for her, which I am reminded is quite a bit and probably what she needed most.

So my frustration I guess lies in the fact that I can't comfort people the way I am used to doing so, cause it isn't appropriate in this culture. I just want to hug Tedi, wipe away her tears and bless her, cause in my mind blessing her would be by hugging and wiping away her tears. But probably, in her mind, the greatest blessing was my taking time to pray for her, because she is a woman of such faith the prayer meant more to her than I could ever conceive.

The other American part of me wants to sweep her up and take her straight to the doctor, but then again, it isn't my choice is it. I offered, she hesitated, and said, lets wait until tomorrow. Probably because her heart isn't ready to know if she is or isn't. I wanted to go today. She wants to go Thursday. We met in the middle. Wednesday am.

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