"Have you never been to a party before?"
For all the church services I "accidentally" missed this week, I have certainly had my fair share of religious experiences. A church came to the orphanage a few days ago to host what we were informed would be a party. Although the cultural differences between Bawjiase and America seem to be infinite, I really, really thought I knew what a party would be like here.
I was terribly wrong.
We sat down with all our children, as well as around 50 local children. Although only half of the talking was in Twi, I didn't listen to very much of the English, and therefore had little idea what was going on. However, I did learn these things:
- According to the church, our children are not orphans, as God will always be their father.
- Basic hygienic principles, according to their nurse, include washing your hands many times a day, especially before and after you eat and before you go to the toilet, and if you step on a nail you should go to an adult for help.
- The older girls at the orphanage are beautiful singers, particularly when they sing Feliz Navidad.
But in all seriousness, the generosity of the church was incredible. They brought food for all the children and adults, as well as massive bags of clothing to donate to the orphanage. They were absolutely wonderful, and Pastor, Vlad, Lauren, and I sat down with them while they discussed their interest in continuing a relationship with the orphanage.
"What would they do if they knew you were a Jew?"
Lauren and I went to church this morning. We arrived at 10:45, probably an hour/hour and a half after it began, and the service finished at 1. This time, I was not expecting a party, but I was about as surprised as I was a few days ago. It is the one the orphanage more frequently attends, and it is much smaller than the church I was at a few weeks ago. I can only describe the experience as some weird combination of my Bat Mitzvah, a dance party, and Rosh Hashanah. Lauren and I realized quite quickly that Mr. T (his name is pronounced Tiff-ah-liss and I would rather call him Mr. T than butcher the spelling of his name) was translating the service for us. The pastor would say something in Twi, Mr. T in English, and back and forth, even through one song. Lauren and I both became emotional at one point when he mentioned our names, as it was both embarrassing and powerful to be acknowledged at this small service. There was a lot of talk about the new year, and even though we ended up having most of the service translated into our language, I didn't necessarily listen the entire time. My apologies to Mr. T, whose thoughtfulness I really do appreciate.
Then Lauren and I were invited up to the front. To be honest, this was less frightening than being invited up to recite my Torah portion, although it did feel fairly similar. Mr. T informed us that we were supposed to join him in song, but much to my dismay, it was not a Jewish prayer, and I was completely lost. Lauren realized that she actually knew the song, so we are going to work on it for our duet next week.
"Look at us; bringing the Western world to Bawjiase one glow stick at a time."
Clearly I also made it through New Years with all my limbs. The children LOVED the fireworks and no one was injured, although some of the children started crying, which was fine because sometimes I still want to cry from the loud noises. I wish I was able to capture our 10 PM walk into town on video, as the sound of singing from the many churches surrounding us was truly one of the most amazing experiences of may life. Of course, we received a lot of attention making our way into town with beads and glow sticks. We arrived into town to find about 14 more people than we thought we would see there. We sat down in the front of Two Face where there are always children hanging out, and I could tell they were mesmerized by the glow sticks. I gave one to each of them, and as we lit up the sparklers I showed them how to wave them around. It was fun to share our version of New Years with some of the people in Bawjiase, although I did not hold back in asking every man who came into Two Face why he was not in church. We proceeded to yell happy new year about four or five times, as none of our phones/watches/clocks said the same time, and then we realized we didn't do a countdown, and then I realized I wanted to video the countdown and made everyone start over. It's amazing how arbitrary New Years really is.
I hope everyone had a happy and healthy new years and that 2011 will be the best year yet. Beginning it in Bawjiase seems to be a good sign.