On the weekends I stay in the guesthouse of the Relief Society president. Because I’m around on Sunday’s she asks me to accompany her when she goes visiting teaching. Today’s visiting teaching was rough and I want to try and describe it. I don’t have any pictures because who takes their camera to visiting teaching appointments? Sure wish I had today.
Most of the members live in Garden Compound so that’s where we visit teach. It’s quite a long walk through all sorts of little shortcuts. I always have to mentally prepare myself when I know I’m going to a compound. They are worse than the slummiest slums in America (not that I’ve been in the slums of America but I can’t imagine anything worse than the compounds here in Africa). The majority of Zambians stay in these compounds. They are huge and are stacked with tons of people. I feel ill just walking around in them looking at the way these people live. Then I enter the homes of the wonderful members that I see every Sunday at church with their big smiles and strong testimonies and it’s all I can do to not burst into tears right there in their home (I wait until I get home to do that). After the first home Mavis kept saying how nice of an area it was in. I looked at her in disbelief because I’ve never seen a worse area until we went to the second and third home.
The roads and passageways between the homes are all dirt which is fine when everything is dry. However, the rains have come and now the dirt has turned to mud. There are pools of dirty muddy water everywhere making many areas impassible. Today we had to jump over big wide cracks in the path that were filled with water, trash and who knows what else. We walked along the edges of these big pools holding onto the trees so we didn’t fall in just so that we could reach a member’s home. We walked around the piles of trash that are everywhere. I’m paranoid the whole time that I’m going to slip or that I’ll get any dirt on my feet and then I look around at all the people we’re passing and find that nobody is wearing any shoes and they don’t seem to mind.
There are people everywhere doing wash, cleaning dishes, fixing food, drawing water, buying things at the shops, playing soccer, drinking beer, playing in the mud puddles, and just sitting around. We finally reach the members home and they always welcome us in with big smiles. The houses are dark, small, and uncomfortable for me as an American. Sometimes they don’t have a place for both of us to sit so they pull up these little stools to sit on. The members in the second home we visited had just moved into their home and were grateful because now they had electricity. That’s about all they had in their little tiny home.
It’s one thing to visit these homes when they are complete strangers and I know I’m not going to see them again. It’s quite another when I visit the homes of the members that I have grown to love and look forward to seeing every Sunday. It gives me a whole new perspective on their lives and to be honest it’s a perspective I’m not sure I really want to have. Sometimes ignorance is much sweeter than reality.
This was my favorite question from our little visiting teaching experience… Mavis: “So is this how visiting teaching is in America?” Heather: “No Mavis, it’s quite different than this.” Understatement of the century.