A month ago I had the privilege of welcoming Argentine and Mapendo and their families to Canada.
I hadn’t seen Argentine and Mapendo for 9 years. While I waited at the airport in Edmonton, Canada my heart was pounding. Was it really possible that these 2 disparate worlds would merge? That Argentine and Mapendo and their families would step into this world of bright lights and automatic conveyor belts?
I remember when I first landed in East Africa, stepping off the plane into the evening air, I was struck first by the smell of smoke. The air hung with the smell of a thousand charcoal fires, as families cooked dinner in the open air. There was something so visceral about it. As though, I had arrived in a place where even the air was thicker and somehow more alive.
Now Argentine and Mapendo and their families were traveling the other direction, into an airport where the air feels light and dry. On the hour and a half ride to the small town where they would be living, Argentine looked around in the night air. She didn’t mention the cold or the snow.
As the road stretched through the forest she asked only “Where are all the people?”
In Congo the roads are always filled with people walking alongside. And goats, and bicycles loaded with bags of charcoal.
Here the roads stretched empty into the night. And we nestled warmly into the car. Tasting Canadian cheese and crackers for the first time.
What a joy it was to travel with them that night.
This I believe: The world is better when we can stand in each other’s shoes for a minute, travel in the car together. Ask an immigrant how the air smells when they step off the plane.
And I believe also that we should step off our own planes. Smell the smoke hanging in the air, in a place far from home
I have not been able to return to Congo for 9 years. Life doesn’t always let us travel. But we can still choose to smell the smoke.
It is for all these reasons that I invite you to visit our new “Congo Voices” Page. There you can find the SHONA Congo women documenting their own lives, both in Canada and in Congo. To me, they are all fascinating journeys. The act of sharing them makes my world richer.
You can see photos of Mapendo cooking in Canada and a video of Solange cooking in Congo (complete with a recipe attached). In many ways they are fascinating contrasts, but it isn’t really so much about the comparison between these disparate worlds, so much as it is a reminder to me that we all live in one world. May we seek always to journey together.