Friday, May 13, 2016

I Found Myself in Zimbabwe

I know this title sounds deep.  Could it be possible that a volunteer trip to a third world country could actually make me a better person or to find myself?  Lots of people expect that very thing I think. Many come back changed in some way.  The jury is still out for me I think.  When I voiced my skepticism about this exact fact before I left, someone mentioned to me that maybe because I live my life fairly well already, there just wasn't that much to change.  I can hope I guess.  

I have almost always liked my name.  One of the reasons is that no one else has it.  There were never three Mavises in any class I ever took.  Unlike those ever popular Kathys.  I shared a class with three Kathys when I was in Grade 8.  And we were a small school.  I thought Mavis was unique and I wanted to be unique.  Who doesn't at 13?  I was striving to be myself while still trying to be so much like my peers.  I remember at some point reading somewhere that Mavis meant "songbird".  I am glad to report I remembered correctly because today when doing a google search it says that same thing. 

Therefore one of the most unexpected things to come out of my trip to Zimbabwe is the popularity of my name.  Farai, our Zimbabwe guide and the first on the ground person we met, recognized it right away.  His sister in law is named Mavis.  He had trouble pronouncing Raquel and Lannette, but Mavis was easy for him!  Then the next day when we met the rest of the service centre staff, all first Shona language speakers, they were very familiar with the name and could say it easily.

The first thing Catherine, one of the care workers at Pimai, told me was that she has a daughter named Mavis.  During my first pregnancy, I remember having a conversation with my Mom about naming babies.  She thought it was one of the hardest things she had ever done.  It is hard, and I can't say that I have not looked back and wondered if we made the best choices the three times we were faced with the task.  So meeting Catherine and knowing she and my Mom had made the same decision, allowed for an instant connection between the two of us.  Catherine is a spunky, fun loving middle aged woman to whom I am very happy to have met.  Her obvious 'love of life' attitude was easy to gravitate to.  I ended up being very moved by her energy the last morning we spent together. Let's just say, Father Matthew was impressed with our dancing skills and my knees were aching with the effort.
Catherine is the third from the right.  And Mavis (not Catherine's daughter) is 10th from the right.  

Traveling to another country is about meeting people and embracing cultures different then our own. We saw many different ways to do things, but it comes down to the same thing.  People are people and building relationships is what we did.  The more we think we're different, the more we are the same.  So many great people, so many great conversations..

I am very glad to have built relationships with many Mavises including myself.  And although, I really don't think my life has changed dramatically, just maybe I have grown from my experience and can continue to do so.

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