Thursday, September 16, 2010

New Friends, once again

I heard them outside as I typed away in my little dark room. I was writing emails and reports, reading planning documents and the like. Outside, they were chattering and giggling. Then I got an invitation to join them and play ping-pong. I told them I'd be out shortly.

An hour later, my eyes blurry and my brain tired, I decided it was time to join the living. I stepped out into the courtyard and here is what I saw: green, purple, yellow and pink skirts and headscarves, all decorating teenage girls with timid and hopeful smiles. Six girls crowded around the ping pong table, trying to share the two rackets as their basketball coach - my housemate - taught them how to play. Another half a dozen sat scrunched onto a bench in the little bit of shade against the courtyard wall. One girl sat on a floormat, nestled up next to the other coach.

It was a fun party, but certainly a shy one. The girls talked and giggled, but hesitantly. I don't imagine they attend social events very often - teenage girls in El seem to have a lot of housework, schoolwork and family visiting to keep them busy. But these girls were different: they had joined the basketball team.

They greeted me with hesitant smiles, and I'm ashamed to say that I greeted them back even more shyly yet. I didn't shake their hands and I'm sure I was completely inaudible when I told them my name. When they learned I could speak Arabic, though, they warmed up anyway. They asked me to sit with them, and when the food came they saved me a seat and beckoned me to eat.

I didn't. I couldn't. I was too weary. They were lovely girls, inviting me into an experience of mentorship and affirmation, but all I could think of was how hard it is to keep up with a dozen teenagers, and how tired I am of making new friends. But these girls don't know that about me, nor did they judge me.

Afterwards, my housemate invited me to join them at their next practice. They'll love talking to you, they'll love that they can communicate with a foreigner!, she said. I will visit basketball practice soon, and make friends with these demure teens who have broken social norms to become athletes. But only once I find the energy to really talk with them.

3 comments:

Brian Miller said...

i imagine in the time you spent with them you made quite the impression and keep doing so as you make more friends along the way...thank you for making that effort...

Linda said...

I can feel your heart in this - longing to give more of yourself to them. I am sure they were delighted with the time you gave them and that you will have the chance to get to know them better. What unique experiences you have!

emily wierenga said...

oh katie, i'm so glad you've linked up with imperfect prose, for i've missed you... and the brokenness here, this is what the community is all about. being shattered and having Him pick us up. i can only imagine the effort it takes each time to find new ground and new kin... i'm praying for you sister. i hope to see you next week. love em.

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