I just read a book the other day that pointed out the profound truth that we are the stories we tell. Last night I spent hours lingering over the dinner table talking with Pauline and Christina. They flew in yesterday, Pauline from England and Christina from the US. I know both and was so looking forward to their arrival. Pauline has lived in Africa for the last 16 years or so with trips back to mother England from time to time. She has been away for quite some time as last August she had to quickly go home due to her mother's sudden death. While Pauline went through the grief and whirl-wind of packing and going, I was in Cameroon with the kids getting them settled into their new life. Pauline has been in the northern part of England since then taking care of her 99 year old grandmother. She claims she is the linguist that "no one can understand" due to the heavily accented English words she slings with speed and a cadence all her own. She is a beloved part of our team and has been missed greatly. Although when she is here in Gabon she lives way off the grid in tiny Leconi working on Bible translation with nationals so I was forever requesting her to come visit the capital (and me!). She has stunning stories that she tells with a non-chalant demeanor claiming that the stories sound more exciting than they actually were but I, personally, believe the woman should have her own theme song!
Christina is a young woman who just weeks ago graduated from college and is a third of the way through her goal of becoming a doctor. She has a heart for the Bongolo hospital that is pulsating with passion. She is so fun to talk with and it is great to see her here again after her initial visit two years ago. After dinner we grilled Pauline mercilessly as the sole representative of all of England on the topic of the Royal Wedding of William and Kate and all things related to the royal reign. I have to say Pauline held her own under our on-slaught of rapid-fire questions. She is quite impressive to me on many levels. One way she has displayed her unflinching courage was during the times she allowed me to cut her hair. That woman has guts. She has also been spirited away while in a malaria induced delirium by Congolese pastors up the Congo river during a war in a dug-out canoe. See what I mean about the theme song?!
As we lingered long after dinner talking I thought of Pauline and her current life situation. She is here for a short time to perhaps wrap up her life here in Gabon for good. Her life has been interrupted by her mother's death and by the need to take care of her grandmother. I have never heard Pauline grumble or complain once even though her life has been turned upside down. She has a blog called "Occasional Jottings" that she writes from time to time. She generally travels with her cornet and runs many miles even after being bunched up in a taxi bus for hours, even days. She has written me of running in the misty moors of England. I mean really running about in open expanses of rolling infertile land, in the peaty, grassy sledges. Once again proving the woman needs her own theme song!
So life isn't going how she planned and she is facing the unknown taking care of her 99 year old grandmother living in the north of England attending a church with the congregants average age being 75. She plays her cornet and runs the misty moors and speaks fluent French with a British accent and German with a French accent and tribal languages with who knows what accent. She has faith, courage and strength mixed with humor and a fabulous vocabulary. And I am so glad to be called her friend. The stories she tells make up who she is and my hope is that I have stories that speak of a vibrant life lived with faith, courage and humor and with a great vocabulary to boot!