August 18, 2005
Each year since the girls were little, we go to a local amusement park here in Pittsburgh once a year. Over the years we graduated from the rides in Kiddie Land to the wild roller coasters. When the girls got to Junior High, they would each bring a friend with them and run from ride to ride by themselves. They insisted that we be at the park when the doors opened in the morning, and we usually stayed until they shut down at night.
This year was different. The girls informed us that they did not want to bring friends, but would go on all the rides together. (They seem to have become best friends after sharing a bedroom and a year in Malawi.) When we sauntered into the Park around noon, they insisted that we accompany them on the rides. So, for several hours, we went from roller coaster to carousel together as a family. Dan has never liked wild rides and we finally went on one that made him turn a ghastly shade of green. I decided to sit on a bench with him while Heather and Brooke went on a ride that suspended you upside down in the air.
As we sat in the shade and watched people walk by with funnel cakes, huge scoops of brightly colored Italian ice, and fabulous French fries topped with gooey cheese sauce, Dan said, “People sure spend a lot of money here.” I concurred and it occurred to me that, “the money that is spent in this Park in one day could feed an entire region of Malawi for a whole year.”
We spent most of the afternoon eating a picnic lunch with friends and colleagues. Somehow we preferred the quiet conversations in a secluded grove to the crowds and rides. Eventually we ventured out into the park again for a final round on the bumper cars and some cotton candy. Then we headed for home, well before closing time.
We realized that living in Africa for a year has changed our lives in ways that we never could have imagined.