The Tea Ladies of Khartoum, Sudan Came Into My Kitchen Today

April 25, 2010  |  Uncategorized

Across the world and across our cultures and varying circumstances we share many of the same daily rituals and sometimes we can  be transported into someone else’s parallel moment. The experience can change us forever.
This morning in the LA Times I read about the tea ladies of Khartoum.
I read about their difficult lives selling tea over open fires on the dusty city streets.
I read about the songs they hum and sing as they set their fires at dawn and spread the last embers at sunset. These songs are the keepsakes from their villages and farms and the lush green hills of their past all lost now to war in Darfur.
I read about their choice to stay on in the city often without a partner at their side, threatened by violent and corrupt police, to eke out a few dollars toward their children’s education.
I read about a 40 year old sister with her last infant still nursing at her breast while she stirs the sugar into her customer’s tea. She worries about what will become of her children, unsure how much longer she will be able to work at her age or even how much longer she will live.
And then I thought about me sitting in my California kitchen struggling with the postmenopausal battle to accept my aging, the product of my ever increasing longevity.
How fortunate am I to live to fight this battle of vanity. How fortunate am I to fight it here in my home with its view to the sea.
I pray that the woman in the red shawl with the small children at her side lives long enough and well enough to cross to these years after 50. I know if she does she will live them with so much more gratitude than I do.
The grace to accept what we no longer have and what we no longer are and yet to sing or hum in the face of our present difficulty,  is one valuable asset that has eluded me in my affluent western life.
If I could squat beside this woman tomorrow morning and sip her sweet tea I would offer her this:
May the sun rise many mornings on your smoky tea fire and may your wares be hidden long before the law arrives and may the can beside your feet fill with coins and may the valleys and fields of your past welcome you and your grandchildren home some day.
Thank you for my morning tea.

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