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You Europeans don’t even know how to live
Thursday, 19 May 2011 Written by Sandra Čuturić Nuić
Smile that disarms Children from the village Children from the village Caution! Crocodile close! Uganda - the line of the equator Heaven on Earth Fra Ivica eats everything with his hands, even the sauces! A new friendship Fruit in the fraternal garden Motherly love is endless

Protected and immune, but troubled by stories about bacteria and viruses all around, I tried to survive in Africa. All the warnings I’d read were constantly present in my head. It seemed like there wasn’t much left to enjoy with regard to food or activity in Rwanda...

While I stayed in Kivumu, with my cousin fra Ivica Perić, almost every day he shocked me in some way, but I also shocked him... with my lifestyle. I thought, “My cousin is more African than European! He doesn’t even know how to use the cutlery – the fork and the knife – anymore. He eats everything with his hands, even the sauces.” I observed him and admired him.

“What?,” he asked and said to me: “Why are you looking at me like that? Life is so simple, and you Europeans complicate it; you don’t know how to live it. You’re afraid of something all the time, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of”.

“You Europeans?” I thought in my head, and wondered: “And what is he, then?!” But, of course, after more than twenty years spent living in Africa, my cousin Ivica had forgotten that he was a European.

He had adapted to the African way of living; he does things like his parishioners, and he doesn’t want to do it any other way. He wants to be just like the people he lives with. And he’s right. It’s true. We do think too much, analyze, complicate, search for ourselves, run from reality and simplicity. We hide and are afraid, not knowing what we are afraid of.

More than half of my baggage was taken up by all sorts of preventive medicines and necessities for – God forbid! – this or that disease. There was all kinds of stuff there – from anti-insect sting creams, sunscreens - all the way to the inevitable bottle of disinfection alcohol...

And so, I was strolling through the village and little “smearies” – that’s how Ivica calls the village children that have grown close to his heart – would run toward me. A moment earlier they were sitting on the dusty ground in front of their house, playing. Slobbering, their hands dirty, but with their faces showing smiles that would win over and disarm you, they kept hugging me.

Each time this happened, they would awaken maternal love inside me, and then a question would race through my mind: “O God, how many viruses and bacteria are there on their little hands?!” But, every time they approached me, I would forget, and take them into my lap and hug them.

Afterwards I would return to Ivica, showing to him the ‘traces’ that were left on my clothes by the slobbering little ones. As I was leaving to go to my room to change, Ivica would grin and tell me: “But, they’re healthier, more resilient, and cleaner than you are. Don’t be afraid of contracting a disease, your faith will save you!” Indeed, there’s a “placebo effect” in place, and I’ve personally borne witness to it. If you think and believe that nothing will and can happen to you, then it will really be so. And vice versa.

Once, during a visit to a remote village in neighbouring Uganda, we encountered children who were eating roasted potatoes. Fra Ivica went to them, grabbed a half eaten potato from one of the boys, took a bite, and then returned the potato to the boy. The boy was impressed, and I was left speechless. “But, you’re not afraid of anything!”, I told him thinking about viruses and bacteria, and he said to me: “Only of the dear God”.

It is an endless and unselfish love that fra Ivica carries in his heart and his soul -a big heart for small people, with so much love for all the children he unselfishly helps and fights for to provide them a better future, educating them in the school where he is the headmaster. He is unburdened and simple, just like the children he lives with and for!

My visit to Africa has opened my eyes and ears. I don’t rush through life anymore, but stop and enjoy.  I feel love, joy, freedom, happiness and laughter. I notice the beauty of nature; I even hear the birds singing...

We are created limitless. Possibilities and talents, strength and love that each and every one of us possesses, are limitless. Throughout life, we limit ourselves. My cousin Ivica told me this. And it’s really like that.

My strength is in my awareness about my power. In order to gain access to my power, I have to be aware of it. To enjoy life is fantastic.  To experience perfection, wisdom, and intelligence is wonderful. That’s why I try now to be aware of everything around me - in every day and in every moment to try to find my joys and live them out.

Translated by: fra Branimir Mlakić
Edited by: Valerie Kae Ken

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