When Sarah Thebarge arrives at the airport in Togo, a mix-up means there’s no one there to meet her. A man, hoping she’ll give him money, pesters her to help her with her bag, and she can’t get rid of him. Finally a woman from a neighboring country, who speaks English, asks if she needs help. She gets rid of the man for Sarah. Then she says to her, “Sista, if you don’t mind, are you sure you’re strong enough for Africa?” And at the moment, Sarah has serious doubts.
I could relate to this. I spent 6 years living in a country a bit further north, and I know those men at the airport, and how they won’t leave you alone. I had a friend who worked in a clinic there, assisting a local doctor by providing physical therapy for his patients. She told me that she regularly saw cases of diseases that she’d only heard about in old textbooks, things that had been virtually eradicated in the West. Reading Well reminded me of so many of her stories.
Sarah’s writing is always fiercely honest, which is something I love about it. She does a 3-month stint, and it nearly kills her. She is also rather critical of long-term workers, people dealing with all this heartbreak and difficulty day-in and day-out for years. I don’t agree with all of her concerns, but she also meets trials with real wisdom. Read more of my thoughts on this book over at 5 Minutes for Mom.