26 February 2012

What West Africa Taught Me About Minimalism

In my last post, I shared that my overseas trips have taught me that all I really need to survive will fit in my backpack. But it's not what I took with me that really taught me the most.. it's what I brought back.

When I left, my backpack was stuffed with clothing, a few accessories, toiletries, American snacks, my journal and my camera.

When I came back, my heart was full of joy, rest, and breathing room - if that even makes any sense. In January, my husband got to go to the same area I visited last fall. He experienced the same thing. We dream of going back together and even living there long term. Sometimes, it feels like a God-calling-thing, but my struggle is to know if it is really just God calling me to live on the bare essentials of life. To experience the freedom from stuff that the people of West Africa don't even know they know.

1. In West Africa, you can cook an entire meal with just one dish.
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... then everyone can eat with just one bowl (okay, two - one for men and one for women)

2. The term "Master Bathroom" is synonymous with hole-in-the-ground-next-to-the-Dugutigi's-hut

**I'd put a picture here, but it didn't seem culturally appropriate to take my camera to the loo. It's seriously a hole in the ground - use your imagination**

... and that marble tiled shower with the opaque glass door seems overrated next to a half a purple bucket of almost warm water and a tie-dyed plastic scoop to rinse your hair.

3. In my kitchen, do I really need specific gadgets or can I get my hands dirty and stir up a batch of meatloaf?

4. All the gear you need to raise a baby is set of boobs and piece of cloth

5. A little ingenuity goes a long way.. and yes, this dad is grilling a grasshopper. And I'm pretty sure that kid (who caught said grasshopper) later went on to eat it.

6. It's okay for kids to run around in play clothes (I probably wouldn't take my kid shopping in this outfit, but if I did, who would it really harm?).. but how cute is this little cheek? 

7. My clothes do not define me. (look closely and comment below when you "get it")

8. .. and the biggest lesson of all: True beauty doesn't come in a bottle, a tube, or a compact. It can't be faked with a hairdryer and flat iron. It comes from inside, and the world can recognize it with one smile.


  1. When I was a kid, we use to play in the dirt,and sand ,on the farm, and in the woods. I think that I could fit better into village life than most of the neighborhoods nearby. Love this note, Stacy, both list and the photos. sue

  2. I so love this! My absolute favorite is #4. (I had to stop to laugh for a few minutes before I could continue reading!) :) I really wish I had known how to use that piece of cloth when my boys were little.

  3. I love it. I've been to Mali 5 times and ready to go back, now that things have settled down. I am looking to go back in December or January when football season is over (I coach) and I know our village will look exactly the same but "my kids" will be older. It makes my heart want to sing.....