IMG_6031It’s one of the reasons Africa still suits me well: It walks.

Only about 9 people for every 1,000 owns a vehicle in Uganda, as of 2009. (As long as I’m doing better math than usual, that’s about .9% of the country.) Now. This, along with other reasons, means some roads with potholes like Swiss cheese. And it somehow still means said roads are perpetually clotted with traffic that makes us shake our exhaust-clouded heads. It also still means that, in my new remote neighborhood, I skate to the grocery store behind the tinted windows of our dinged, high-clearance minivan.

But it does mean that as I’m sitting on my front porch with one of my children or my Bible, I can wave at neighbors and greet them. It means that through my open windows flit assorted languages chatting on the road outside my house. It means that last year, as I picked my way to the refugee center, backpack full of the odd teaching supplies (even a couple of Nerf swords to act out stories; the guys seemed to love those), I tacked on at least an extra ten minutes for those meandering African greetings, the smiles and handshakes and Uglish (a Luganda/English equivalent of Spanglish).

What I like about this: There is something lovely about a culture that has the time to talk. It took the full extent of at least two years to get used to the meandering conversation style, the anecdotes largely irrelevant, save their importance to the teller. Sometimes it still beats the Type A right out of me.

But strolling home beneath a thin layer of sweat, it was pleasant simply to have made time to talk, and time to think and pray about so many things clambering for my attention.

There is something great about slowness, articulates this fabulous essay by World Magazine’s Andree Seu. Slowness often allows us to love better.

But what is good about this, I think, is that it has not been reduced to 140 characters, or a status update, or bullet points. A particularly insightful blog post this week—Six Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (I am on the alert!), related,

“Our digital interactions with one another, which are often necessarily brief and superficial, begin to pattern all our relationships. ‘When you begin to become shallow in your interactions with people, you can become habituated to that.’”

The relatively strong task-oriented part of me admits to occasionally raising its mental eyebrows to the wandering paths of African discussion—and we get much less accomplished in a conversation. But there is a level of relationship that occasionally I have found myself missing in conversations appended by an iPhone.

On this topic, I have recently been gifted one of these devices. (Yes, I have dodged the bullet until now.) What I love: finally being in on my family’s text stream, photos of my nieces and nephews, and the increased accessibility of FaceTiming them. And occasionally, I access the internet when a little troll at the power company has decided I do not get any that day. But my husband wryly noted that I was the only person he knew of for whom getting an iPhone is strictly an act of love.

Still—with this new blog, which has in unanticipated ways wedged itself into my life like an elephant on a cafeteria bench (…Well! Hello! Should I add that my children have gotten in three fights while I finished this post?)—I have needed to be more relevant, more connected. (Not always helpful when the power is out. Again.) Google News is now my homepage (This depresses me more than I projected), and I have clicked “subscribe” on a handful of blogs (you should try it! Column on the right! Wink, wink).

Whether I use my phone for it or not (nah!), I was also convicted by this post: Six Wrong Reasons to Check Your Phone in the Morning. Though I also do it for positive reasons, I admit to drifting toward the Ego Candy it mentions (people like me. People do not think that what I write is actually really dumb. People thought I was witty, or relevant).

At any rate, the pace of my life has changed—from walking, say, to walking fast, or maybe a light jog. So last Saturday, I took an aimless walk, just to pray, to clear my head. To go nowhere not very fast.

…Without my iPhone.

Tell me. What do you do to slow down?

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