I’ve had two realizations today; The first is that I seem to have a very different perception of the people here now. It seems like at some point I stopped seeing them as “exotic Africans.” It sounds bad but let me explain. Before I would see the women on the road carrying heavy loads of firewood on their heads and just accept it as the African reality. Now I empathize with the heavy burden they have to carry, with the kilometers they walk under the sun, with their small heavy children wrapped tight to their bodies, who are probably covered in sweat. Can all this heat cause brain damage?
Another breakthrough I had is the realization that I don’t need to win the field staff over. I generally go out of my way to come across as approachable and prove myself somehow worthy, but today I realized that if they think I am a stuck up European, as long as I do my job, it really doesn’t matter. We are not going to be long life friends, and really where I can make a difference is if I manage to add some value. The rest is nice and fine, but it should not get in the way of my job, which I think it was beginning to as they were interpreting it as them being able to push me around.
Health wise I am better. But still cannot eat much, although the toilet and me have broken our engagement off.
I met a girl that was the African version of a Spanish friend of mine. My friend is pale white, with big blue eyes and long wavy hair. This girl was very black with brown eyes and short hair, but for some reason they were the same. Same expressions, same laugh, even the same voice. A very strange thing indeed, I had to laugh and take a picture of her. We became friends. Which essentially means I gave her my email. At some point she started going on about money, but when I insisted on clarification she did not repeat it. A few people have either given me their email or asked for mine. I feel like it takes so little effort on my part to write to them, this new e-world that they are so excited about, but fear that soon it might turn into effectively begging. I guess with email it would be easy enough to cut it off. I told her I would send her the photo.
I also interviewed an ex-combatant. He told me about the day he was abducted. He told me all the details, what he had for breakfast and everything he did that day until he came back home for dinner, which is when the abduction happened. It was completely irrelevant for my purposes, but of course I let him speak. He told me how he was made to abduct 10 to 20 boys ten years of age or older from every village, and if he failed to do this he was a ‘lost case. ’ In case anyone needs clarification, that means he would be killed. He was 19 years old at the time.
The funny thing is that I had noticed him during the focus group session. He came in late with another friend about the same age. He is strong and handsome and had an air about him which made me think of him as a hard man, and made me imagine that he and his friend might have been one of the many boy-men that committed some of the atrocities during the war. He stayed a bit and then stood up and left after whispering something to another boy. He seemed to disregard the fact that a meeting was taking place. I thought of him as cocky.
To my surprise he came back, and then volunteered to speak. He said that before joining the project he was not very comfortable around people. He was now more open and could tolerate backstabbing and was also able to reach to others to help them. I was flabbergasted. Not by what he said, which seemed to be a pretty consistent response amongst those that took part in that activity, but by his voice. This strong, smart looking and handsome man had the voice of a child, a shy child, almost too feminine for his age.
Later on when we were alone he told me about the ambush that freed him when the rebels met with the army. He run and six army men went after him.
“Six just on me,” he repeated slowly, “but I managed to escape and hide. I could see them, I had ammunition, I could kill them all”
but he felt he had been reborn and decided to give himself up. Walked out of his hiding place with his hands in the air, and offered his soul to god assuming he was about to die.
He nearly did, what saved him was that some of the men in the army were Acholi, his people, so they brought him back to his village.
He has not told the people in his community what he did.
“the people here have lost sisters, mothers, they would not understand”
He himself had lost his mother and father. I took his picture but am reticent to post it, in case it ever goes back to him I do not want to be the one who outed him.
Back at the hotel the hot water is gone, and although I miss it, the cold shower was also bliss. My brain is putty. The cleaning lady comes and goes but the dead cockroach in my shower remains. Going to bed at 9pm with a wet towel on my head. My forehead is burning up.