On Motherhood & Sanity

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tales from the Sudan (part two)

I’m so tired of the same stories: hiding facts, denying reality. Like they cannot see outside their window. Like they do not know that people are poor, that teachers are unpaid, that children are beat and abused in schools, that girls are raped. Like we don’t know. They want to make the streets safe for children, so they are asking for computers and video games .

It gets harder to trust over time, but many seem honest in their interest, in their desire to change things. They seem impressed by this little NGO that is trying to make a difference . Often so am I. It seems so much more real than many of the things I’ve seen with the big organizations. They know the people, they know their names, they train the teachers, teach them how to play with the kids, give them specific tasks so that they will remember the lessons. And then the ones trained meet with their neighbors for afternoon tea and discuss what they have learned. There is so much curiosity, so much desire to learn.

I asked a group of mothers today what surprised them most about the child rights training they had done,

“that we cannot hit the children” they replied in unison.

They are slowly understanding how important it is that their girls go to school. Bit by bit they are moving forward. We –the aid workers- must work like they walk; with no hurry in our step, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, because if we don’t, if we look at the distance that we have to cover, we’ll panic, loose hope, and never get there.

Doing all this at 45 degrees in the shade was a challenge. At some point I honestly thought if we did not get back into the air conditioned car they might have to pick me up off the floor. During an interview I just started pouring water over my head. After days of travelling on bumpy roads under the sun my body gave in. I was desperately trying to wrap it up, but they carried on talking merrily, excited, sharing what they had learned. They even made me dance for a bonding exercise. A cola and a cake just saved me. Although all these meals in the bush probably means I will have to deal yet again with some sort of parasite once I’m back home. I like the coffee though: boiled water, Nescafe and powder milk. Not much relation to the lattes my Italian husband prepares for me back at home, but it brings back sweet memories of adventures past.

Once I got home I had a long, cold shower. I had forgotten how annoying it is to be covered with your own sweat all the time, with an ever so light layer of dust. After the shower I laid on the bed, aircon blasting off, half naked with my eyes closed, neither awake nor asleep. I thought I would lie down for a few minutes and then get back to work, but I could not move. I might have stayed in this strange state for an hour, perhaps three, I really do not know, until I started feeling human again. My body and my brain needed to shut down. Cool off.

When I rose it was night and I could hear the chants coming from the large white Mosque across the street. At night, when the lights are on, we can actually see into the male-only section of the mosque because we are perched high over them. The sounds go out on the loudspeaker

“Allah…. Allah…”

slowly, rhythmically, over and over the sound is carried off into the desert, and it sometimes mixes itself with the chant coming from a different mosque further away. And the two do a little dance before they fade away. Every time I hear this it makes me want to stop what I am doing and meditate, or something. Its like a reminder to take a moment to stop the rush and take note.

“Allah” repeats the desert, like it’s trying to tell me a secret.

I want to stop and acknowledge the present. There is something soothing about that voice.

But the reality is that I am not invited to join that voice. That I cannot go near it. That it is exclusive, discriminating, and easily offended.

Still, the fact remains, and the lesson is learned that maybe there is something to this habit of stopping regularly to take inventory, instead of waiting until life throws us a punch to reconsider.

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