Friday, March 13, 2009
What if our world was one.
What if my plate was your plate and my pockets were yours. If what I had was what you had and nothing was lacking?
I'm feeling the ocean's width real-strong-like. Not only are they living a different life, but they're living it nine hours ahead of me and my night is their day, my breakfast is their supper. This is what happens when distance takes us apart.
Holding thier breath and jumping really high so that maybe they'll be caught flying.
Here is Dinga. You've just got to meet her.
Shifts shifts shifts.
Esther and Dinga are beautiful.
Carrying firewood back from the river.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
having never said hello to. I always tell myself that I am going to
be prepared to leave a place. I make lists of everything important to
do, every loose end to tie up, every gift to give, and every person to
connect to one last time. But every time I find myself unprepared
for the splitting, running around trying to have that nice warm
feeling but instead, a feeling of dissatisfaction and frustration
seems to edge out my happy sentiments and I feel anxious.
I continued waving my hand out that ridiculously packed public
transport van even after I couldn't see my brothers and sisters
anymore. I felt a combination of feelings such as relief to be
leaving, guilt for abandoning, heart sore from the kind words said at
parting, uncertainty about what lay ahead, but yet, assured that life
still had that quality of surprise and forward motion which I so love
and that THIS was THAT quality not letting me down. I would be
surprised with the next bend. And the next. And the next.
But the next bend doesn't make the road easier. I still had to hug
my African mother goodbye, kiss my little Armelle, and make promises
of soon reunion with my sister Dinga, knowing that life for those whom
I left behind was never guaranteed.
The feeling of relief came from the fact that I felt like I had made
it to a gas station after running on empty for a lengthy stretch of
highway. You always think you know how far you can go on empty, but
you never know for sure. There were times when I felt like I wasn't
strong enough and it was relieving to be leaving with my spirit
I felt a bit like a bad person when I recognized that those who
remained at the hospital would be facing the exact moments of intense
stress, frustration, and difficulty that I was checking my heart out
of by leaving. Even now, when the clock ticks five o'clock I know the
patients are getting their bleach-water-dressing changes and at
midnight an overworked nurse gives that painful IV Penicillin. I
envision the sick getting their malaria treatments, other meds, and
hopefully settling down for the night.
I felt guilt as I walked through the hospital for the last time. I
watched a girl crying out in pain while her burns were laying open to
the air, yet shielded from the merciless insects by a thin mosquito
net. I watched a baby's whole sack-of-bones-self, voice and physique
alike, cry out for milk. I watched my friend Caroline, a nurse from
California, plead with a family to go buy the medicine for their baby.
And even as I was walking out of the Pediatrics ward, a man came to
me and said, "My child's IV has stopped. Can you come fix it?"
Caroline came over quickly and said, "I'll take care of that, she's
not working right now." It's true. I'd come to the end of my work
in Bere Hospital and something about it left a little guilty bite.
My heart ached at the kind words that were given to me at parting.
Jolie's embrace and four simple sobs, followed by the shaking of her
upward-facing-outstretched palms, a motion that our parting was
leaving something lacking, warmed me and ached me at the same time.
Mounden asked me, "What will I do when you leave, Emily?" Then he
chuckled, "Who is going to give me money to buy pigeons?" Laughter.
His last words as I sat on the public transport out were, "Emily," he
focused in through the slider window frame, "it is God who is going to
guard your heart." What he said was so true that I wanted to jump
back out of the van, take his shoulders, and tell him he knew
something really important; that those weren't just words and that
indeed God, when we want it, guards our hearts; the in and outflow of
them. Our hearts are shaped and well-learned by the hard things and
then filled and enlarged by our little and big bursts of happiness.
But our time for meaningful conversations was over for now. I
continued waving my hand out the window long after my ability to crane
my neck in their direction had ceased.
A good friend of mine, named Kacey, sent an email to me soon after
leaving that told me, "The reason we sometimes hate to leave is that
we fear we will forget the things we have experienced." Right now it
is all something that is so real at and means so much to you but we
all know as we slip back into our lives that the details of an
experience can start whispering instead of screaming their
significance. But our hearts are forever changed. Forever.
I've been here with Fletcher and Nolan now for 5 days and it's been a
breath of fresh air. I've been taking hot showers, napping, eating
healthy Ethiopian food, walking the hills meeting all these amazing
people who they've gotten so close to (these boys are gems), and just
watching them do their thing.
But, despite our contentment here, Fletcher and I have been having
these conversations that go something like, "What are you going to do
first when we get home?" We can't wait. But we will. Only three
more days. I'm looking forward to a bunch of hello's real soon.
Seriously, thank-you for being the awesome friends and family that you
are. I am lucky and blessed. Love Emily
Friday, February 27, 2009
only. then we do this and that for the next bit of time. i can
honestly say this has been that thing i needed. but now i'm going
there and i'm going to be grateful for that. thank-you for
this. all of this experience. love emily
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
because that's all I write about. :) But yet again, last night we
were laying on mats and cots and bed springs and blankets. The sea
of people was quiet except for Jolie's melodic yet out of tune
singing, Tony and Izeedor talking mathematics by lamp-light, and then
Armelle who would cry once in a while for silly-spoiled reasons.
And then there was the wind.
The wind blew dust in my eyes and flowers in my hair. It also made
the tree above me sway like crazy and I kept thinking about how
exactly bad it would hurt to have a branch fall on you. We talked
about rain. I told them I had really wished I would have been here
for the rainy season and how fun it would be if it rained. But
Esther said, "It's not going it rain. This is just wind."
We drank tea from our cots which lay parallel and about two inches
inbetween. Jolie lay on her side and me on my stomach as we just
chatted. She's such a graceful, life-filled lady. Armelle climbed
up and found a niche against Jolie's body.
Soon we stopped talking and I turned to my back. I think it was the
way that the branches shook themselves at me, the way the stars were
fading in and out; appearing and disappearing. It must have been all
the anticipation of the dust and flowers landing in my
eyes. Whatever it was I was mealancholic and thought, "What's
next?" Most of my 'what's next' thinking is about school and life
etc. What do I do now with my life...and na na na bla bla bla. In
the time my mind was distracted, there were drops of water that
started making my eyes blink and my body flinch. The scent in the
air changed....to RAIN! When will the impossible stop
happening? When will "what's next" be "what I think?" Probably
never. It never rains until May. It's the dryest part of the year
So it rained.
It rained in the dry season and it let my mind trust more....knowing
that probability and uncertainty are uncertain themselves. What
seems to be or should be, might not be because life is miraculous and
I'm ready to come home. I never feel settled leaving a place. I
always make these lists of things to do before the end and nothing
gets done on them and I feel like I'm leaving some puzzle
unfinished. But it's ok. I'm so grateful for everything that you
all have done. The letters, emails, prayers, packages, phone calls,
and just friendships in general. It is a huge gift to me to be sent
here. Thanks. Love Emily
p.s. during the night I felt somone climb on to the cot at my feet
and sneak under my blanket. I lifted my blanket and found Pabris
(4) who was cold and had burrowed a spot on my cot. During the
night he somehow made his way up from the foot of the bed to right
next to me. Then somehow Armelle rolled over onto my cot from
Jolie's and it was like a dog pile.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
me realize what a good thing I have here in Africa. It's too bad
that sometimes we have to be looking at an end to REALLY value what we have.
The last few nights we've been sleeping outside. It's
blazing during the days now. I've noticed that Samedi and Jolie
have been just resting at home in the evenings and whether they are
doing it on purpose or not, it has sure given us some priceless times
here at the end.
I come around the corner and everyone is out on the
mats. I lay down and Jolie starts rambling in dialect, sending
orders all around and despite the speed and complicated grammar she
uses, I gathered that she ordered someone to go get me tea, someone
to go bring me a pillow and another person to go lay out her blanket
for me to lay on. She's the sweetest: the kind of sweet that
leaves you feeling completely undeserving.
The kids aren't allowed on her blanket because they haven't
bathed, but the rules always fade and soon the kids are all in a line
on either side of me. I pull my own sheet over me and toss my blue
fleece over both Dinga (13) and myself. Armelle (3) is to my right
and completely naked. I try to throw the other edge of the blanket
over her but she throws it off because she is hot. Jabbering and
singing, some crying and fighting, and soon everyone is asleep. I
wake up a couple of times. Once to a dog licking my face, another
time to Esther coming home from a party, and then the third time
makes me laugh even now.
It must have been two in the morning or so, but I woke up to
someone pulling off my covers. I didn't move but just opened my
eyes. I watched as Tony (12) pulled my sheet off of me, leaving
Dinga and I to share my little blue fleece. He snuck back over and
layed down, wrapping MY covers all around him. I laughed inside so
hard. I decided that if he was willing to steal my covers, that he
must be miserably cold. So I just fell back asleep.
The next morning the hazy light woke us up and everyone
started guessing what time it was. Four-thirty, Five,
Six. Everyone was cold by this time and those who weren't already
in our little line up, squeezed in so we were like ten bundles all in
a row. I asked Tony, with my eyes narrowed, if he was nice and
warm. A huge smile broke out over his face as I told everyone about
his theiving. Caught! Mounden said, "Let's go running! It's nice
and cold!" I said, "Yeah! Let's run!" I stood up and then
realized the depth of my fatigue. I fell back down onto Jolie's rock
hard pillow and said, "Let's NOT run!" Mounden moaned and
protested. :) We laid their a long while longer until Esther
started sweeping the yard, like she does every morning, and sending
dust all over us. And so the day began.
The next night we also slept under the stars. Esther was
laying on this old set of bed springs that sits in our yard. It's
just the bed frame and often there are a billion ripped up old
shirts, pants, fabrics etc that act as padding. I told her to make
room for me and she moved over rest on half of the bed. Then she
asked me if I was going to sleep outside. I said, "Yeah, right here
with you." We climbed in and talked until late. It reminded me of
sleeping with my cousins when I was little because Esther just was
sprawled out all night. One time I woke up with her head on my
shoulder and her arm linked through mine, and yet another time with
her legs thrown across mine. And she was breathing right into my
eyes. I tried to turn over but there was no room left before I fell
off and no wall to hug.
Last night Ansley came to sleep outside with me. At about
9:30, Samedi (my father here) came home for a short visit from his
night shift (we live really close to the hospital). She came around
the corner and said, "Ooo la la! All of these people are for
Samedi?" as he gazed at the sea of bodies all over the numerous,
huge mats. We all chanted, "Qui! Qui!" Tony and Mounden were
talkers and we talked about all sorts of thing ranging from Mounden's
future career, to Tony's lack of money, to the people whose
characters they admired the most.
The kids kept waking Ansley up because she falls asleep so
fast! And it's true, she does. They said, "Our Professor (Ansley
teaches English to them sometimes at school) is asleep
already!" There have been many nights I have slept in her hut and I
juuuuuuuuuust begin to ask her all the world's most important
questions when all of a sudden she's gone. Uhg. She sometimes
apologizes before she conks out but it still doesn't change the fact. :)
Dinga moved home to the house of her real mother but she
just can't seem to stay away from our house. She comes late every
night, probably after everyone has fallen asleep at her own house,
and comes to join us for the night. She wove her little body in
between Pabris and me and Tony came in at a right angle to share my
pillow. I woke up and his side of the pillow was soaked. I am not
sure what happened.....:) He had found a way to somehow get my
covers again too. So I had a little edge while he ended up with the
big square nicely fit to his warmth. :)
I love this way of sleeping. Honestly, I hate sleeping by
myself. I can feel Dinga who is sick to one side of me and
Armelle's deep breathing on my ear and Tony's head fighting me for
space on the pillow. I feel like the night is another day. You
often wake up so many times that it feels like you are getting to
know people better just through your funny interactions during the
night. It's hard for me to explain in an emails. Anyway, I'm sad
I have only three more nights.
Here's the schedule:
Wednesday: go to the fields and take a family portrait.
Thursday: goodbye party with slide show of the family.
Friday: leave in the morning to head to
N'jamena with sisters, Esther and Sabine
and stay with Samedi's oldest daughter.
Sunday: go to the big market and then head
to the airport to get on my plane.
meet Fletcher in Ethiopia! Yay!
Monday: travel to Gimbi Hospital!
Tuesday-10th see what Fletcher's deal is all about.
The 10th: meet Alex B. Vercio in the Addis
Airport! it's been so long! There are
these little beautiful insects with wings
are flying all around in my stomach. :)
Then, Wednesday Evening, i am flying into Spokane Airport
and will be looking for the red lights which pinpoint tower
mountain. This adventure is coming to a close and I'm sure that
even when I am not sure how I feel about it all....the ends and
beginnings....the plan is in place already. Oh it's a good feeling.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
It seems there is always this pushing point. I hate getting
caught. I hate getting in trouble. It's not like I melt under
reprimand or can't take consequences, I just don't like getting
caught. No one does though.
Last night left Carol, Ansley and me sitting in our middle room at
about nine o'clock with preparations already made. Ansley, of
course, had a backpacking pack, a head lamp, blanket, mattress,
Nalgene, toothbrush, toothpaste, candle with matches, and a snack (ok
so the last one isn't true, but she was really prepared and that's my
point.) Then, there was Caroline and I who had packed a bit lighter:
the scrubs we were wearing and gum (Carol said it was to ease our
consciences since we weren't brushing our teeth that night). I also
insisted that we take a blanket and sheet because I remembered the
night of using only my Santa suit as a blanket: bad news. We seem
to have this super similar outlook on preparation:
If you are ok with not having it, then you don't have to bring it.
So if we don't bring a flashlight with us, we have to be ok trekking
in the dark. If we don't bring a water bottle, we have to be able to
last till morning without drinking. If we don't bring a mattress,
then we better be able to tough it out without complaining.
We let Dr. Wilson (awesome visiting Dr. from California) in on our
plan. We explained to him that we wanted to sleep up on top of the
water tower. It is this big huge box set 40 feet high on
stilts. The generator is turned on probably once a day and water is
pumped from the cleanliness of the earth's core and then later able
to run out of our faucets at the hospital. It's awesome up
there. It's flat with no railings. We were worrying a bit about
falling off of it's not-so-large surface area and Dr. Wilson
volunteered to carry bricks up and place them all around the border
for us. He would have too. :) We told him we'd be find. I
suggested we tie our wrists together so at least would be like a
chain. No one thought that was that great of an idea.
So off we went.
But then we hit that pushing point. It's usually at the doorway of
the room to break into, the base of the ladder to climb, the edge of
the boundary to cross). This is the point where I say, "Guys, what
if......." and then I pose the worry about someone seeing us, getting
us in trouble, or us GETTING CAUGHT. Thankfully, it seems I always
have a friend who pushes me past that point. Once I'm past that
point, I'm all in. But if it weren't for edgy friends, there would
be alot fewer awesome experiences under my belt.
I remember on the road trip this last summer with Tara Becker, we
drove to the boiling mud pots in Yellowstone. These brown holes
just bubble! They steam too and we wanted so bad to touch them,
just to KNOW how hot they really were. BUT....there was this sign
that said, "Keep Off." Then there was a RAILING. Tara was like,
"Emily, let's just hop the fence, run down there, stick our finger in
the mud, and then run out." I am not sure why it was so worrisome,
but I just kept thinking, "We're gonna get caught! I know it!" But
Tara pushed me past that point and we ran down past the warning sign,
touched the boiling pots and found out that they were almost
cold! I would have always thought they were hot! We start walking over the hospital and it's nine at night. We go
through the metal gate and start walking across the campus. I see
people milling around and definitely not asleep yet. I say, "What
if someone sees us while climbing and thinks we are thieves?"
"Are you having second thoughts, Emily?" No. It's never second
thoughts. It's just that I have to say the worries, have someone
tell me I am being silly, and then I suck up my fears and go.
We found the super tall solid metal ladder. It took three of us to
get it standing on end and even then it was waving all over in the
air. The top would start swaying towards the metal roof of one
building and we would correct it by pushing it the other way, which
caused overcompensation, and then we'd almost hit another roof. Oh
man it was so crazy. Really heavy. Finally we got it in place and
started up. We took off our shoes at the first level and then
climbed up to the second. The big water drum is capped by this
semi-thin sheet of metal and that's what we were going to sleep
on. There was this big drum sound every time we'd shift weight and
it was impossible to be sneaky, especially after Ansley lit her
candle up there. :) But after getting settled, we were staring up
at stars. Just stars! We were so high, that's all you could
see. There were like 10 stars that shot across the sky. We had
My dad always says that there is something about both campfires and
hot tubs that makes them such good places for conversation. It's
like there is a reason for you to just sit still and good
conversation is the awesome side effect Silences are not awkward
because when conversation runs out, there is always that other reason
to stay: the heat of the fire, the comfort of the hot water.
I think I am going to add stars to his theory. Looking at stars
produces some pretty awesome conversation.
So then finally we went to sleep.
I'm having a hard time sleeping lately. My mind just won't turn
off. Jolie (my mother here) says that if you think too much you
will get skinny and sickly. Anytime she catches me daydreaming, she
reminds me I'll get sickly if I keep that up. :)
But despite the lack of sleep I've had these last few nights, I'm
thankful for the thinking time.
At 3 am Caroline told me she was freezing and wasn't going to make it
till morning. She headed down and walked home. Crazy girl. Then
at 4 am Ansley told me she was cold and wasn't going to make it till
morning. I begged her not to leave right then. Wait till it's a
bit lighter, then we'll go. So she toughed it out like the champ she is.
I have learned that good sleep is not usually part of a good adventure.