03 May 2011

early last week, our logistician returned to the mission. he said that on his drive to dagahaley, he passed a truck, stuck, sunk, people pushing to and fro, while its wheels spit sand. he and the driver stopped to help, and as they were, a herd of camels passed. from it, one slumped to the ground, its hump sagging, starved for water. the owner beat it with a branch, but it wouldn’t get up.

most times, people arrive here from somalia with nothing. either it is what they started with, or all that is left when they get to this place where camels can die. with time, they get a tent, and some food, a plastic jug. in the new arrivals area, yellow and red plastic canisters snake in a cue a hundred long as people wait for water. tonight, though, there's no waiting. it's everywhere.

the sky is dark, and it hammers so hard on the tin that it drowns the sound from my small speakers. i’ve tethered my curtains to my window’s iron bars, but still, as they billow, drops fly in to\ speckle my screen. i've moved closer to the door.

this is the second rain this week and the second this year. the other evening was like this one. from a near clear sky, a sandstorm, dust in your eyes, your mouth, then a sweet smell, like fog, and a cloud crashed down. still, the next day, there were no puddles as proof, just dime sized dimples in the dust.

tomorrow i think there will be, though. the rain lashes. before i ran here, to my concrete room to check on my electric things, a nurse and i stood in the mess, marvelling at the sheets of water and bright flashes of lightning. as we did, a metal sink, sunk in the middle of our yard, wobbled, its edge trembled, lifted, then caught by the wind, creaked over at the faucet. i'm sure we shared the same thought of tents turning end over end, children huddled in the mud.

i’ve raised the hospital on the radio. we’re checking on the feeding centre tents. could be my fault if it's full of water. today i lifted the flaps so that the breeze would flow through, and fewer families would scatter through the hot yard. from drought to flood. so little middle ground.

the feeding centre is packed. yesterday i discharged three, admitted thirteen. in today’s morning meeting, a nurse confessed he was having trouble keeping track of how many patients there were, packed in the ward, the tents, in the old radio room, underneath trees. we guessed fifty, then walked through them all, counting children, marking their foot with a pen. fifty two. maybe sixty by tomorrow.

the rain's stopped. it's just like that, isn't it?

outside my door, puddles shine. i wonder if tomorrow the water truck will be spinning, up to its axles in mud and the people who were, just minutes ago, watching the edges of their tent tremble and lift, will be under a tree, hands on their brow, until they can't leave their kids alone anymore at home and decide instead to gather some of whats on the ground like anyone would and if that happens, and their children fall sick and fatten further our feeding centre, how tricky it's going to be to keep track of so many. this time with water, the world answers: be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.

it is just past dusk. the bugs are out, already partying. they're fast that way. people are splashing their way towards the mess. i’m going to join them. blessblessbless. more soon.