march 9. so far, at this point in the day,
twelve noon, i am having my first day off. well, i went to the
hospital, but only to check on a baby i admitted yesterday who was so
dehydrated that you could see his fontanelle from twenty metres. he was
sleeping soundly, his mother beside him. she has two oblique scars on
either cheek. like this:
// ^ \\
last night the “abyei jazz band”
(and i use the already loose term “jazz” so loosely that one of the z’s
just fell off) played all night at volumes that greatly exceeded my 32
dB rated earplugs. one of the rewards i had hoped to find this far from
somewhere was a night full of quiet stars. no.
beside me, on
this plastic tukul table, sits the card from the newborn i wrote about
some days ago. it says “poor breastfeeding”. the baby died two days
after. i have cleaned this table a dozen times since but can’t bring
myself to throw it away.
families here don’t accept little
children as full members of their family until they are two or three.
if there is not enough food, it goes to the older children, and the
younger starves. he or she is still too close to the fence. my head of
mission said that when he came to this part of sudan for the first time
he saw a two year old left in front of a tree next to the hospital. the
family had moved on.
i am trying not to smoke, and mostly succeeding.
shower has been fixed. it no longer looks like cholera culture medium.
it is one of the highlights of the day, to stand under the loose pipe
and get clean. sure, the clean lasts for about three minutes, but it
gives us some memory of what it is like. by the time we see each other
around dinnertime, we are all smeared with dust.
there is no
electricity in abyei. everything runs on generators. ours runs for
about 12 hours a day and charges batteries that provide us with some
energy for the rest of it. not enough for fans, however. next door, the
world food program has a huge generator that runs all night and powers
more returnees arrive every day. mostly dinka.
they are asked to build a tukul for themselves and one for another
family of returnees. i can’t get a straight answer about who is asking
them. last year, the population was 5,000. a few months ago, 65,000. i
am not sure what they are going to eat.
i spent the morning
writing a response to a journalist who asked why i am doing this. two
reasons, i said. one is personal. it provides a narrative to my time
here, and it allows me to feel that i get to talk with the people in
the world i care about, and who i miss with my whole soul. second, i am
bearing witness. like i was on a stand. i have to believe that the
biggest problem in moving towards an easier world for two year olds is
not the indifference of those who can effect change. it is distance. if
i didn’t believe that, i would have moved to fernie long ago. maybe,
for some who read this, it doesn’t seem that far now. it isn’t for me.
it’s right here. i’m touching the dirt with my feet right now, leaning
my head against the warm wall. you guys are all here too. thank you for