Thursday, November 13, 2008

Life in Mapaki was unsettled last night. An unexpected wind and rain storm whipped up dust and tore leaves from the trees, the full moon drenched the village with an eerie pale light, an alleged itinerant witch was in lock-up, the community was reeling with the sudden death of our grade two teacher (twin with Granville Ferry’s grade two), two of the boys of our household were sorting out a conflict, and we all wondered what would happen with our tragic-accident-survivor who had gotten himself into hot water (long story) . I’ve been learning more about the impact of the war on the young men here and how the community has come together to heal and forgive. The boys in conflict did a great job of sorting out their problem on their own, people seem quite sympathetic towards the alleged witch, I believe the tragic-accident-survivor is addressing the not-too-wise choices he made, and the teachers from surrounding communities are here to find a way to support the dead teacher’s family. The moon is waning, the storm has passed and life continues.

But now again I’m in a bit of shock. Tonight I decided to take a walk to the old broken-down, vine-encrusted hidden colonial “castle” on the hill (I’m searching for a little oasis of solitude to visit occasionally after my trip to the northern forest). On the way I passed the house of a woman whose baby I’d promised to photograph and on seeing her empty arms asked where her baby was. Her response was, “Dead, he died Tuesday”.

Malaria. Of course. Again. Although she took him for treatment it was either not enough or too late. She puts this down to “God’s will.” I’ve been thinking about this. Last week I tried to buy some malaria medicine for myself (had given my emergency medicine to Mabinty) at a couple of pharmacies. Being unsuccessful, I headed to the hospital but even there could not find the ACT that I was looking for. I told this story to a friend and was told that it might be because there are no imports coming into the country now because there is a shortage of American currency because the IMF did not approve an expected grant because “conditions” had not been met. And somehow the dearth of teachers is connected to not meeting “conditions”. Hmmm… teachers die, volunteers who want to be approved as “real” teachers wait vainly for years, community school applications for approval go no where. No teachers, no IMF grant, no imports…no ACT malaria medicine, babies and teachers who die? Seems like a self-perpetuating circle. Perhaps a stretch, but a link is certainly possible….and disturbing. Hmmm…. To read more on this go to "Confronting the Contradictions".

So, some friends have been asking for a birthday report. Few people here keep track of birthdays or know how old they are (have heard some pretty wild guesses from both adults and children). I celebrated today’s birthday yesterday with a visit to Makeni where I splurged on a tuna sandwich I found at a recently opened hotel, visited a new friend I met, read a very interesting NGO analysis of Mapaki while spending several hours at a roadside mechanic getting the motorbike fixed (and watching a massive assemblage of truckloads of soldiers and police gather on the other side of the road), and came home through the storm. Came to the library this morning at 5:30a.m. where I found very sweet birthday cards and email messages from Mabinty and Kouame. Celebrated with two pieces of very stale bread I bought from Hawa, which, dipped in cocoa powder, almost tasted like chocolate croissants (it was exactly a year ago that I thought I was dieing from malaria and believe it was a craving for chocolate croissants and coffee that kept me alive). Have been nibbling on pineapple, bananas and oranges all day; managed, while working on a funding proposal to play my favourite music on an old laptop that I got working again; and this evening, have been treated by the children to the seeds of cacao pods, which I plan to ferment and turn to cocoa powder. Spent some leisurely time visiting with the chief on his porch for the first time (seems that either he or I are too busy to chat most of the time), weeded my garden, peeked through the rapidly progressing new library, and sampled the pepper soup and river crabs made by Sallay. A fine day all round! Thanks for asking, friends and family!

Photo - Two of my daily watching-the-sun-set friends on the first hill