Thursday, December 4, 2008

So…two days after the mobile eye clinic turned up in the chiefdom and on the Moria “bookmobile” day, when I sit in the village barrie and read, wearing my all purpose reading glasses, the young man in the photo turned up with his own glasses, carefully fashioned from grass. Oh, there is so much we can learn about a community from the way children play and imitate adults! I thought about this after my friend Tamara recently sent me an article about the banning of “war toys” in Iraq, making me reflect on the fact that I have never seen a child play guns or war or play fight here.

Students at Westwood School sent drawings and paintings to class four Moria students on what peace means to them. Moria students responded with, “This is what peace means to us. During the time of the war we had to run and hide and sleep in the forest and caves with wild animals and sleep under trees. Now we enjoy going where we want and are able to work on the farms to sustain our lives. We suffered in the war but now we feel so lively and happy.” Recording correspondence between children living different yet connected realities is a theme in the books I’m reading now. I usually drift off to sleep with a book in hand and wind-up flashlight slipping off my shoulder (the solar light system I rigged up for my room has failed me). A few excerpts from this week’s reading of children’s books…”But war, like almost everything else humans do, is a choice. Creating weapons is a choice. Allowing a child to go hungry or to drink poisoned water is a choice. Sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing to stop something that’s wrong in a choice.”…from Deborah Ellis’ “Three Wishes; Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak” (another fascinating read is “We Just Want to Live Here” letters between an Israeli and Palestinian teenager). Then, the last lines from an old classic by E.B. White (author of Charlotte’s Web), “As Louis relaxed and prepared for sleep, all his thoughts were of how lucky he was to inhabit such a beautiful earth, how lucky he had been to solve his problems with music, and how pleasant it was to look forward to another night of sleep and another day tomorrow, and the fresh morning, and the light that returns with the day.” These two quotes seem to reflect my thoughts as I drift off to sleep most days, somewhat frustrated by choices that hurt so many on this earth but looking forward to a new day of beauty and problems solved by music. Thanks to you, all eighteen eye operation people will also enjoy waking to beauty as we’ve raised the money to pay for all operations. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Any extra money that arrives will go to additional eye operations (we expect more requests) or into a cdpeace health fund.

I’m now heading back to Makambray with the almost finished book the children there are writing about a palm-wine tapper who dies of snake bite. This sparked me to pull out our library copy of Where There Is No Doctor and reread the section on snake bite which I’m bringing to Makambray to share with the students, as this seems to be of great concern to them (no mention of black snake stone in this book, curiously).

This week the students in Mapaki have been fascinated by the various photographs that they’ve received from twin schools. The older students compared their own fishing and fish smoking methods with those of students in Dawson, Yukon and talked about their biggest challenge in hunting (catching large animals that fight back) as, due to disarmament, they hunt without guns. Class two students (who still go to school daily without a teacher after Mr. Koroma died) saw photos of and heard about snow for the first time and commiserated with their twins, wondering if everyone dies early in Canada because of the cold.

By now, I suppose, many of you are experiencing the cold and snow of the north. I thought about this yesterday when I was invited by a friend to go spend Christmas in a tiny village that’s located on the top of a mountain several chiefdoms away. This is a village that is difficult to reach and can only be accessed on foot (involves an overnight journey by bike and foot). It is also a village that’s located on a gold seam, providing some on-going income to the residents who pick and pan the nuggets and dust. Happily, its inaccessibility also protects it from big-time mining operations, the bane of many communities around the world. While you all will probably spend the day shoveling snow and picking ice, I expect to be panning and picking gold and cooling in the stream. Can’t wait! Have my mosquito net and can of beans ready!