Monday, August 21, 2006

I was ready to write about my life or work here, o...

I was ready to write about my life or work here, or my incident in the market until I got an email about a friend of mine who died in a car accident in Accra, Ghana. Learning that a friend has died in an email is a surreal thing so I am not sure if even now I believe that she is not somewhere in Ghana just missing off on some adventure. Kim and I were Peace Corps volunteers in South Africa together. Kim is one of those smart individuals who is quick to smile, lives life fully, and pursues what she wants. My most vivid memory of Kim was when she, myself and four other volunteers absconded from our pre-service training and went to Pretoria to enjoy some city life. Ever since we were known as the "Pretoria 6." We actually got into some trouble leaving like that, but we needed to get away and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Looking back, it was well worth because now I have that memory and it makes me smile. I have not actually spoken to Kim since I left SA in 2000, but we have had infrequent email exchanges and knew what the other was doing. I have been looking at my photos with Kim in them and thinking of her and have asked myself what stops something like this from happening to me? She and I are alike in many ways; we love traveling, involved in the same field of work etc.. I know that no one can ever know the hour of their death or the details involved in it, and I am not attempting to delve into that area of human existence, it is just that she is so young and full of life, so I am having a hard time wrapping my head around this. Ever since she passed emails have been in circulation about how she lived a full lifetime in 30 years, and frankly she has. She has experienced things that most people say that would like to do, but it is idle talk; nothing would ever come of it. I admire people who pursue their dreams, despite whatever obstacles may exist. I look at Kim as someone who made her time on this earth have meaning. Yes every life has meaning and is important, but there are those people out there who make a conscious effort to take this time that we have on earth and do something of value for someone outside of themselves. I hope that I can be one of those people one day.

So naturally now, I am thinking about my own mortality and asking myself what can I do now to live a more meaningfull life. Because all we have is this moment right now. I have been so involved in my Rumbek bubble that I am not even current on world affairs, but when I visited the news websites I became disguisted and moved on. A couple of blog entrys ago I was complaning about some of my frustrations and I have been thinking to myself, "hey silly girl at least you are alive to have those experiences, each day is another opportunity to do something good -something that could bring joy to someone else." I know this is all a bit like a therapy session, but indulge me for a moment. News of my friend's death even made my little market incident seem unimportant, but people have been asking me about it so here is the story.

A few weeks ago I was with a friend of mine trying to find something in the local market. We went to the shop of someone he knows. While I am making my purchase a young man walks up to my friend and demands money from him. My friend and the young man have a verbal exchange, the only thing I heard my friend say was something like what have you done for me that I should give you my money. So I finish making my purchase and we proceed to walk out of the market. My friend was walking a little ahead of me and as I walked by the young man he kicked me. I was stunned that someone would do something like that for no reason. So, being the person I am, I walk up to this guy and ask him why did he kick me and my friend is right there with me. As soon as we start talking to him a swarm of people gather around us. My friend explains that this guy kicked me to the crowd and the circumstances surrounding it. The response was forget about it and just leave and people were beginning to get hostile. So I said to my friend let's go. We both knew that people around here are armed, and of course we are not and violent reactions to disputes are too common. Besides, if I get killed my body would probably not be at home, washed and funeral rights could not be performed in 3 days time from where I am right now. I have to consider those things. I was livid about this incident. I felt very helpless, I wished I had some of my crazy male cousins around here at that moment, but then of course it would have created a mini-war. So now I don't go to the market. I had been warned previously about the market, but I still have this Peace Corps mentality that I need to mingle and engage with the community, get to know people, learn a few more Dinka words. I had all that taken away from me within the span of a few minutes. I wondered why he would kick me when the one he had the words with was my friend. Then I remember, my friend is a man, and he was probably trying to provoke him through me, so it wasn't a personal thing, the guy was just a hot-headed jerk who mistakenly thinks that a stranger owes him something. Then I thought about other situations that have happened to some women I know around here; the young lady who braids my hair was slapped when she was having a minor disagreement with a guy here and another woman who is a doctor was also slapped. I thinkthe doctor was slapped during an immunization because the inoculation was painful to her patient, a child, so the father slapped her. So at least I wasn't slapped. For me that would put me over the edge, it is the ultimate disrespect. I don't know what I would do if I was slapped, but it would probably be something that would make it impossible for me to stay here.

I have decided everytime I write about something negative, I have to write about something positive. Earlier this week I was with my two co-workers doing an awareness with teachers, students and the community elders in a community a few miles outside of town. Part of the local protocal is that we say a proper good bye to the important people; in this case it was the teachers and the elders. After saying my farewells to the teachers I went to the circle of elders and they were so kind. The oldest man in the group said he would marry me, but my father wasn't around to start the negotiations. I mean this man was old, but apparently not too old for another wife! The elders expressed that they were happy that I was there and made a beautiful prayer that I exceed them in age and have lots of children. It touched me so because it was sincere. That someone would want you to have better or more good things than them is not common in the individualistic, competitive society where I come from, so it is refreshing when people wish that for you and it is real. I nearly cried -especially since I had been having some bad days recently. I generally don't experience this kind of well-wishing at home unless it is with family or I am around other Muslims.
Oh, and the other good news is that my stock is rising. I am up to 500 cattle now as an offering for a bride-price!! I don't take the offers seriously, but hey I am a woman and it is flattering nonetheless.

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