Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Ario Aber by: Holly
I was trying to think of a few words that could sum up the experience so far. The first thing that came into my head was something my mom used to say when I was kid. She’d say, “Life’s tough and then you die.” Life in Lira, Uganda is tough. People live hard lives and then they die—from malaria, typhoid, AIDS, violence, sorrow—it seems like few die from old age. I feel guilty because I know the trivial inconveniences, isolation and homesickness I feel ought to be put in perspective with the tremendous suffering taking place just outside my door. The little things I thought wouldn’t phase me affect me more than I’d like to admit—the cold showers, the mosquitoes, the massive and ever present cockroaches, ants and spiders, dust and heat, the electricity going off every night from sunset to bedtime. Every day I’ve had to face my own weakness. I thought I was tougher than I really am. It is humbling to admit this is hard.
The second day in our house we decided to bake cookies—an attempt at some sense of normalcy. There was comfort in doing something routine. The sugar and flour are different here. Vanilla and butter are nowhere to be found-but regardless I was baking cookies. Ben was putting the first tray in and I was holding the oven door when my hand slipped. The oven door banged shut burning Ben. He yanked his arm away from the heat hitting me right in the nose with his elbow and knocking me off my feet onto the floor where there was immediately a growing pool of blood. Between the pain and the blood I was trying to convince myself this would be funny in a year but mostly I was thinking my God I don’t even know where to find a doctor in this crazy town. All I could do was lay there and cry feeling really not tough. I iced it a lot and for a few days my nose was pretty funny looking—swollen and blue. It still looks crooked to me but we’ll see when the rest of swelling goes down.
Last week we ordered some white curtains from a really kind tailor, clearly just scraping by. When he came to put them up they weren’t white. They were well made, but totally hideous fabric that somehow managed to clash with everything in the room (the paint resembles an Easter egg with pastel pink as the main color—you know how much I love pink). I think I’m mostly over it now but I was so bothered I really almost cried after he left. Ben asked which was worse, when he broke my nose the day before or the curtains. The curtains—definitely, because my nose will heal but I have to look at these every day for three years. It’s not as if I’d send them back and say, hey buddy you got the color wrong—his family might not eat for a month. It’s this kind of thing where my own weakness is just so obvious. I was sitting and looking at the curtains and trying to squint, because if you block out 6 of the colors present it almost looks color coordinated (but not really) and I heard a baby crying. In Lira you can always hear at least one baby crying and a child laughing. One of the cries is constant and comes from a mud hut behind our house. When I heard the baby crying I thought how sick am I that I am worried about the color scheme in my living room while behind me this child is probably suffering from disease and his mother is worrying about how she can possibly relieve his pain? I determined to try to help the baby instead of staring at the curtains. The next day I met the neighbors who are digging an outhouse as far from their hut but still on their property as they can. Unfortunately, that’s just upwind of our kitchen window. But they’re really great people. I bring them tea while they dig and talk with them. I asked about the baby and as it turns out he’s not sick. He just wants to be held all the time and whenever they put him down he cries. I was so relieved, I told them a stubborn baby is much better than a sick one and they laughed and agreed.
A better way to sum things up—a way that reflects our gratefulness for the inspiring transcendence and warm kindness of the people we’ve met is “ario a ber.” We have been well sustained. Every day the little things bother me less and my eyes are wider to everything that is sustaining me.