Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Other End of the Spectrum

I suppose that with enough experience, one gets to a point with refugee camps that you can see beyond the misery, putting aside your own shock, revulsion, and guilt, and just envision a pathway to making things better.

Not so for me on my first visit. I spent the day covered in flies, like everyone else, trailing the UJV workers as we wove our way through the labrynth of the camp, trying to contain the rushing outpour of my fear and horror. Children trailed behind my camera in small armies, old men shook my hand and thanked me for coming (why?), drunk men on stoops eyed me suspiciously, and weary mothers indifferently continued pounding cassava or sorting grains to keep their children fed. The sun beats down relentlessly. I did all I could do; I shot pictures, trying to be as honest as I could...

The village leader is dying of diabetes, the kind a regular shot of cheap insulin would cure. This had been his land, he once raised cattle here. He still got out of bed, dressed, and greeted us. He thanked me for coming. I don't know why.

We went to nearby villages in the grassland, burnt out, empty, and abandonded to the rebels. There we met with the remaining family members of the children in their family homes.

A sudden and viscious flatland thunderstorm forced us to find shelter in the back of an unlit aluminum and mud-brick shed, home to a young mother and child. We gave them chips and creme cookies for their hospitality.

When we got home I ate a dinner of fish, rice, and boo - pronounced 'boe', a delicious local dish of pureed greens in peanut sauce. I ordered a second helping and I ate every little drop.

Deep gratitude, again, to the UJV ladies for letting me come along. I still don't know why they did.


1 comment:

  1. It would be hard not to be impacted by the photos. Thanks for the glimpse.

    (uhh - one dude is wearing a jacket almost exactly like the one you always wear to the gym....?)