Monday, August 06, 2012

Beautiful Cr*p

Somedays, I just wonder how people earn the love of another. 

Somedays, I get obsessed to the point of compulsion, to track down and explain at which point exactly did this other human being trust me and love me. What are the factors? What criteria did I fulfill which responds to his quota, his need, his desire?

Then I realize it might not be about me. It must be about the two of us, and the sense and nonsense we make when we are together. Millions of scientists have tried to enacapsulate Love in their studies and researches and white papers. All of them are possibly correct, but none of them got the point. Measuring love is like measuring sand. You grasp the understanding, but most of its definitions slip away, fall through, seep out. The handful you do manage to grasp is just an iota of its many other reasons, meanings and possibilities. It blows my mind away.

This entry is absolute crap and mush. I am aware of that. But I’m happy I have this crap in my life.I can't imagine dying and not having known this. Now that would've been real crap.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Cutting Stones

photo c/o of The Guardian, UK.

Everyday, girls as young as 5 years old are taken to clinics to undergo circumcision. In certain countries, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a ritual, a rite of passage from childhood to womanhood. But it's primary goal is to decrease sexual pleasure for when girls become women stating this would make sure they will remain faithful to their husbands. I wrote this story, amateurish as it may be, to help support the movement against FGM. It is not the same as Male Circumcision. There is no hygienic reason behind it, nor is it really part of any religious commandment. In my opinion, it is just one more way to treat women as objects of pleasure, to owned and controlled.


“Uman dande boku wahala.”

I heard a woman say to her companion as I was closing the wooden door of the hut I’ve been using as a makeshift school. They just said, “That woman is too much trouble.” Their eyes flitted towards me and then back again, probably whispering about how I am an eccentricity of nature.

Yu no mind wetin dey se.” Talika, the volunteer assistant, told me in her broken English as she followed me down the pathway. 

“No. I mean yes. I don’t mind. I’m in a good mood.” I shrugged it off; I have had a good day after all. I won’t let idle chatter ruin it. 

Today Abna was able to explain to me the scientific reason why we see the skies as blue. In halting English, peppered with Krio words, she explained about light in the atmosphere, gas molecules and spectrums. She is 12 years old, just the same age as I was when this question was asked and answered for me too. The other girls were disbelieving at first. But when we did the experiments with the spectrometer, they were wide-eyed as tarsiers. It was mejik, they said. And I said, yes, Magic is Science yet Unexplained.

That counts as a good day, right?

I’ve been in Bombali for fourteen months now, and God knows the days are like rollercoaster rides. You just have to take each day as it comes, and recognize a good day when you see it. I have stayed long enough to learn some of their language and culture, and the wariness have lessened but I am not exactly popular in the area. I am foreign, strange, odd. Not white, but not quite black. Definitely not one of them. I turned to Talika, who may be my only friend, and asked if she would like to have dinner at my abula, my hut of a home not far from the school.

 Tenki, Sara, but no. A de go fo makit fo bai plenti banana.”

Of course, going to the market and buying bananas is a safer activity than being seen with the strange uman. In Sierra Leone, they do not mince their words. I nodded and smiled, hiding my disappointment at another night alone at my rickety dining table. 

“Ticha! Ticha!” 

Talika and I turned around to find Aina, one of my youngest pupils, running towards me with shoes soaking wet and face stricken with dirt and tears. “Aina, what is it?” 

Yu se, titis s’ not be ert, rayt?”

Girls should not be hurt. 

“Yes, Aina. Why?” My first fear was that someone has just tried to molest her, so my eyes immediately searched the quiet road for strangers who may have followed her. Seeing neither men nor shadow, I bent down to check if she was alright. She looked like she ran straight across the shallow part of the river. Aina must’ve slipped on the rocks which would explain the wet cloth shoes and the skinned left knee. “Wetin mek?” I asked again, in her language.

I can see the hesitation in her eyes. Whatever she wants to say, she does not think I should know. “Aina, you can trust me. Ah de wit u.” She sobbed and took an intake of breath, as if steeling herself for what she is about to divulge.

Ticha,” her voice soft, “Me mama wans ert me.”

I opened the school door again and motioned for her to go inside. I held out a chair and patted it, inviting her to sit beside me. Talika was close behind. “How does she want to hurt you?”I asked.

“Mi Mama med me ride e motocar, en a de go alagba, to cut mi. A ran a way.

“Cut you? Wetin mek?” I asked, but before the girl could answer, Talika rushed forward and gathered Aina in her arms. 

“Ah, no big matter, Ticha Sara.” Talika said. “Aina a scare of nuting. A will bring im hom, arayt?”

To say I was surprised was saying nothing. “Talika, what do you mean? You can clearly see she is distressed. What does cut mean?”

At this point, Aina began to wail. She was struggling to get away, making such a hellcat of herself that the woman lost her grip. Aina ran to hide behind my back. I held her there.

“Talika, what is this cutting for?” I asked again, anger building inside.

A similar fire was reflected in Talika’s eyes. “Et is ritual! Et is sacred! Can do nothing about it. Not  matter fo yu.”

Slowly, I realized what she was referring to. “Are you talking of mutilation? Are they going to cut her…?” the words escaped me as a silent numbness came over me. Aina was just 6 years old. 

“No mutilation. Et a ritual to purify, fo make clean. Not matter fo yu.” She made a grab for Aina; I swatted her hand away. “Sara, if u no let Aina be cut, yu are making im unclean fo rest of im life.” 

“Female genital mutilation is against the law!” I countered. 

“Not in Sierra Leone.” She answered in a quiet victor’s voice. Then Talika’s eyes softened. “Sara,  a glad yu care e lot. But der things dat has to be. A be cut too. A be fine, see? Et part fo uman’s sorrow, et makes us woman.”

“That is not good enough for me, Talika. Isn’t it painful? Have you asked yourself what is all the pain you are experiencing for? Who does that pain serve? “

She shook her head in sadness. “Yu no understand.”

“I understand that this child could die if she went under the knife. Where is the procedure going to happen? Is it safe? Is it clean?”

A shout distracted Talika from answering. Outside, Aina’s mother was on a warpath towards us with about six more women behind her. I could feel Aina’s small body quiver in terror. “Ticha, no let dem take mi, duya.”

Her mother burst in through the door, screaming in Krio too fast, too incoherently. She surged towards me and slapped me before I realized what she was going to do. 

Yu put wowoh ideyas in mi titi’s hed! Yu gafa!” Then her onslaught started again. None of the other women tried to stop her, until Talika yelled.

Leff! Leff, Gerita! Go take Aina, go!” she said. 

“Talika, Gerita, let us talk about this. Let’s calm down and take a seat.” I tried to keep desperation out of my voice. I made a move towards Aina, but one of the woman stopped me. She held up a closed fist at my face, opened her palm, and blew dark powder towards me. The last thing I remembered is Aina’s pleading eyes, and her screams calling out to me.

I remember waking up at my desk the day after they took Aina away. I immediately went to the police to tell them what has happened, and they doodled and scribbled in their ledgers a bit and told them they’ll get back to me when they found out who drugged me. Well-intentioned parents visited me that day and told me to stay away from Aina’s family for a while because they have colluded with local thugs to apprehend me if I dare step over their district line. I did not listen to them, of course, but found out the hard way that they were telling me the truth. With a bruised cheek, and a thread away from being raped, I was able to run away. I was not able to go back to the school for a week since my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. Some of those days, I would put a hand on my chest, and compare my shivering to that of my heart beating. I felt helpless.

When I went back to school, the children were there. All of them but Aina. They came to school everyday, they said, hoping I would be well already and teach them. My heart jumpstarted some. All is not lost. I asked them if they’ve seen Aina. The silence was answer enough. She died of infection, it turns out. They attempted to do infibulation, which means they removed the whole of her labia and her clitoris and then tried to sew her back up. On the 2nd day, she took to a high fever. She died the night before I returned to work.
Talika did not return to my school for the rest of my stay there. I’d see her somedays, in the market or in town, but she would not meet my eyes. 

The one time she did, I held her stare and did not blink. I wanted her to read my mind. 

Iam aware of what I failed to do; excruciatingly aware of the part my humanity that died by not being able to do something. I am a coward. I thrashed at the stone wall, but ran away when it began to cut me and bleed me. 

But that day, I held Talika’s eyes knowing she knows little Aina has died and she has helped make it happen.

I felt like I won a little something when her eyes were the first to look away.