“We have our own in the car,” we say, so that we don’t offend the women that want to give us water and snacks, after we have taken their stories. Of course, the real reason is because we have weak stomachs. Our friend Bouba, always the gentleman, drinks the water and gives thanks. He later tells us laughing, that he always has to step in for us and then has to take the medicine.
This camp has been a place of such extremes. The location is stunning in its beauty. I have always loved the desert, and I can only imagine what the middle of the Sahara must look like, standing here at the edge. The sand is finer than what I have back at home in Redondo Beach. The hills and the sky is like out of a painting. Walking in person through this very real setting, though, I know that I would not survive in it without assistance for very long.
There are wonderful birds! Big birds with long legs and necks, and little birds with colors that look as if created on this computer. We also just saw a huge scorpion. “They are deadly,” one of our UNHCR hosts, Pepe, told us. “Don’t get stung by one of those here. You’re in the middle of nowhere.” Thanks for the peace of mind, Pepe! The huge deadly scorpions are sand color, which is great, as we walk around the compound in our flipflops.
We’ve had so much fun with the people, especially the kids. We play sports and run and joke. They love the camera, and can’t get enough of seeing themselves in the little digital screens. We also laugh with the women, and they many times laugh with each other (I’m pretty sure that it’s at how funny we dress). Then, their stories come. They tell of all men from the village being dead. What about the boys? “They are men,” she says. They tell us of the girls that went to collect water and did not come back for five days. “They looked sick,” one of them says. One died and one cannot hear or speak.
Oh, and speaking of extremes, it gets as hot as I can stand, and in the winter people die from the cold.
Tomorrow, we get on a small plane and fly south, and the view is impressive from up there. Then I can really see it as a painting, without feeling its heat or fearing its scorpions. I can’t let go of the stories, though. The people that told them to us feel empowered by sharing, and they feel hope in that others will get to hear them. Pass them on, please.