I am quiet on the ride this morning. I focus more on the landscape than I did yesterday; it is beautiful here. A goat stands tall on its hind legs reaching for food, the lower branches of the tree have been another’s meal. In the distance, I see a few small hills. At their foot, deep red grass zigzags meandering towards the wadi (riverbed) below. The red is close to a color I have seen before in the mountains of the West – Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona. A dark gold and lighter brown fill the space between the red and dark, almost black, rock reaches to the peak. I can’t seem to take my eyes from the hills. At this moment the ride seems almost smooth as I take it all in.
Today is a school day and I am eager to visit. We approach a math class sitting outside and I recognize one of the girls from our visit yesterday at Fatina’s. She greets me with a smile, “Kadija!” I begin to film, and they all want to see themselves. After a while I look up and notice no one else is around but the kids. I had distracted them from schoolwork and they too had brought me to a different place. I meander through the schoolyard, entering classrooms and attempting to ask students for their names. As I enter one classroom, they stand and sing, belting out the words as if for a concert. I stay with them for a while.
Later in the morning, I am trying to catch up to Gabriel and Suzanne for a meeting with Yakoub and teachers about secondary education. A group of kids are following me; I am smiling and laughing with them. I have to stop. I put my hand out again, as I did 10 minutes earlier. With a shy smile, the young girl hesitantly approaches. She, quick, fakes like she is going to slap my hand, but pulls it away – the universal game of high five! I place my hand out again but pull it away as she moves in. This time I leave it there, she brings her fingertips to rest on mine, then another girl brings hers, then another, then another, they come running and giggling – my hand holds at least ten small hands; it disappears below their arms. We huddle giggling, arms and hands and fingers tangled together. I can’t stop laughing, and for the second time today I feel as if my world belongs only here in this moment.
On the trip back, one of our vehicles in the convoy gets stuck in the sand trying to pass a truck broken down on the “designated” path across the wadi – several men get out to push. Still laughing from commentary about the experience, we pass a large herd of cows. Two playfully knock their foreheads together, sweeping the ground with their chins; another rears, as if saying, “play with me too!” It takes me back to our visit today.
The adults want primary school resources and secondary education, the youth group wants no more broken promises, and the kids want to play. And today I wanted to play. There is never enough time in a day, in a week, in a year or a lifetime to do everything. But we should always make time to play. To smile, giggle, cry and hold those we love. Our brothers, sister, mothers and fathers living here want so many similar things that we desire. And, together we are all stronger.
Holding the Hands of Your Community Here,
PS – James or Piper – if you are reading this, can you please send word to Lisa the next time that you see or hear from her. I am thinking of her, Day Dream Farm and the animals in So. Oregon and hope there has been enough heat, water and food this winter. I hope Yachats and the other goats are enjoying their new shelter. A special hello to them from the goats over here!