Day 8: Aug 8, 2008


women group 3.JPG “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.

Abdulsalam with kids.JPG 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.


3 replies on “Extremes”

Dearest Gabriel,

Silly things first – then a serious message, my dear. I ducked out for a quickie dinner with friends and convinced everyone to leave early and be home by 10pm (in Melbourne = 8pm in Beijing) so we could all NOT watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony. (they had better be watching i-act given the pop quiz I’m planning for tomorrow morning!!)

Now ….. the serious bit. (truly….. there will not be even one scorpion joke!!!)

I just left a message for KTJ below her wonderful post about the strength of character and dedication of the mentors/teachers in the camp. At the end of her post she asked the question, ‘What would your mentors, coaches and teachers have done under these conditions?’…….and I didn’t have an answer…… and then I remembered.

Well – one of my mentors/coaches was counselling abused kids in California just a couple of short years ago and today, he played and laughed with kids in a refugee camp on the border of Chad and Darfur in the sand and stinking heat.

He made their Mums smile and laugh and then he listened to those same women share stories that no human being on Earth should have experienced ……listened in a way that left them feeling heard and their lives respected, valued and honoured.

He showed his babies in Redondo Beach exactly what “walking your talk” looks like in a way few other Dad’s can.

And he did it all with the sort of humility that truly separates the pretenders from the GIANTS.

So – in answer to KTJ’s question – that is what one of MY mentors did under those conditions today.

Gabe – Thank goodness for you, my friend.

Cheers Big Ears (sorry – couldn’t help it :)

Gayle Maree xoxox

My friend Gayle:
You either make me laugh, or you give me a kick in the “arse” right when I need it, or you help me put my feet back on the ground, or you humble me and make me want to live up to what you believe of me. Thank you for feeling and experiencing these journeys with me. Your heart can be heard all the way out here in Chad. You are very much appreciated.

Ohhhhh – tears!

THANK YOU, Gabe – one day I’ll tell you how much that meant to me and why.

But for now, just THANK YOU!

G. :)

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