After an exciting first month and a half in Uganda, landmarks are looking familiar. I can finally feel comfortable navigating my way through many of the busy streets of Kampala. As an intern for a jewelry non-profit, Musana Jewelry, I can’t direct you to the local hotspots, like the beautiful Baha’i temple or Bubbles, the go-to expat bar, but I can tell you which wholesale hardware store on which back alley sells the best quality exacto knives.
Shin was honest when he said, “You will be thrown to the lions, and have to claw your way out.” We taught our classes with no outside help. After trial and error I finally began to get a feel for the way my class learned, and what did and did not work. I had a whiteboard that leaned against the wall precariously-- sometimes slicing my ankles as it fell-- and two markers.The classroom was the main room in the school house, and oftentimes other children from the village would run in and out, trailing toddlers behind them and sometimes even dogs.
Yes, this is Karachi. The city of lights, the city that never sleeps. What always mesmerized me was the fact that despite the quality of daily life, and the smell of fear, how resilient we are. If 18 people die in one day, we thank Allah that it wasn’t 80 and we would then find out if the roads were open so we could go about going our business-the very same day!
Even now as I write this, people are still dying for lack of clean drinking water and sleeping outside on the ground for fear of more earthquakes. One local blogger wrote this out today, 'And we have news that in Myanmar they say that today, we will have earthquake at night 8:00 again. But we don’t know where?
In this village, humans are sold for 600 US dollars or less. For a virgin girl the price is double; these girls are often sold to brothels, which place a high value on virginity.There is a clear factor of human exploitation. And yet, sitting around the table with Khun Nam, we talk about human trafficking matter-of-factly, almost with a tone of ambivalence – in this village it is simply the way.
“Take another fucking picture! I will take my rifle and blow your head off white bitch!” yelled the Haitian man, dropping his shovel in frustration at the USAID cash-for-work program site on the slopes of Kafou Fey. The assembly line of Haitian workers in bright-yellow shirts and white hard helmets heaving rubble up the sun-scorched, dusty slopes overlooking Port-au-Prince came to an abrupt halt.
My first weeks here were the most painful – having to unlearn everything I had picked up in rambunctious, loud Delhi. In Kabul, I felt like as if I was a captive - wrapped around the head with a scarf that acted as a leash that instructed me to behave in a certain way. My first week was a string of commands from my male, Afghan co-workers and crew, who for my sake taught me how to behave on the streets - “don’t laugh too loud,” “keep your hands hidden,” “don’t say things too loud,” “try and keep your chin down,” “stop walking like you own the street!” And the ever familiar, “wear your headscarf tighter, Anita-jaan, it is falling off!”
Once I packed flour, baking powder, sprinkles and (melty) butter over the border into Burma to do just that, only to discover the oven was broken. One look into the beautiful dark eyes of the birthday girl and I knew what I had to do. Out came the crooked wok, and we made giant pancakes: vanilla and chocolate. Forget hot pads. There was not even a towel in sight
We finally arrived at a high, metal red gate surrounded by concrete where two Haitian security guards opened the gates to the compound of a neocolonial mansion. After pointing to dozens of boxes of condom donations stacked on the ground floor, I was escorted to my fire-ant infested, tent space.
The smell of the dump still penetrates my nose when I think about it. Imagine the most rancid meat combined with rotting durian or cabbage. The stench of the dump is so powerful, I can still smell it from my sterile office in New York. Aug 2008 There is a garbage dump, not far from town, where four hundred economic refugees call home. It isn’t a rare place. Dump site communities are found...
It seemed odd for the troops passing by in the midst of an official operation to notice me chatting up the Haitian taxi drivers at a gas station. I sensed that not only did they they envy my freedom to maneuver around the landscape without any prescribed rules of conduct but that my mere existence challenged the necessity for their official operation. Equipped for war, they looked silly and they knew it.