Friday, January 25, 2013

what IS the What?

I just finished reading the second book I brought with me, called What is the What. If you want to know more about what life was like for the South Sudanese during the civil war in Sudan, then I highly recommend this book. It tells the life of one of the Lost Boys, who walked for months across what is now South Sudan to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, then again to the refugee camp in Kenya, called Kakuma, before finally making his way to the states. It is a powerful tale and extremely sad, but an important read. It has helped me to understand what the people of South Sudan have gone through in recent decades, and what life is like for those lucky (?) enough to have made it to America. If you have a weak stomach, I don't recommend reading it; it is honest and very graphic in places (I had to stop reading it until after I got back to Kenya). But I think it's important for us to know what happened, just like it's important to learn about the Holocaust. Maybe if more and more people learn about these things, then they won't be able to happen in the future. I know that this hope is naive, but I still hope. 

I found the image of the book here.

In other, trivial matters: when we got back to Kenya, it was the first time I had spent time looking at myself in a mirror in a few weeks (there was a mirror in Bor, but we only spent one night there and the power wasn't on for much of the time, so I didn't really spend much time in front of it). Other than tweezers, what I really miss having is some mascara. My friend Liz told me before I went that I should take some, because she had really regretted not bringing some. When she told me this, I brushed the suggestion aside immediately, thinking it absurd. But after having spent several weeks hot and sweaty, with dirt perpetually under my fingernails, I am regretting not having brought it. For the first time in a few weeks, we are in a climate that has some resemblance to ours (well, ours in the late spring/early summer). I am able to wear jeans and a light jacket, to wear my hair down (it was too hot before). Now that we have actual showers and huge beds and sinks and flushing toilets, there is some semblance of normalcy, and it makes me miss silly things like mascara or a blow dryer. It reminds me of a story I once heard about the women liberated from the concentration camps at the end of World War II. One of the most prized things they received was a tube of lipstick. Of course they appreciated the food and clothing, but the lipstick was absolutely treasured. They had been treated like less than humans for so long, been made to live in absolutely horrendous conditions, but now they were able to feel human, even pretty, for the first time. Now, I'm not saying my experience comes anywhere near theirs--not even close. It's just that for the first time I am able to understand the story.

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