Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
So I am an idiot sitting in a conflict country, on the conflict side of the country where my mobile network has not been working for the last five days (it is working north of me in Batti and normally they see more problems than we do) and we were told, oh, there are some ongoing ‘operations’ south of here, something in Anaradhpura, army base etc. I thought, ok, yeah, whatever.
Seems like the LTTE did some major damage. Hmm. I saw a photo that I found utterly offensive on Alert Net (read the whole article which spells it all out nicely, not just the photos on the bottom, but actually, they spell it all out rather nicely as well). The bodies of the 20 LTTE cadres that went in and wrecked havoc on the base dumped into the back of a wooden trolley like thing, attached to a tractor being pulled, mostly naked, through the streets to the mortuary with gawkers and obviously someone or multiple someones with cameras. I do not condone violence for the most part but honestly, where is the respect? That is too despicable and I hope someone from some advocacy organization says something about it.
The mobiles turning off should have been some indicator. They are kind of working now. Slowly. But certainly not in my house. We seem to be some black spot, which is annoying.
The conflict supposedly has moved to the north but in the villages in which I work there are regular round ups and searches and intimidation in tamil villages. The jungle areas inland are still off limits and it sort of sucks for this one group of people that are hunter/gatherer types and now since they can’t live in the jungle and are displaced they have no livelihoods. They are being called some sort of gypsies and I am heading there tomorrow to see what the deal is. In the northern part of the district in Singhalese villages, there are some people called the adivasi (ancient people who lives in jungles is how they were described to me). They have kept their rituals, customs and language which is different for the most part. Excited to work and learn more about them as well.
It is now officially bed time. 2230 hrs.
So, the last time I was here, and I do believe I wrote about this and posted a photo as well of water logged roads, we were all hyped for the monsoon and as far as i can recall, it didn't really come in the way I had imagined a monsoon. So, this time, I was mentally prepared for the hype and no delivery but lo and behold, no hype (lot sof praying for the rain so that the harvest will be good), and it is raining and raining and raining. I need boots. Big ones.
The rain is making me feel like I want to curl up into bed. It also means I can't wear white clothes not because I go to the field and I can get dirty but, no, because when I come home, BlackieSpark like to jump on one with their dirty nasty little paws and I end up mud streaked from them rather than from work. Bastards.
Rain means mosquitoes. I already had my one sickeness for the year, I would like to think, so dengue can take a hike. It's still itchy though. It also means frogs. I don't know enough about frogs to know the name of the ones that are creating an incredible racket right now. I heard it last night for the first time after a long time and with cigarette in one hand and a GT in the other, I turned to Mick and said, oh, how lovely, I had missed their music. Ten deafening minutes later, I amended that to, mother fuckers shut up! They won't listen. Damn them.
Right now, sitting at the desk where the postcards collect and I have a good view of everything that is our house (including Mr Mick comotose and reading on our new Paradise Road sofa...he is reading The Great Gatsby. That too is another post. I re read the book recently, I love it)...anyhow, so sitting here, I can hear the incessant loud croaking of some frogs, and then, all other sorts of noises of insects. Like, really loud noises. The rain has slowed so they have moved into fill the void of silence with their own din. And it is a din.
There are some insect with huge translucent wings that have been flying around (no, not dragon flies), and every morning when I go to put my shoes on outside, there is a carnage of just wings. Now, they might just have a lifespan (or wingspan) of a night, or, BlackieSpark are chasing them down and killing them. No bodies, but perhaps they eat those, just wings. They do bark at night our doggies, but mostly we assume they are barking because A: they are dogs and that is what dogs do, B: they are choking on the chicken or fish bones we fed them, C: monkeys are running around on our roof or D: their two siblings are in the house next door and they like to bark at each other. It might be time to add option E that they like barking when killing fly like creatures with fly like wings and eating them delicately enough to not have harmed their wings at all.
I can't wait to get a camera to show you all this.
I actually celebrated Eid this year. For the past few years I have been missing it since I have been away from home but this year, we all got invited to the house of Fathi, one of our Field Officers and since it was a Saturday, we all went for lunch. My mom likes that we three sisters have a new outfit to wear and she was despartely trying to send me new clothes for Eid but it didn't happen, but lucky for us all, Hrusi, my co-worker (we have the same title but he is wayyyyyyyyyyyyy more experienced than I am) last time he went to India, with the help of is wife, Dolly, got me an outfit. It was prefect. And so lovely. So some photos from that afternoon.
The night before I was feeling sad for no reason at all and I spoke to my family as they were all gathering at home and I had a wee bit of a melodramatic scene where I was alone at home, (Mick was in Colombo) and I was putting henna on my own hands by myself and tears were running down my cheeks. I let about four fall before I realized how foolish I was being and stopped.
Not sure why I was crying but I was. When did I become so soppy? Maybe that is the change people see in me from before....hmmmmm....
Clem wins the prize for most postcards sent. Her last batch took her clean over the edge that she and Saks were fighting for. Smart woman that she is, she sends postcards in bulk. I now have an assortment of fun postcards that I look at and feel happy. And hungry since Clem sends the most weird ones (one of baked beans on toast, one of some palace (I know, Clem, I should know which one), a bunch of bottles, a scottish sheep (is that really a sheep? Now that I think about it, it looks like an old and hairy ox...I need to go back and read the postcards carefully). Saks, you had better catch up. The rest of you lazies had better just send one.
And now, moving onto the postcard from the stranger. I came home and saw it on the desk which is where the postcards when they arrive collect. I first thought it was Saks since the handwriting is kind of similar. Then noticed there was no name. Thought it might be Emma (ahem, Emmaaaa), and for a while went with that and then I noticed the stamp was from the USA. And this was just as Mick was saying that he would get excited when we got a postcard from a stranger. And tada! WE did. And it is sooooooooo lovely. I need to take close photos of it and post it on here but basically, there are two poems (that reminds me, I need to look them up....I think I know who one of the poets is), one on the front and one on the back. And all it says is, everyone needs some poetry.
Thank you stranger. I did need some lovely poetry. We are assuming here in Ampara that you did not write the poetry yourself. Which is why I need to google it. And thank you for making our day in a big way. Will be posting the photo (which I will take soon) of your postcard on the blog.
All you random strangers should take inspiration from that story.
What will suck is that I have a best friend or relative in Cedar Rapids and I am supposed to know who sent me the postcard and I have no idea. Hmmmm.
BlackieSpark are the next two photos. They are jungle monkies in the body of dogs. They are cute and at times smelly and notty. I inherited them with the house. I love doggies. These have ticks and fleas and bite and take flying leaps into my head when I am laying in bed but they are cute nonethelss. Blackie is more of a junglee.
The last two photos are from the coconut plantation that we have up and running (not from my team but the one headed by Hrusi). I love the photo of my and Hrusi. I am holding out my hands since they have henna on them, one hand which I did by myself the night before Eid as one is supposed to and the other the next day at the house of a Field Officer. His very pregnant sister in law got out of bed and hunched over me and decorated my hand for me. I asked her to get back into bed but to no avail.
OK, new post coming soon. I am taking short break works to do this. It has been far too long.
It is that time again and a little late actually, but I have legitimate excuses for that, which you will now be regaled with. The update on me (some things don't change….it's all about me). For those of you new to this list, let me know if you want to stay on or not….I can't imagine why you would not….
I am back in Sri Lanka as some of you know. Some of you don't. Some of you know and think I must have lost my marbles. Some of you don't know and may think the same.
Last time many of you heard from me, I was in London at SOAS doing my MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development. I was complaining about economics and how difficult it was to get my head around it and I am happy to report in the end, we got along just fine. I still don't get it but I am more at peace with my ignorance. It may have been one of the coolest classes I have ever taken, that is, in the second term when we got out of numbers and started talking about late industrialization, rent seeking and corruption and debt relief…I just started ignoring the numbers and wiggly lines after a while and that felt much better. The nine months of classes was intense and I am glad I took the year off and did it. I keep saying that I got my MSc out of the way but it was more than just getting it out of the way; I am engaging with my work differently, no one more shocked than I that this is the case. Had some excellent teachers, not just good teachers but good people. Met good people too. I had some issues with London which through the goodwill and stubbornness of the Londonites that I met and have the fortune to be friends with (Clody and Rebecca to name just two people who showed me London the way I should have seen it all the time) faded and any grudge that I hold against London now sounds trivial.
I still think NYC is way better.
Anyhow, so with classes behind me, a MSc thesis in front of me, I packed my bags (or rather my younger sister did…I have discovered I am rubbish at packing and hate it so intensely I would rather leave my stuff behind), and got on a plane to go and spend the summer at home to write my thesis in peace for three months. Yay. Just before leaving, I saw a job with the British Red Cross advertised for Ampara, Sri Lanka. Livelihoods. Like an idiot, my second day home, I sent in my application. First interview, written test, second interview and after six weeks being home, I packed my bags again (ok, fine, my mom did), and came back here. In the short time I was home, I got to do the things I had been wanting to do the whole year when I would get homesick. I spent lots of time with my family and had one amazing weekend which I sorely needed with my two best friends (and the twin babies of one of them). We all managed to be in the same country/city at the same time.
A lot of people have asked why I took another position in Ampara. I have a long winded answer but short answer: I liked their work when I was here. I like the Red Cross and was happy to be back in that fold. Wanted to see what it was like in the middle of a program. They were doing conflict work (with ICRC) which would be a first for me and I needed a testing ground instead of just heading off willy nilly into it (I had an interview for a job in northern Uganda, but I said no. They wanted me to be area coordinator. I do NOT (yet) have the experience for that in northern Uganda…)
They said to me, don't try to write your thesis while you are working, you will go mad. I scoffed. They were right. My first three weeks were amazing since I was learning about the work and really really loving it and then began to realize my thesis was due in three more weeks and the weekends that I was taking to work on it were not going to be sufficient and I needed a plan. I enlarged my liver and got typhus. It bought me two weeks; two weeks in bed, that is. Week one was spent wondering how it was possible that someone like me was unable to function and leave my bed when outwardly there really did not seem to be anything really wrong with me other than a slight cold and week two after figuring out I really was ill and this was not some psychological block to not write my thesis, was about fielding jokes about 'laying off the sauce' while I recovered in Colombo. I still think I did it to myself and if I didn't have test results to prove otherwise, I would not believe myself. I did mange to get the dreaded thesis done in time (for the extension I got) and thank god I did spend time before coming out to research and be clear about what I wanted to say, though who knows if I have actually passed it or not…. Won't find out till December and no, you can't read it. Title: Understanding conflict economies and shadow networks; implications for a Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration process. Mouthful. And it is, as it sounds, all about economics. I was sick of my thesis and still am a little but I do so love the topic. I have my school books with me here and the plan is to properly read Francis Fukiyama to know why it is that I do hate him since I know I am supposed to hate him. Ditto on Amartya Sen but love instead of hate. Who knows, I might just discover vice versa on both….I seriously doubt it but at least I will be able to back up why I think that with some prescient point from page 78.
What can I say about a place that I have come back to after an absence of 14 months….
I can't say right now. I think I need till December to come up with anything of interest to say. I am mostly just looking around and seeing what is like to be in the middle of a program instead of having helped set it up. Looking around at tsunami money dried up or on the verge of drying up, looking at conflict work instead of tsunami work (and that is a 'relief'), looking at how best to apply the theories I learned last year since I think there is place for it but not in the jargon in which I learned it but translated….communicated rather. I still love the different modes of communication that exist. More nuances, I suppose.
I have a great team. Learning lots from everyone around me and also from my own mistakes, or perseverance in trying to get something to work…trial and error stuff more on my management skills than anything else at this point, I think. I manage someone who is doing the job that I used to do. It is strange to be that one step removed from actual field work. I used to run the meetings. My Senior Field Officer (SFO) does now with the Field Officer (FO). I still get in there but I see in their eyes what I know used to be in mine when I would have others in the community meetings I would run. The look is losing its gleam, which is good since I am so NOT ready to be ousted from running community meetings. It is where I feel so alive and it is the best part of the work. Being there, working with communities, facilitating as best as I can and seeing everyone get on with it. I know someday I will have to grow up and start being in an office answering a million emails etc but not today.
People who are still here from the last time have told me I have changed. Not good, not bad, just changed. Comments like that require navel gazing, which as some of you know, I do on my blog, www.zehrarizvi.blogspot.com , but will not here since this is long already and babbling and it is my bed time. Did want to send a big hug to everyone out there and please let me know how you are. I promise to try and reply to as many emails as I can (there are some in my inbox sitting and waiting to be replied to and you know who you are and promise I am writing soon!) and for those of you who turn your noses up to mass emails, I forgive you.
Lots of love from a sleepy but happy (and healthy),