23 March 2007

to remember

On quieter days, I remember. There are moments when fragments come back to me, and the memories resurge as lucid visions.

The heaviness returns when I remember feeling outside a society before I started to learn one of its languages. I felt beside myself with restless frustration being there, and being willing to help, but not knowing where to start. The heaviness sets upon me when I remember the light touch of children's fingers, reaching out to me from floors of school classrooms, and from crowded clinics. I remember being led over dry, red earth through villages where mothers and daughters pulled small buckets of water out of the community pond. I remember marveling at the hilltop views of families whose house would be decimated the following week by the government . I remember little girls running around in tattered 1980s party dresses from the Western world (hand-me-downs from the "developed" world), and being disturbed by the different contexts in which these girls, and the dresses' original owners, would have been living. I remember the twisted irony of a young girl living right below the city's biggest hospital, but unable to access its services.

The lightness returns as I recall walking through the dry season fields every morning, waving at the little faces peeking out at me through school windows. I remember being invited to sit down to tea by mama Rajabu and Ana, the ladies who ran the small tea stand under a black tarp for the workers who bundled coal for stove fuel. I remember the night markets lit up by candles, with women selling sweet, baby bananas and roasted corn by the roadside. I remember taking my watercolours outside and painting quietly, until half a dozen neighbourhood children shyly appeared and asked me if I could paint them into my picture of the street. They taught me the words for all my surroundings, which I included in the painting as a Swahili lesson for myself. I remember singing together with Mama Joyce's children and grandchildren, in their impeccably clean living room. I remember taking crazy buses all day with Pendo, to go up to the hills of Mwanza to visit her mother, who showed me her beautiful rug designs and her ducklings. I remember smiles, and hands reaching out to hold mine.

And in these moments, I am overwhelmed with guilt for forgetting, even for a moment, the feeling of being in Tanzania, the feeling that I vowed I would keep close to me at all times. Why does the relative luxury of our lives cause us to forget? Should not the stark contrast between my lifestyle and the disparate conditions of other parts of the world be a constant reminder? I take these moments to sit down and remind myself, lest I forget.


gillian said...

definitly feel the same and i've only been home for a month. its so easy to fall right back into the normal day to day life at home - forgetting to appreciate everything we have,

i finally posted the rest of my ghana pictures.... looking at them makes me miss it so much,

hope you had a great weekend! and hey CONGRATS on the funds!!! thats fantastic news!! cheers :)

sam said...

beautifully put, dallas...

thank you for making me take a moment out of this swiftly moving world of finals to remember that only a few months ago, i was there too.

with all the distractions and madness of the world i've come back to, i'd some of that appreciation i swore i'd never lose started to slip away... something i promised would never happen after Mwanza. the same promise i made after Nepal.

but moments like this remind me that, even when we get swept up in the pace of the world we live in, we haven't ever really forgotten.
and we won't.

asante sana, rafiki.
i hope we get to talk soon!

Kate Daley said...

Ah, so weird that Gill commented on this too. I was scrolling down your blog and this really caught my attention. Ive been back less than a week and I know how you feel. I don't want to forget any detail- and I don't think you have, though it may have slipped to the back of your mind. I've been struggling with this a lot since I got home because there is so much value in the way I felt there. You described it so beautifully. I'm trying to write it all down so that I will never let it go. It's so hard not to get swept back up into life here.I've missed reading your writing Dallas!