Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Re-entering Earth's Atmosphere.

I was picked up at the airport yesterday by my two children and both of my stepchildren. All holding balloons, flowers .. even a lovingly handcrafted banner that read "WELCOME HOME, HERO!" My husband smiling deeply beside them; we all cried when we saw each other.

Ok none of that happened. But wouldn't it have been nice if it did?

Life still swirls and turns, here. My kitchen was messy when I got home. Rocco shrank from me .. then came up to me later with, "Mum, when you were in Africa there was wet on the couch where you are sitting now. And I think the wet was wee."

Max regaled me with stories of Minecraft, and then more stories of Minecraft. I swept the floor and smelt mould in my bedroom and planned dinner and was aghast at how big my house actually is. My head spun and I really felt deeply sad, yet not for the reasons I thought I was going to. Dave left on his own big adventure ... I'm so thankful to him for minding the kids as well as working so hard like he always does, the past few weeks.


I yelled at my kids a few times (the fighting!) but hugged them a whole lot more. We went to the park and they played and fought and I noticed the fallen leaves. I'm not concerned about having no summer any more, as I just had a week of the most extreme and disgusting heat ever. I never thought I'd say this .. but the coolness of autumn is welcome and refreshing to me.

Living in Niger is like living in a never-ending episode of Survivor. Except Jeff Probst isn't around the corner waiting to give you some matches and extra food supplies. A few days ago I sat in the dusty jeep, driving through secluded and narrow and bumpy roads. I kept turning to Adel and asking her the most basic and stupidest questions in the world. Prefacing them with, "Ok Adel, ridiculous question coming." Some pearlers included:

"Do you think they even LIKE living here?"
"Why are the women doing all the work?"
"I wonder what these villagers dream?"
"Do you ever wonder where all the races even CAME from? And who was here first?"
"Mali? Didn't  Madonna adopt her son from there?" (No. It was Malawi.) 
"Dakar? Didn't George Clooney raise awareness of that?" (No. It was Darfur.)
"Seriously ... ever noticed the women are doing all the work?"
" How do you do what you do? Do you actually LIKE this?"

I told Max about how I interviewed these two boys.

Every time I saw children of my own kids ages over there, my heart panged even more. These two boys were just cruising past the clinic, arm in arm. They were best mates, in year five at school. Most kids in that region have dropped out of school to either help with earning money or gone on the move in search of food with their families. I asked a light-hearted question about getting in trouble from their teacher, and one of the boys replied that their teacher beats them. Oh I felt terrible. When I asked them that they wanted to be when they grew up, I thought they'd say an astronaut or doctor. No - they said an aid worker and a nurse. Both caring professions. They probably may not even know about astronauts yet. How can you aspire to be something you don't even know exists?

I tell all of my kids that they can be whatever they want  to be .. I really believe that so much more now.

The camp is on my mind a lot. Hearing the sneezes, praying I would not get sick from tiny dirty hands. A dreadful place, tempered by smiles:

 How do you smile like this, even though you have nothing? I will never know the answer.

That camp, on that first day, undid me. There is no aid there at all. World Vision can only do so much. They are working so hard to prevent these kinds of things from happening. Adel asked me if I wanted to go back there before I left and I didn't answer her because my answer was no because I was too lame. I silently reasoned ... But, I have already seen it - why do I need to see it again?

I didn't go back.

I'll be talking about World Vision on Channel Ten's Breakfast Show tomorrow live at 8.30am AEST
They are @tenbreakfast on twitter. I asked the boys if they'd like to come with me and Max said, "No mum I'll just stay here and watch you on TV." Which is code for "I'd rather play Minecraft."

They both wanted to sleep in my bed with me last night. I SO let them and didn't care. Traced their faces and read books and talked about the school holidays. My guilt is slowly appeasing.

The whole time I was away I was thinking about how one day, my boys will be full of energy and vigour,  travelling to far off places and I will be the one waving them off. One day, my body will be too old for big trips. This time it was my time, my chance, and I took it. World Vision all over the WORLD has heard about this trip, now. It spread wide, because of kind decent people back at home, spreading the world. It has truly been a remarkable case study of new media. The term "social media" gets such a bad rap these days, it was heartening to see it being used for so much good.

Some people still don't get it. Apparently, some of those people know me in real life and have no problem spreading their negative thoughts around. Please keep going! One day I will snap and it will feel great to unleash. (Hey, I never said I was a saint.)

I would like everybody who has donated, sponsored a child, shared this story, spoken to your kids, opened your hearts ...  to know that you have made a difference. You seriously, really have. You will most likely never know *exactly* where your money went. Was it for more Plumpy Nut for people like Zenouba? Was it to help keep children in school so they can get educated and make something of themselves and get out of the extreme circle of poverty? Was it on boring administration costs? I cannot tell you. But I can tell you something with every ounce of conviction in my heart ... you have made a difference.

I believe that all people in the world are interconnected. Maybe, a Kevin from Liverpool in Sydney's West is sitting on his couch feeling bad about himself because Abdouh from Tera in West Africa is hungry and frightened. Maybe the ills of the west have a lot to do with the suffering and angst of other parts of the world. We know we have a lot. We know we have so much choice and others have none. Instead of letting it eat us away and make us feel powerless .. we can do the small things, that make a difference. That's all.

On my way out of Australia last week, I was standing in line next to a grandmother from New Zealand. We did small-talk and when she found out where I was going, she called me lucky. Then I told her it was Niger and she winced. I saw that wince a lot, from fellow-travellers. Followed by ...  But, why would you go THERE?

We talked about aid and poverty for a while. In the end she sighed. "Really though, how can one person help? We are just one."

I don't believe that. I believe one person can totally help ... I believe we are all One.

West Africa Food Crisis - Donate now



  1. Oh my. Awe inspiring post. How do you keep finding the words to move me? Not a day goes by where I don't think about your trip. And I try to make small changes accordingly. I know that choosing to use up leftover food instead of throwing it out & buying something new is not going to save the world, but it's a start.

    I was seriously thinking of stopping my monthly Oxfam donation before your trip. I've been out of work a few times over the past five years (including an unexpected retrenchment in January). I was thinking how I don't have enough money to cover my mortgage, or buy a lot of food...but because of your words, on your trip, I'll find a way to keep that payment going. I think maybe it's doing more than I think. Maybe there are 100 women and men just like me on the verge of stopping their payment, but instead perhaps our small monthly donation actually does more good than we suspect. I hate that charities got a bad rap recently due to their promotional approaches & admin fees. But I feel that most do the best with the money that they can. They are providing necessary services overseas that give blessed children like Zenouba, Plumpy Nut. Thanks once again. Will try & watch you on tv tomorrow. Love that your boys are too cool for school & don't roll with celebrity. You'll always be Mum to them. Andi bet you thank f**k for that! Love ya work girlie. Kylee xx

  2. Crapola, just realized you would have been on yesterday! If you get any footage, would love you to post it. I'll do a bit of Internet searching to see if I can find it. Hope it went well. I usually check your blog each day, not sure how I missed this?


Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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