The trip from Casablanca to Niger was the deepest so far - I had almost run out of breadcrumbs, to find my way back home again. I flew into Niger a few hours ago. Just before landing I had to blast Eminem's Cold Wind Blows on my iPod. Apropros of nothing, really. Just to staunch myself up. It's my unofficial anthem for whenever I need to get some big writing done. Like, permission to be ballsy.
At the airport, I was the last person to be processed. None of the police and guards at the checkpoint spoke English, which was not so fun when I had my passport confiscated with instructions to "call the post office" tomorrow to get it back. I walked off and found a lady who spoke English and she took me back and explained to them. I was crying, for goodness sake. HATE how I cry whenever I feel a lot emotion. Ridic.
The lady told me it was ok, it had happened to her once and she got it back the next day.
When I finally walked outside, a dude wearing a World Vision T-shirt led me to a World Vision truck. It was 4am, dark, and all I could think was, he has stolen the World Vision truck and the shirt from the REAL driver and I was about to be kidnapped. Some other dude asked if I wanted to buy a sim card and I said no thanks and he called out, Oh, ok. Have a good sickness! And all his mates laughed. I turned around and said, "What did you say? Have a good sickness?" He laughed at being caught out but I felt tougher.
Just had to go with it, and trust that I hadn't come this far to be butchered as soon as I got here. We drove through deserted streets, then came to the hotel. We walked in together and nobody was around.
Honestly? I was pretty scared by this stage. Then I checked in. And now I'm not scared anymore .. I'm alive like Pearl Jam, baby. This is my hotel room ... much better than I thought it was going to be. I had the world's most needed shower, then cracked the wi-fi. Checking in with twitter, Facebook and blogland, I feel SO much better. It's familiar. You're all there, carrying on regardless. Good.
I don't know whether to tip in Euro or American. I know I can't flash my cash, and I'll probably take my engagement ring off. I'm wearing khaki army pants, black t-shirt, white cotton collared shirt, and Cons. I'm ready. For what, I'm not exactly sure. I'm waiting for somebody to pick me up. If they don't, I will be waiting in my hotel room all day because I am not going anywhere alone.
When I turned the television on, CNN had a big story about the outrageous murder of seventeen-year old Trayvon Martin. I never have to worry if my boys will die when they're out buying Skittles while wearing a hoodie. Because my boys are white.
I ordered room service.
.... and ate it while knowing full well that just a few hours away, people are hungry.
Why am I even here, after all? It's called the West African Food Crisis. Poor harvest and erratic rains last year have pushed food prices up so much that families can't afford to feed their children. Fifteen million people are thought to be affected, with 1.3 million children are becoming malnourished. Some families are eating wild leaves and animal feed. Fathers are leaving the family home to look for work, young people are going out begging and cutting back on the meals they eat. The worst affected country is here in Niger ... but this situation is not hopeless. World Vision are acting early, right now, to mitigate the worst affected areas. They are pushing this relief effort hopefully before it turns into a full-scale emergency.
The best thing I have learned from reading over the facts is that children who live in communities where sponsorship is present have their nutritional status, height, weight and school attendance measured. As soon as they are threatened, World Vision can begin intervening. With donor support, we can make sure children do not suffer the worst effects of the drought.
Dave and I have sponsored our World Vision child for almost ten years. I decided to sponsor not long after Max was born, to kind of celebrate his birth and have a "brother" growing up with him, over in Ethiopia. His name is Melku, and we have been receiving photos of him steadily growing up all this time. Dave is so proud of him. And now we know, if there was ever an emergency aid appeal over in Addis Ababas where he is, then not only would he benefit, but other children in his village as well. Pretty bloody cool.
Reminds me of that story about a man going for a walk on a beach and comes across a young boy standing in the middle of thousands of stranded starfish, on the sand. One by one, the young boy is throwing them back into the water, so they wouldn't die. There were just so many to save.
The man stopped. "What are you doing that for? It's not going to make a difference."
The boy picked one up and threw it into the ocean. "Just made a difference to that one."
Amy from Mahlimoo commented on this blog yesterday - "Safe travels Eden. Your boys will be so proud of you for doing this. Oh and after thinking about sponsoring a child for so long I actually did it yesterday. Seeing you do this made me want to do something, anything. xx"
One child. My whole trip is worth it already.
Not everybody is in a position to sponsor child. This week I'll be showing a whole heap of different ways you can do something. Anything. Lots of things.
It's almost 10am here right now, I'm meeting some Korean bloggers and some World Vision people at 12.30 at a nearby restaurant. We'll then have orientation at the World Vision offices and do some video interviews. They are getting my passport back today. My hair is bouffy ... you don't pack hair straighteners on a trip like this. We'll then head out into the town of Niamey, to either go to the local markets or to a nearby makeshift camp where some people have set up base because of the food crisis. I wonder what they are having for lunch today.
The one thing I was incredibly unprepared for ... is what Africa smells like. It hit me as soon as I stepped out into the hot breeze from the plane ... the most musky, deeply ancient smell.
It smells like the beginning of the world. Not the end.