Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | June 21, 2009

Back to Zamzam

   A Page from my Journal | 26 February 2005 | Zamzam IDP Camp

   Another night spent tossing and turning in the heat. Knowing that I will escape from all of this in a few days accentuates my feelings of guilt for my comfortable life. Those who live here have no place to go. This is where they escaped to from their burned out and pillaged villages. Life is desperate for them at best. Being at ease is something they do not know and indeed must not know in a place as difficult as this. Survival in Darfur requires constant vigilance — for safety and personal needs. I cannot imagine a lifetime in this place. Those here cannot imagine a lifetime away from this place.

   Breakfast is a fight against the flies. For some reason, flies appear in biblical proportions every morning. They cover everything in sight. However, in the evening they disappear, perhaps because they are exhausted from a full day of molesting humanity. There is no way to avoid eating food that has not already been tasted by the flies. Their little fly footprints are on everything edible. Just one of life’s little annoyances when you venture to the ends of the earth!

   After breakfast we returned to the local hospital. Rick, one of our team members, assessed the electrical condition and needs of the hospital, including their aging generators. As with many remote places, Al-Fashir has rolling blackouts to conserve power. The hospital is no exception. And, the hospital’s generators are old and unreliable. But somehow, the dedicated physicians here manage to do the best they can with what they have. They are truly remarkable and resourceful guys.

   We had fuul, a bean stew, for lunch. Afterwards we headed back to Zamzam to visit the school at the camp. As we approached, the children came running to meet us, all calling out the Arabic Sudanese word for foreigner which sounds like someone with a Brooklyn accent saying “how ah ya.” I have been very impressed with the openness and friendliness of the displaced peoples. They greet us with handshakes, smiles, and hugs. This is all the more amazing because they have every reason to behave otherwise.

Kid Close-up   I especially love the children. They are absolutely beautiful. How sad that many children here progressively learn to hate. The soldiers who have been destroying villages, raping young girls, and murdering innocent civilians were all children at one time. Somehow these “once upon a time children turned soldiers” were shaped and influenced by a worldview that does not respect the sanctity of life. It’s hard to understand how people can so totally brutalize others, especially their own people.

Children at Zamzam School

Children at Zamzam School

   The school at Zamzam is a makeshift campus of tents bordered by a fence of dry and twisted sticks. The jute tarps are stamped with the UNICEF logo. A wind-shredded Sudanese flag flapped in the hot breeze as we surveyed the scene. The teachers we met with told us that they serve a student population of over 2,500. They do this with a shortage of books and supplies. The curriculum menu offers instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, Arabic, and Islam. No school desks. Students sit on mats on the dusty ground. In spite of it all, kids here are eager to learn. We discussed avenues for aid with our hosts at our evening debriefing.

   When we returned to our lodging late in the evening, we discovered that the owner of the house where we are staying had secured a generator. We fired up the generator and conversed late into the night under the hot breeze of a couple of fans. However, when it was time to go to bed we turned off the noisy generator. As soon as we did, the heat assaulted us like a merciless thug in the night. I was able to get a signal and call home tonight on our satellite phone. That phone call connected me with my family half a world away, living in the relative safety of America. I am going to bed this evening with my heart filled with gratitude for my home and in pain for Darfur.

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