Thursday, September 18, 2008

As my thoughts row across the sea and back...

Since getting married, there have been a few changes in my life and one has been the fading of my need for absolute privacy. A few years ago, I would have put very little of my real thoughts onto an online journal that anyone could read, but now it's becoming increasingly appealing. (Although I suppose I'll have to be careful once I'm a teacher again). It somehow feels more connected to my readers than a mass email, maybe because a mass email is like forcing something upon a person, whether they want to read it or not, and the blog is only seen by those who voluntarily visit. Or maybe over time as it begins to tell my history, and the history of JooYeon, filled with pictures of loved ones and memories, I'm just becoming more attached to it, a feeling I rarely had with mass emails.

The point is that I'd like to start sharing more of my thoughts here, although any very private dialogues on these thoughts can still be held in personal emailing-calls. For starters, one thing on my mind lately has been the tribal area in India where my friend Wes and I lived for five months (by the way, all pictures in this entry are his). Despite the fact that it was very unpopulated and a random area deep in the mountains, it has become the center of a massacre in recent weeks. An outspoken Hindu leader was murdered and, even though it was claimed by the Naxalites, a Maoist guerrilla group, the Hindus attacked the Christians with full force. More specifically, the dalit Christians who used to be untouchables, or members of the lowest caste in the Hindu system. That was three weeks ago. Since then, the official death count is at 25, but local Christians say that it's much higher with hundreds injured, thousands fleeing, and churches, homes, and schools torched, water poisoned, raping of nuns, burning people alive, etc. Google "violence in Orissa" or anything like that if you want to read more about it.

I realize this is a desensitized concept these days with so much publicity on the horrors of Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. and that these numbers from India are much lower, but this was our little safe home in India. We lived with Simon Digal (shown above as he rides in from a work day), the village chief, and because the town well was at his house, all the villagers came and went daily while making cheery talk with the family. Grandma Phuseli would wake up each morning before sunrise to start the cooking fires and then Mommy (pictured above) would whip us up some red tea with rice krispies to start off the chilly winter mornings. As the sun started to warm things up, we would get some work done around the house, like here where we were threshing the rice by walking around on it until it separated (even though we usually ended up dancing or playing circle tag because it was fun and got the job done more quickly!)

The older girl, Tiki, was away at school most of the time while we played with the three youngest kids and exchanged languages. Simon would come home from work each evening and use his limited English to help sort out any communication walls we had run into during the day, and we would all laugh together at the difference between reality and what we THOUGHT the other person had meant. At night, Wes and I would often stand out on the meadow behind our house and hold conversations while gazing at the endless field of stars, unobstructed by electricity or lights. Even after we left, we stayed in contact - Wes returned a couple years later, and Jim, a man from my home church set up a fund that raised over $5,000 to put all four girls (now five) through higher education instead of losing them to the dowry system.
But now, according to a contact Wes has in a nearby town, half of Simon's little village has been burned. Neither of us have been able to contact anyone we knew from the village since there are no phones and Simon only gets on the internet when he goes into the city, which is a couple times a year. So now most of this area looks more like this...

Half of me reads the stories and looks at the pictures with that "slightly sympathetic, but not really affected personally" way that I always read over war stories. Another quarter of me feels more deeply emotional but still distanced, like how I felt after watching Hotel Rwanda. But a small part of my mind flashes back over the faces of the Digals and the other people we knew in the Raikia area, Hindus, Christians, and tribals, and I wonder what they're doing, if Simon is in trouble because of his pastoral work (he had been jumped by a Hindu gang before but had fought his way out), how they're moving ahead with their life, if they're sleeping in fear, how the girls' world view is changing...

And then of course, selfish guy that I am, I'm warped back to MY life in Buenos Aires by a meal, or washing some clothes, or picking up a book I want to read. It's hard to truly stay connected to someone on the other side of the world for any sustained period of time. Realizing that just inspires me even more to make this blog an authentic expression of how I'm doing to at least maintain an occasional deep bond with some of my friends and family around the world (and the guy in Manchester, U.K. who stumbled across the blog accidentally by googling "child-eating monster")

With Love,


1 comment:

  1. Wish there was a way to find out about the Digals. We are enjoying your journal. Mom