Thursday, July 21, 2011

Another day

Well, it’s the end of yet another tense day here in Lilongwe. Again, the city basically shut down, due to the ongoing protests, which have now seemingly collapsed into anarchy. All of my meetings were again canceled today, so it was basically a snow day for all of us. I didn’t get much done, as Jorge and I kept checking the updates on Twitter. We worried for some young friends who had been traveling around Malawi and Tanzania, and who were supposed to be on a bus back to the city. I wondered how we were going to get food for the week, with the market shut down, and the gorcery stores reportedly looted. I worried about the violence and chaos coming closer to home, closer to my babies.

To deal with the anxiety, I baked cookies. And then ate LOTS of them.

Then, sometime after my lunch of cookies, I had this strange sense of déjà vu. I have dealt with perilous situations before – my time in Darfur was basically one crisis after another. So at first I thought all this conflict was bringing back memories of difficult times I had experienced in Sudan.

But then I realized, it wasn’t a conflict I was remembering, it was a catastrophe of an entirely different sort: Hurricane Katrina.

In the days and weeks after I evacuated from New Orleans in 2005, it was so hard to tell the fact from rumor. Who can forget the melodramatic interviews on Oprah, the (eventually disproved) tales of babies being sexually assaulted in the Superdome? And every horrible misdeed that was reported was just taken as truth, because of course, that’s what people’s stereotypes of New Orleans residents allowed them to believe.

And here we are again, imagining violent Africans wielding machetes and wreaking havoc…after years of being shown Africa only in the light of famine or war, is it any wonder that we don’t even doubt that people are capable of such violence?

Once the dust clears, I wonder what I will find – the battleground of burned-out cars and smashed, looted buildings that the reports have been evoking; or the ghost-town, shell of a city where most people just want to keep their heads down and get back to their normal life – the vision that my friends who have been in town today tell me they’ve seen. I hope it’s the latter, but by now I just don’t know what to believe.


Blue Tarp Girl said...

My thoughts are with you and your family! I will sometimes also get that eerie post-K deja vu and I have to wonder if it will ever go away...

ghkcole said...

Be well, sweet friend. Send me cookies.

Miriam said...

Hopefully things are more like the WTO riots in Seattle which really were nothing to the general population. It amazes me that there is nothing at all about this on American news, keep us posted on how things go.