Sunday, 19 April 2009

Ethiopia, here I come!

I am probably far more tensed than I actually thought I am about my trip tonight. I had a dream yesterday that some travel logistics went terribly wrong. Thank goodness when I woke up, things are still under control.

I could not say much about how I feel doing this because my mind has been in a state of chaos, trying to juggle between competing requirements for my time and energy. Indeed, there are a lot to worry about on this trip. Health and saftey are of paramount concerns. Just as I thought the stinking feeling from a series of immunisation jabs was bad enough, it was the rashes and headaches (probably side effects from the injections and medication I took) which followed that were harder to battle.

But when compared to emotional uncertanties, these physical hardships are negligible. I feel unprepared emotionally, even at this eleventh hour of my departure. What would it be like to come face to face with the harsh realities of life in poverty and disease striken Africa?

It was from Darfur that I developed an interest in Africa. I learnt with disbelief how tribal feuds aggravated into civil war when the government took sides, causing the death of 300,000 people, with millions more displaced. Then I realised this is not unique to Sudan, as the world remembered the 15th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda some 2 weeks ago, where 800,000 people of an ethnic group were killed just within 100 days. Of course there is also Sierre Leone, made famous by the movie "Blood Diamond", where child soldiers were trained and fought in civil wars. Those children were not burdened by life experiences and moral obligations of an adult person hence made them executors of the most ruthless kind.

There are in fact much more atrocities to be discovered in the vast African continent, and that is before considering AIDS. I looked across the world map and cannot find an African nation without a history of struggle and is not at this moment plagued by poverty as a result of war, diseases or famine. A whole nation of refugees is something I cannot imagine and I do not think I will ever fully grasp the meaning of words like genocide, ethnic cleansing, systematic rapes... how can so much pain and misery prevail in that place?

Unfortunately, in our part of the world, we have done very little to help the impoverished Africans. Going to Ethiopia, well, cannot be described as "a dream come true", but is something I know I have to do. I cannot live simply by an ideal that is not contested and fight for a cause that has not been verified. I am not expecting this trip to be life changing though, I only hope that I will be inspired. At least to come back with new perspectives, to better appreciate life maybe.... I do not know. And hopefully, to inspire you.

My suitcase is now half filled with presents for the children. Those who know me are aware that I usually travel light and at some point in time, I thought the load was too much for me to manage. Then I think again about how little these Ethiopian children have and I just quit complaining and continued stuffing in more toys. Jigsaw puzzles, soccer ball, colour pencils and many more!

And against my usual travelling habits, I am bringing an "emergency" food suppy... just as alternatives, in case I have to eat a zebra.

4-leaf clover for luck!

I wonder if there is a child who is equally excited about meeting a stranger for the first time, as the stranger is. Please pray for me that I will have the courage to embrace the sick and the destitutes.

Till later...

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