Monday, October 5, 2009

I Stumble, I Fall, I Fail

"What doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger." -I have no idea

October 4, 2009

Last night my worst childhood nightmare actually occurred. When I was in about fifth grade I had a dream so real that I would still almost say that it actually took place. I dreamed that I was in bed and a man's shadow appeared at my window. I could hear the window rattling as he tried to get in. I screamed so loudly that it brought both of my parents running into my room and landed me a spot in their bed.

I am an extremely light sleeper, my Dad jokes that I sleep with one eye open. Last night I awoke to a sound at one of my bedroom windows that I was willing to credit to rats. When I saw an arm reach up and grab on of the security bars that protect all my windows. I actually couldn't believe it when I heard the window rattling and the glass breaking. I didn't scream. Instead I grabbed my flashlight and aimed it at the window, I could only briefly see a man about my age as he jumped down and nimbly ran away. I lay frozen for a moment- did that really happen? Then I got up, got my largest kitchen knife and found cell service. I text the only person who I knew of who might be awake at 1.30 am and who I would trust with my life. It said (In Swahili)- "William, Are you awake? Someone just tried to come in through my bedroom window. I am afraid." I received a phone call immediately. Where I had not cried until I explained to him in broken sobbing Swahili. Then I said, "Please come." He does not live close to me, but is my best male friend, and drives a motorcycle, so he could get there in a matter of minutes and I was too afraid to go outside and run to the teachers or Mzee Ngoda in case the man was still out there. William spoke assuring words, that the man would not come back, but that there was no way he could visit me in the middle of the night. What would the villagers think? It is totally improper. I hate this country sometimes- I said "I don't give a damn what they think, or what is proper!" But I thought morbidly to myself at least if I am murdered tonight someone will know what happened to me. He told me he would come as soon as it got light, around 5.30. That is a long time to sit in ones living room wide-awake, white-knuckling a kitchen knife.

Luckily, I didn't have to wait until 5.30. William showed up at 3 and announced himself outside my door, he has a super recognizable voice, but I still answered the door prepared with the knife, but dropped it when I saw William and instead threw myself on him a sobbing mess. He obviously had no idea what to do with this woman/child, especially because men and women do not touch in Tanzania. But he patted my hair uncertainly, and lead me with his rough black hand into my living room, which I was shocked by even that amount of affection. I felt like I did after I was mugged, after the man tried to get into my car in Portland- like someone has taken my power away from me. I hate this feeling. It angers me when someone can make me feel afraid. I don't lack feeling weak and not in control. William asks if I would really use the knife on someone, and the weird thing is, I think I would. So there's a turn around from the sweet non-violent little Oregon girl. He sits across the room from me (we have to be proper) and tells me to sleep and he will keep watch. I do doze a bit and wake up at one point where he is adding wood to the fire, I feel nothing but love for him in that moment. A feeling of complete protection. I have no idea why he cares deeply about what happens to me, but I am glad he does. He leaves at 6 am to tell the village government the situation.

I am supposed to do an AIDS workshop that day. No one comes. That is one of the freaky things about the break-in is there are signs all over the village that I am doing it. I am believing that the man did not know I was home and was just hoping to steal things. Or I sleep in what a Tanzanian would consider the "backroom", so maybe he thought I was in the other one. William shatters these beliefs and says "Or maybe he knew you were there and was hoping to get in before you woke up." "Don't ever suggest that again," I firmly tell him. That is an option I refuse to think about. Anyways, no one comes, I am hurt, I am discouraged, I don't understand why I am here. They are happy if I just eat ugali with them, drink beer and shoot the shit. I could be doing that in America! (Minus the ugali). For the first time in over a year, I really want to throw in the towel and go home. I call my friend, Kate (PCV), sobbing, "I want to go home. I am failing." I picture my parents disappointment in their daughter who struggles to succeed at everything. I cry to Kate, who tells me all the things a best friend going through the same things can- you are brave, your village loves you, you are making a difference to some people.

I get off the phone with her to find out that the Mwalimu Mkuu's youngest child, one year old Isa, has died. He had a fever this morning and this evening he is dead. I cry silent tears, as I have cried all day. I imagine their little family, their joy over their young son, and it is unbelievable to me that this child no longer exists. I feel Anna's small breaths on my back and I curse myself that I have come love these people too much, too deeply. I cry for my mistake of coming here. I actually tell my villagers that I want to go home. They are deeply upset by this, and call a meeting. A guard is now positioned outside my house. No one is allowed to come near it after 6 pm unless they are with the Mary or Juster, (my two best female friends). I appreciate they care so much but it infuriates me that I am 25 and living like I am 15. I want freedom, I want safety, but apparently can't have both. My guard is supposed to check on me at 10 pm and again at 7 am, which is sort of ridiculous because if he is there the whole time what is there to check? I have been assured that nothing creepy will happen to me again here. But Image village was my "safe place", my love, my joy in Tanzania, now I see it as a place of insecurity, of death, of poverty, of no effort to make any changes... and I am lost between my love for it and my fear of it. The two things that made me happy today. Anna, who kissed tears off my cheek and laughed. And Kimulimuli, who rubbed and climbed all over me until he was exhausted, then he found and killed that rat that was living in my clothing wardrobe, I was a proud mom. But mostly, I try, I trip, I fall, I fail, I am drowning...

"The world is ruled by letting things take their course." - Lao-Tzu


mom said...

You stumble, you fall, and then you get back up..That is who you are. What a horrible disappointment to have someone try and break in ..Of course, that happens all over the world glad you have a friend like William. All you girls seem to be in the I am not making any difference mode.YOU ARE..just can't see it right now. You all have less than a year..You can do it..Then you all will come home and get started on your list of things to do..Take a breath, refocus and be safe.Thinking of you all..

Bami said...

Brie, What a scary experience!! I can understand why you feel the way you do... However, even though it feels like it, you are not drowning- and you've NEVER failed!!! You're being your beautiful strong self in your anger at life and your fierce and courageous love for these people. Love is really what Life is all about... and even tho you don't see it, you ARE making a difference... for sure in individual lives! And you're not living like your 15 with the guard at your door. You are an incredible woman being loved by a whole village! You're giving them the greatest gift... Your Love! You can't love them too much!

This has been a lot and I think you should take a break and maybe go to the flower farm for a few days rest. Can you? I know you can re-group yourself and recoup your PC intention with some support from your friends. I'm so proud of you and I love you.

kron said...

Hang in there. I lived in Nairobi when I was a young boy. i loved ugali and would take a sip of my dad's Tusker beer on special days.

I work for Nike - we are shipping you a bunch of soccer balls for the village (Ann forwarded me your info). I read your blog regularly so keep up the good work.