How does an ant eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Big problems are composed of smaller, albeit interconnected, problems. Solving the smaller problems will have an implication on the larger problems.

23 June 2011

Pushing Elephants

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
I LOVE this quote...I mean absolutely love it! The first thing that instantly came to mind while reading it, was a documentary I saw last summer while I was at the Global Health Conference here in DC. It always blows my mind when I see/hear of someone overcome an unbearable past and then become an advocate for others, in a similar situation. I saw this documentary though and not one person walked out with a dry eye! Incredibly powerful! 
Premise of the movie:
In the late 1990s, Rose Mapendo lost her family and home to the violence that engulfed the Democratic Republic of Congo. She emerged advocating forgiveness and reconciliation. In a country where ethnic violence has created seemingly irreparable rifts among Tutsis, Hutus and other Congolese, this remarkable woman is a vital voice in her beleaguered nation’s search for peace. Now, Rose is confronted with teaching one her most recalcitrant students how to forgive—Nangabire, the daughter who remained behind.
When war came to Rose’s village, she was separated from her five-year-old daughter, Nangabire. Rose managed to escape with nine of her ten children and was eventually resettled in Phoenix, Arizona. Over a decade later, mother and daughter are reunited in the US where they must face the past and build a new future.

Rose struggles to find balance in her life as a mother of ten and a full-time advocate for refugees. She is the co-founder for Mapendo New Horizons, a humanitarian organization named in Rose’s honor that protects and cares for forgotten refugees. Her speaking engagements have her traveling around the world from the White House to the UNHCR in Geneva to peace talks in Goma, Congo.

Meanwhile Nangabire, now seventeen, must adapt to America and discover how she fits into the sprawling Mapendo family. As mother and daughter get to know one another, they must come to terms with a painful past, and define what it means to be a survivor, a woman, a refugee and an American.

Through this intimate family portrait unfolding against the wider drama of war, we will explore the long-term and often hidden effects of war on women and families, particularly those in traditional societies—financial despair, increased susceptibility to rape, and social ostracism. Pushing The Elephant will capture one of the most important stories of our age, a time when genocidal violence is challenged by the moral fortitude and grace of one woman’s mission for peace.

19 June 2011


There will be no heroes here
No gods, though the stench of sweat
And the drip of blood
Will hint at creation

How long
O flesh
O knife
O muffled screams
How long will you taint the air of our lands
With your echoes?

There will be no transgressions here
Only girls
Trapped forever at the cusp of womanhood
Sliced up and stitched back together
To cut the sins out and keep the virtue in

Where are the heroes
While our daughters are being circumcised
And I will judge, though
Circumstance gave birth to me in the audience and not onstage
Though I have never seen the tip of the knife
The eclipse of a neighbor’s face blocking the sun

But how long
O sky
O land
O grim-faced mothers
How long can you watch without seeing

The battered virgins decorated in tattered skins
Scabs and stitches to keep out the sins
When even a mother’s embrace is not tighter
Than the embroidery on her
Painless daughter
When does this go too far?

There will be no heroes here
With their t-shirts and their picket signs
This will be no fashionable cause
Because these are the wars that lie hidden under skirts

No poverty pornography
Of big-eyed babies posing beneath their coating of flies
These are the scars of a society
That the documentary crews
Do not have the stomach for;
There are no gods here

Though every outsider’s view is judgement day
I’m going to judge today though I
Have no bruises on my thighs
No suspicious mother listening at the bathroom door
Because the volume of her daughter’s urine
Was testament to her innocence:
If she could only manage a quiet trickle
She was still stitched up tightly

And if she wasn’t,
If she wasn’t, o honor
O stones
O broken face
If she wasn’t, her father would find
The power to crush her life to liquid
Encased in a bruised sack of skin

The newscasters
Will call it an honor killing,
Disdain for “those people” crumpling their features
As the cameras pan with a zoologist’s fascination
Speaking as one would of another species
About those barbarians and their bloodlust

Or was it an act of love by father and brother
When stones smashed into tainted skin to
Release the soul from its dirtied casing
Gazing tearlessly at the husk of what was once their baby girl

Before her thighs were taught to mash so tightly together
That bruises bloomed on the insides
Before scarlet letters spilled monthly from a joyless womb
A loveless girl
Soaked crimson in her own sin
Punished preemptively for the hips and breasts
Soon to come
Of which her twelve-year-old frame already hints
For the way she will soon make monsters of men
Revenge will paint itself
As ritual
Carving the joy out of creation
Into a tradition of loveless wombs
Of mothers who find no pleasure
In the creation of their child

And so,
There will be no lovemaking
No making of children born from joyful unions
Only manufacturing
Of loveless generations
No creation
So, no-
There are no gods

This poetry was recited (and gave me chills) at an event I attended not long ago on refugee health. This touches a topic many know little about or  chose to ignore.

An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of female genital cutting, also called female circumcision. Female genital cutting includes several different forms of cutting practiced for hundreds of years. Infibulation, the most severe, involves cutting some or all of the external genitalia, leaving only a very small opening for urination and menstruation.

The procedure can also cause serious health and social problems that follow a woman her whole life. The health complications from infibulation can include chronic and severe pain, infection, prolonged and difficult labor and difficulties with menstruation. Psychologically, cutting can cause tension between couples due to painful or difficult sexual relations. Socially, cutting makes it harder for girls to go to school or earn income by making them more likely to marry early.

Every year, in communities around the world, as many as 3 million girls are at risk of this painful procedure despite its many risks. We must do all we can to encourage the governments in the communities where female genital cutting most often occurs to put a stop to it.

The practice of female genital cutting is hard to talk about. It is part of deeply-held religious and cultural beliefs in communities that practice it. But it also is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. But ignoring it only guarantees more suffering, and leadership from the United States would go a long way in urging the countries where FGC occurs to end this human rights abuse.

18 June 2011

Time and Reason

Everything changes; it's exciting; lovely; such an alluring part of life. Everything happens for some reason. Everything will work out; it will be such a beautiful ending to an adventurous tale.

When things feel awful it's hard to see the outcome. It's hard to stay positive; stretch our limbs to the sky each day. People leave, we leave; it's always hard because you think: why didn't they love me? what did I do wrong? do they care? what about me? You let those questions, each question, hollow you out a little more until your body is the heaviest hollow there could be. You can feel the question, each question, ache in different parts. Why didn't they love me, how could they love someone more? It aches in your belly, keeps you from eating. What did I do wrong? Your constant retelling of every moment spent together, analyzing, it aches your whole skull. Do they care? The thought that they don't care, that they don't think about your needs or worries or wants, well that aches in all the limbs. These aches make us weak, they keep us in bed fearing sleep. They keep us from telephones, from computers, from friends...because, 'why did they leave, why did they leave ME?'

We are self centered by nature. People exist in our lives because they are menat to. Each person, lovely or awful. They exist for exactly the amount of time they should. They teach us things. Little things, extraordinary things about ourselves, our lives, the everything around us. That doesn't make it easier to say goodbye. It doesn't make it easier to think that they have finished their task, made you stronger; we must be strong...we must be strong. You exist and that is extraordinary.

I saw this on a random blog that I follow, awhile back. I recently came across it again and got thinking about how applicable this has been to my life, in a variety of circumstances. Of course, the big one that comes to mind, thinking back three years ago - this was me. I was a wreck. Every last part of me was a disaster, working through pieces of my life, "post-Owen; post-engagement". I was in the middle of an intense semester at grad school - couldn't think, couldn't sleep, couldn't eat (yes, it was the best diet plan I've ever much to the point, I had doctors at work asking if I was sick or if I was okay). I was so unhappy and basked in that sorrow and pity and pain. Thinking back now, I pity myself; I feel sorry for that girl I think about. It's so important to keep the advice given above in perspective - there is a time and a reason for everything; each person that walks into your life is there for a purpose - it is okay to eventually say goodbye, despite how difficult it may be. A friend asked me night before last if this situation, for lack of better words, still bothered me or if I was still in love with Owen. After putting some thought in to my answer, I think for the first time in the past three years, I was able to admit how much I cared for Owen and how I honestly hope he is happy and wish him the best, despite any wrong doing. While I am not in love with him anymore, he, like any person you deeply care for at one point or another during your lifetime, will always have a special place in my heart.

16 June 2011

I sat watching the fireflies last them!

I believe in fairytales
And dreamer's dreams like bed sheet sails
And I believe in Peter Pan and miracles
And anything I can to get by and fireflies

06 June 2011

In honor of the late Bob Marley, who passed away 30 years ago (yesterday)