Violence


You can tell you’re starting to recover from your ravaging bout with sinusitis when you start almost forgetting to take your antibiotics.  You can tell you still have a ways to go when what used to be normal activities leave you exhausted.  Sigh.  Yesterday and this morning I did what would have been a normal schedule for me back in the day.  Class, work, pit stop home for dinner, Ash Wednesday Mass, another pit stop to pick up some things I’d forgotten, dancing, home, sleep, wake up, classes.  My day is far from done (I have another class in about an hour, then an appointment, and then my Catholic young adult group in the evening), but right now I mostly want to crawl back into bed and call it done.  Still, this is progress!  A week ago I wouldn’t have made it to half those classes, or dancing, or Mass.  So we’re doing better here.

Lisa is currently still in Nairobi, hopefully making arrangements to come home in the next couple of days.  There are so many conflicting reports about whether things are getting better or getting worse, it’s been hard for her to decide whether she should come home or just wait things out so she can finish her teaching stint.  The US Embassy had a town hall meeting a few days ago for US citizens and their families, where they were sounding fairly upbeat, not at all encouraging people to leave.  So it’s been hard to know what to do.  However, recently the opposition leaders were threatening more rallies, which really means more rioting.  This stupidity irritated Lisa so much that at that point she had decided to leave as soon as possible.  Most of our communication with her is through text messages (phone calls are so exorbitantly expensive that they have to be carefully rationed, but we found out that Judy’s cell service plan lets her send texts to Kenya for $.25), so it’s a little hard to know what she’s thinking.  Personally, I want Lisa to come home.  She may not be in any danger at the moment, but the situation is completely unstable, and it doesn’t look likely to settle down any time soon.  Everything could change at any time.  Within half an hour a place that was perfectly safe could become a war zone.  I don’t want my sister to be caught in the middle of something like that.  Plus, the sad truth is that as a young, white, blond American woman traveling alone overseas, she is uniquely vulnerable.  So, yeah, I want her home. Now.

On the up side, the gardening catalogs have been coming in for a little while now.  I’ve taken to doodling garden plans and ideas on my scrap paper during class instead of taking notes.  I used to write letters instead of taking notes, but now it’s mostly drawing gardens.  When I get a little time and access to a scanner, I want to scan them in to show you guys.  I think the one of my proposed small rose garden for back by the garage is especially lovely.  Liv and I went to the garden center to buy seeds a few days ago.  She got peppers, tomatoes, and green beans for her buckets on the back deck.  I got asters, sunflowers, cosmos, and money plant for the flower garden, and carrots, radishes, zucchini, and lettuce mix for a small vegetable garden.  Plus I also got sweet peas to grow up over the deck railing.  I wish it were March already so I could start planting things!

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High on my list of Things I Am Not Fond Of, far above People Who Turn Into My Lane, even beyond Writing Daily “Thought Papers” For An Entry Level Class (I hate these kinds of forced reflections with a burning passion that will never die) is a special category titled People I Care About Being In Unsafe Situations. Here there is, of course, the ever popular Friends Being Deployed To War Zones, and also Family Members Living In Underdeveloped Countries With Insufficient Health Care. However, far and above anything previously named, there is a very special section I have created just this past month. It is called Family Members Being Caught In Undeveloped Nations In Which There Is Uncontrolled Violence And Possibly Ethnic Cleansing Going On.

My sister Lisa is in Kenya. She arrived there shortly before Christmas to begin a five month stint teaching grade school at St. Jude’s Academy, the second half of her year of service in Africa. I don’t know how many of you guys have been following the news, but the country is in a downward spiral of violence that is threatening to turn into a total meltdown. Just after Christamas there was an election in which the two main candidates were members of rival tribes. The election was massively corrupt. Protests by the party that lost turned violent, there were reprisals, and everything quickly spiraled out of control. Now there are gangs of men from one tribe armed with machetes and clubs studded with nails actively going out to hunt down members of the other tribe, and being disappointed when they can’t find any to kill. So far the police have been unable to stop the violence, and have lately been given orders to shoot to kill. The US State Department’s warnings have been growing progressively grave, although they have not yet warned US citizens to leave the country.

Here’s the good news: the village where Lisa is living is out in the middle of nowhere, far from where the violence is occurring. Moreover, the violence seems to be almost entirely between the members of the two tribes. Europeans and Americans so far do not seem to be targeted at all. The area where she lives is populated entirely by the tribe of the politician who is in power, so the violence is unlikely to spread there. The family she lives with is being extremely careful, barely even letting her go outside by herself. She doesn’t go outside at all after dark. So for now it seems like she is safe.

However, the situation is volatile. In a split second all this could change, and Lisa could be swept up in the kind of unpleasantness I don’t want to think about. The temptation is to tell her to get the heck out of there, to get home as fast as an airliner can take her. However, in order to get out of the country she’d have to travel eighty miles over unsafe roads (the State Department website warns that travel may only be safe as part of an armed convoy) straight into Nairobi, the heart of where the violence is occurring. It is true that the airports are still operating normally, and that most of the violence is happening in the slum areas where she would not go. The problem is… can she get to the airport safely? We don’t know.

They make adventure movies about this stuff. However, this was never the kind of movie I wanted made about my cuddly, bubbly, blond little sister!

So, you know, if you could pray…