Oct 11, 2011

Trip Recap Day Four Part Two: All I Could Do Was Laugh

I've never had a good sense of smell. I often times have The Hero smell food in our fridge because I can't smell well enough to determine some thing's freshness. But that gift was of no measure in the city dump. I smelled before I knew we were there. The putrid air sprang up a sudden cough that I couldn't stop. My nostrils stung and the bugs that hung around my face clamored for space inside my eyes, nose and mouth. I could barely see to walk even though the sun was bright and warm. I hung very tightly to Solomon, a man who helps Yemamu and Sisay with their work in Korah.

I've attached the video below to give you an idea of what our team was walking through once we were in the dump. But what I cannot impart to you is the smell. Imagine the worst smell you've ever known and multiply it by infinity.

Every living thing in this place seemed to be on the cusp of death. Dogs ran wild and I knew for the first time why my children were terrified of dogs when they first came home from Ethiopia. Puppies were everywhere, scavenging for trash on the side of a sliding mountain of filth. Men and boys dug with their hands where I was terrified to place my feet.
I don't know what hell will be like, I pray I never know, but I am sure that Korah's trash dump will be at it's entrance.

As we passed out food, we approached a boy who was no older than 11 or 12. He had a bag of treasures from his morning working that he would soon take to the market to sell. He may make 30cents from his efforts. When Yemamu handed him the bag, he plopped down and began to tear open the bag and I noticed his hands. His black skin was amplified fifty shades of dark but the mire, feces, trash and debris of his work. I hurled inside my mouth. It was the stupidest thing I could have done at that moment, but I asked if I could wash his hand.
He stared at me like the crazy, white woman I am, just wanting to eat, but he let me. It took six wet wipes and half of travel-sized hand sanitizer container to wipe off the muck so he could eat. I just couldn't bear the thought of this angel ingesting any more of this despicable place into his body.
I would not let myself cry, even though this mama's heart was so pissed off that this place exists and this boy was not in school or with a family. I choked down my own bile and tears and just kept telling him he was beautiful.

We obviously were drawing a crowd and some of the boys from our program came to meet us. They did not want us to hug them because although people of Korah are cursed~a literal translation of the word, these boys were worse. They were thrown away. I hugged them anyway. I wasn't going to forget them or throw them away and I'd be damned if I let anyone else do it again.

One boy especially took great care in helping me. I recognized him from the center and he took great pains in helping guide me down the hill so we could see his "home". Amy crossed a trench of flowing water along with two more of our team, so when Bilelu jumped across, he assumed I'd be right behind him. I must have stepped on something different, because all I could feel was me sinking and then I was moving...downward!

My feet couldn't find a place to stand up and even though it was an open invitation to inhale a mouth full of bugs, I screamed for Solomon and Yemamu. I was waist deep in sewer and all I could see was Bilelu's face, he was almost in tears. The sweetie thought he had let me fall. Solomon's massive arms were grabbing my hands and pulling me out so fast I wasn't stuck for more than a few seconds and I could only pray I hadn't cut myself; a lot of the children from our center and Korah have contracted HIV and/or Hepatitis from this place by picking up a broken vial or needle from the hospital's trash.

I regained my head and looked down at my body. I almost fell back in because I was laughing so hard. It was all I could do in that moment. I laughed. Abbey was right behind me and fell ankle deep too, and boy were we a disgusting mess.

Note that the top of my pants are red. Five minutes before this picture, my entire pants were red.
I made is successfully across the second time and from then until the end of the day, I don't think that Bilelu let go of my hand. We saw his "home" that he shared with six or seven older boys. A pack of twenty wild dogs ran back and forth the entire time we were visiting. Yemamu explained that the boys had trained them to be attack dogs for anyone who tried to steal the metal the boys collected.
We hiked back the way we came because it had started to rain. Our team was quite the sight. Everyone in Korah who was outside just stopped and stared at Abbey and I. We still had about twenty bags of food left but everyone on our team wanted to give to the boys at the dump. Bilelu walked with me home, asking if he was going to see me tomorrow. This question was starting to break my heart, because I knew the answer would soon change. But for today it was still "of course."

Knowing that those boys were heading home broke my heart, but watching them walk back with food enough to feed them all for two days warmed me. Two days...we HAD to get our governmental approval within two days. HFN HAD to be up and functioning. I couldn't leave this place if it wasn't. I would never be able to forgive myself.

We walked home because Abbey and I were too disgusting to use any one's taxi and I was hoping the rain would help wash away my stench. I laughed at the sight of myself. I laughed because I was convinced that if I didn't I would look down and my heart would have shattered into a million pieces and let's face it, I laughed because I smelled worse than the entire group of teenage boys who a half a day early didn't want to permeate my fair skin with their smell. And I'm pretty sure God was getting a good laugh too.

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