Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mango Picking

This post was intended to be a bit more self-indulgent, since it’s a month ago today that we were robbed, and I haven’t given an extremely personal response to this campaign so far anyway, not to mention that the last few days I’ve found difficult, from a ‘political’ point of view – and, after all, the political is personal, and vice versa – a statement I fully endorse. I’ve found it difficult because delving into the often murky depths of cyberspace to look for material for discussions about ICTs and its possible connections with violence against women – as well as the ways in which ICTs might be utilised as tools to counter that same violence – has unearthed some truly putrid and grotesque fungus!! And I confess I had a few moments when I began to wonder whether anyone who knew about them actually cared – whether there were in fact more people out there feeding and watering these infestations than there were people trying to scrape them off their cyber-rocks, where they seem so firmly rooted!

But when I got up this morning I spent some time following some different threads, and read the blogs of people engaged in writing their way into those darker shadows, setting up camp there and pushing those complacent mushrooms into the light where they can only be exposed for the poison they are. I felt much better! And in the evening, when the lowering sun gives the grey of the stone mountains an industrial sheen and every section of the valley has different weather, I went for a walk with Eran in the logistics centre: a cleared area shaped in an oval like a huge running track. It had rained in the afternoon, so the earth still had the damp, slightly sour smell: it clears the air, and it cleared my head! Eran went for a run, but I HATE running, so I continued walking, and thought about...

...the frustrations of living with the oppressively constrictive prejudices that are still, even now, even after all these years, stereotyping ‘feminists’. And the irony that is the fact that it’s the men out there who, in their attempts to ‘feminist-bash’ and who inevitably end up ‘women-bashing’ (pun intended!!), are a huge reason why feminism exists in the first place! If they were not so deluded and so damaging, if they did not have their self-instated superiority complexes, if they did not hate feminists, feminism would have little reason to be! I thought about how grateful I am that the men in my life are twice the men these imposters could ever be, because the men I know understand that we share the same enemies. I think about how even my grandfather had greater respect for women and more progressive thinking than many of the men finding their outlet for control and domination through the internet today. But mostly I thought about how, despite everything, I still love this beautiful world, and just how good it smells sometimes, and just how explosive its landscapes can be (I’m blown away every day!).

And I was going to dwell a little bit on the robbery, because it was so violent – not in a way that anyone was physically hurt – but in the way the robbers' presence filled the house and violated its space – in the way the first guy burst into the bathroom, shoving against Eran’s body with his own – the way the knife knocked against the door...

...But then, when Eran and I drove out to village one this afternoon we met Ngolo and Pinto (the two co-ordinators of aldeia one) who flagged us down inside the village to tell us that yesterday, after an argument, Hilario’s (the co-ordinator of village six, although he also lives in village one) 16-year-old son had run away from home, and had, this morning, fallen out of a tree trying to pick mangos and couldn’t move. I felt sick. No-one here really has any knowledge of first aid, and the local hospital doesn’t even have an x-ray machine, and its only qualified doctor is currently in Mozambique! And for various reasons we (‘we’, as in the foreign employees on the project) have to be careful when dealing with medical situations, because we can actually make things much worse – superstitions and political sensitivities can destroy delicate relations if a casualty dies after one of us has touched her/him.

But it was a co-ordinator’s son. We both know Hilario well. The kid had been injured in the morning and it was already the middle of the afternoon. We drove about four miles out of the village along some of the worst roads in the area – sunken and slippery with mud, filled with water – and all the time I was thinking: god, I hope he hasn’t broken his back, I hope they haven’t moved him, how the hell are we going to get him out of the bairro* along these roads if he has a back injury? I felt even sicker when we arrived at the bairro and realised that he’d already been moved from beneath whichever tree he fell out of and into one of the mud huts.

But he was fully conscious and responsive when we found him – all his limbs moving and he sat up on the edge of the bed when we walked in – and although he couldn’t walk alone, I was (from my totally and utterly unprofessional opinion!) fairly sure he’d only broken a few ribs. I say ‘only’! With no x-ray machine and no qualified doctor, we have to hope his ribs were only fractured for them to have any hope of healing in the places they’re supposed to heal! But nevertheless, I was relieved – I was preparing myself for much worse. Pinto and the kid’s uncle got him to lie on his back in the back of the landrover and we drove (very slowly!) to the hospital. I’ll write something when I know more about how he’s doing…

So after that how could I dwell on our own misfortune? None of the people here have any guarantees of anything, no assurances, no safety nets – especially not underneath mango trees! I wanted to write how, in a very obscure way, I myself had been subjected to ICT-connected violence, because in the act of aggressively robbing us, my lovely little MacBook was stolen! Ok, yes, I know it’s tenuous, but still, not entirely irrelevant I feel, since the black market is thriving here, and stolen electrical items – often stolen violently – inundate that market because ICT tools are so coveted now, and so financially unviable – if bought legitimately – for a great many men – and most especially women (!) – in the third world.

*'Bairro' is the name for the mud villages scattered throughout the bush, usually where there is a water-source, or as close as possible to other facilities, such as schools and markets. But there are many which are entirely isolated.

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