Saturday, August 4, 2007

I hate August

I really do. The dry heat of this month just kills me. I love the winter, with the rain, and snow. I love the fall, with it's crisp, cool air, and falling leaves. Spring, not so much, with my allergies. But August? If I could sleep through this month, I would.
The heat of it reminds me, kind of, of the time I spent in the Persian Gulf when I was on the ship. Granted, it is much much much hotter over there. It was so hot, that our work hours were from 5 am to 11 am. That's it. Because we were all falling out from the heat of things. Especially my division. I worked on the boat deck of the ship, with the small boats, and cranes. It was so hot, the metal we would try to paint would be porous, like a sponge, and soak in the paint.
To leave the ship, (which we all ran to do when liberty was announced) we had to be in long sleeved shirts. Because of the religious climate of the place we were in. Especially the women. They made sure we were covered from the neck down before we walked down that gangplank. Thankfully, I'd met a british girl who's parent's had a home in sunny Bahrain. She'd come get a bunch of us, and we'd go there, where we could change into cooler cloths, and use their swimming pool. It saved me, I think.
But I also did volunteer work at an orphanage there. Our chaplain arranged it. The orphanage was quite a shock. Bahrain is one of the richest cities. But these kids. . . I still get queasy thinking about it.
Everything there was broken. Most of the kids were deemed "special needs" for many reasons. There was this girl there, she was 18 or so. She'd been "normal" until her home caught fire. She had gotten burned, and was paralysed. And now lived at this hole in the wall orphenage. She spoke 8 languages, including English. She did a lot of translation for us. There were a few others, older like her. Both of them were also female, and developmentally delayed. There was also this very bright 5 year old. She was hyperactive, but what 5 year old isn't, really? Especially living in the situation she lived in. She followed us around like an adoring puppy, just starved for attention.
What got to me, though, were all the others. There were 3 rooms. Dark rooms. With at least 20 kids per room, most of them living on a mattress with an upside down, wooden play-pen over them. There was not enough staff to care for the children, and to keep them in one place, they had to contain them. The ones that couldn't move lived in larger cribs. It was horrifying. They were clean, and they were fed. But that was it. And it wasn't the staff's fault. There was just not enough of them to go around. Walking around these rooms, and seeing these kids almost killed me. I came across this one little girl. She had the most beautiful, thick black hair, and these big brown eyes. Her name was Shedara, someone told me. I thought she was maybe, 3 years old? I found out later she was 8. She couldn't walk, she didn't talk. She didn't weigh anything. For some reason, I latched on to this child. I went there all the time, and always went to her. They started letting me take her out. I'll never forget the first day I took her outside. It had been so long since she'd been out there that it frightened her. The noises of fear she made frightened me. She slowly got over it, and looked around some. Every day I took her out with me. One day, I found a physical therapy room. And we played in there for a while. (I played, trying to work her leg muscles and see if I could figure out what was wrong with her. I never did.). At lunch time, the arabic nurses came in, and they had the girl who spoke 8 languages with them. She translated for them, and for me. They told me about Shedara. She had a family, her mother had 6 other children, one of them a newborn. And she couldn't take care of Shedara at this time. But they planned on coming back for her, they told the nurses. I hope they did. By the time we had to leave Bahrain, I wanted to take Shedara with me. Something in that child's eyes connected me to her, somehow. I can't explain it.
Anyhow. I wandered pretty far off the subject there. I still hate August. Its too hot. And the heat reminds me of Bahrain, that orphanage, and Shedara.


Celtic Rose said...

Oh my Meilikki, I never knew . . .
It breaks my heart just reading about it, I don't know how I would handle it in person. It is not something that you will ever forget . . .

sybil law said...

What a sad, sad story! It reminds me of "A Thousand Splendid Suns" - have you read it, yet? You should.
Damn. Those stories always get to me the most. :(