The start of something new

Once upon a time there was a village in Africa. People in the village followed the ways of their forefathers and, as ordained by the forefathers, all the young women of the village entered womanhood through the path of a painful ritual. No one knew when the ritual had begun or why. Now it was the way because it had always been the way. Daughters wept and begged to be spared from taking part in the ritual, but were met by the stony faces of their mothers who replied, “We did not die from the pain. Neither will you. No decent boy will want you if you are not cut.”
And so a new generation joined their mothers in a horrific continuation of painful abuse, whose far-reaching effects stained their lives as mothers and wives.

Nancy and Gertrude were two young girls who should have been cut already, but they were fighters. Nancy absolutely refused to have it done. She had ambitions to complete her schooling and train for something which would equip her to return to the village and help her people to improve their lives. Marriage, which would immediately follow the ritual, was not in her immediate plans.

Gertrude too, was adamant in her determination not to be cut. A soft spoken and generally obedient child, she was to be married after the ritual so that her family could use her dowry to eucate her brothers. She wanted to continue her studies and dreamt of being a doctor one day. She was fortunate to have a mother who was her ally, who didn’t want her only daughter to suffer the pain and abuse that she had suffered. Nevertheless, her father was determined that she must suffer the ritual cut and be married as soon as possible. A husband had been found and the dowry had changed hands.

Into this situation came a group of people who were determined to change the lives of girls from the Pokot villages. Some were from the tribe and some were from without. Together they began to formulate an alternative ritual, one without cutting, which would symbolize the move from childhood to womanhood. It was hoped that the new ritual would gradually become accepted until there would be no need for the cutting ritual.

After much planning, the day of the new rite of passage dawned. Surprisingly, a substantial number of girls attended the special “camp”. Nancy quickly showed her leadership qualities and was chosen by the girls to be their spokesman at the final ceremony. Her speech at the ceremony was passionate and articulate. Elders and parents alike listened with new respect. It was a new beginning…

Written in response to the monthly writing competition prompt over at elizabethfrattaroli. Although this being a true story may disqualify it, I would like to share it if I may. Thank you.

This is a true story. Every year, many young girls undergo the painful ritual described here. But the alternative ritual and Nancy and Gertrude are real too. You can watch the video of their story here.

Update:I did an internet search to find more information. Nancy and Gertrude have continued their secondary schooling which appears to be funded by money collected by the Guardian after the screening of the video in which their story was told. Cath Holland, the Lancashire midwife who started the campaign for an alternative ritual by inviting local midwives to Britain and educating them on the dangers of FGM, is still passionately involved in the campaign to end it. There are many worldwide campaigns to end this violent practice. If you want to help, google “end FGM”and support one of them.

Posted on the run

An easy walk in the mountains!

We were chatting about what to do when my neice arrived in Italy for a month’s holiday.
“Let’s take her on a walk to Lago Blu,” said my daughter Lisa. “It’s an easy walk and the view of the blue lake at the end of the walk makes it well worth it.”
“Are you sure we can manage?” I asked, remembering that I’m not the fittest of people and although Trish is a lot younger than me, she’s recovering from some health problems.
“Yes, of course,” she reassured me. “Even young children do that walk.”

So, given what she said, I expected a relatively easy walk in the mountains with the sun shining and a glorious day all around us.
At the end of the walk, I expected to see this.

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Reality started to set in when we parked the car in the village at the start of the walk. There was snow! Admittedly not a great deal, but there were drifts of frozen snow beside the road we had to take. It was more of a track really, and the higher we went, the bigger the drifts got, until they were right across the road and we had no choice but to walk gingerly along them. The mountain air was crisp and cool, and all around us the sound of running water reminded us that spring was rapidly thawing those snow drifts.

An hour and a half after setting off, we were stopping more often, out of breath and exhausted. I expected to arrive at the beautiful lake around every corner of the windy, steep road. But no, it would still be as long again before we got there, and we were in for an interesting walk across a field of thawing snow. Boy, was I grateful for my walking boots and padded socks! Have you ever walked across a drift of melting snow? Some of the time, the snow is still frozen and it carries your weight. The rest of the time, your feet sink into the slushy ice, and you find yourself with a shoe full of icicles and wet jeans. Not good! I was lucky, and managed to avoid getting my feet too wet. Poor Trish was almost losing her shoes as her feet broke through the ice on every third or fourth step.

We crossed the icy field and stopped for a lunch that lived up to my expectations: delicious quiche and prosciutto sandwiches washed down by crisp, clear mountain water. Couldn’t have been better! But where was the lake?
Lisa was very encouraging. “See that big rock half way up the hill there?” (Pointing at the distant rock slide.) “It’s just behind that rock. We’re almost there!” (Big smile and excited voice.) “Just tell me if you want to turn back.”
Trish and I looked at each other. We had come so far and braved the ‘Sea of melting ice’. We desperately wanted to see the beautiful blue lake, our reward for persevering and putting up with the cold and our tired legs.
“Nah! We can do it!”
image Not sure if you can see it, but the big rock is just above the tree line.

So we shouldered our rucksacks and skirted the side of the field, heading towards the rock slide. It was a bit worrying when Lisa said, ” it all looks so different in the snow. I’m not so sure where the path is.” Then she headed confidently towards the rocks and we started climbing. This was no path! This was climbing up big boulders, and my knees and legs ached with each step. The rucksack felt like it weighed a ton and was getting heavier with each step! I puffed and panted, and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. After a while, Lisa found the path, and we crossed a few more snow drifts. Do you know how scary it is when the snow drift to your right heads straight down, and you know that if you slip, you’ll be going down there!

One final snowdrift, and we could perch ourselves on a rock and gaze at the object of our desire, Lago Blu:
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Reality wasn’t quite the same as my expectations!

This post was written in response to the Dp writing challenge.
Pop over here and see what other writers have been doing.

Posted on the run

Weekly writing challenge: Threes

Written in response to the weekly writing challenge Threes.

Three haikus based on the three photos posted by Jessie

DRIVEWAY SLEDDING

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I

Long trudge up the hill
Breath steams, feet freeze, almost there
Quick! My turn! Go again!

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II

Woosh! Pounding, bumping,
Clouds, trees, hurtle by white hills
Coasting, slowing, stop.

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III

Stepping together
Sun and Joy light up your face
Look mom, dragon breath!

Posted from WordPress for Android

Weekly Writing Challenge – Aunty Pat

This week’s writing challengeTell us about a character in your life. It could be your best friend, your partner, your child, or even your third grade teacher. With as much detail as possible, make this person real for us. Tell us more than what they look like or how you met. Let us know what their laugh sounds like, or that oddball quirk that makes this person so unique.

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She sweeps up the driveway in her red scenic and swings into her favourite parking spot. I’m waiting to greet her. I haven’t seen her for a few years and I’m afraid of what the years may have done to her. No fear. Her face lights up in a warm smile, wrinkling the skin around her eyes and on her cheeks.

“Hello my darling!” Her voice is deep and loving. Sturdy arms reach out to hug me and I hug her back hard. My dearest Aunty Pat is still strong and well. I breathe a sigh of relief and throw myself into an afternoon of catching up, drinking in the faces of my family, especially Aunty Pat.

Today she’s wearing flowing pants and top, gracefully covering her full shape. A long handmade necklace finishes the look. She has always battled to keep her weight down, but I notice that she’s lost some weight. Then, with a little shock, I notice her flat chest. It’s typical of pragmatic Pat, that when she was diagnosed with cancer in one breast, she told them to take both breasts as at her age (78) she didn’t need them.

” So what have you been doing with yourself while I’ve been away?” I ask.

“Well, Muriel (her older sister-in-law) and I have just got back from Cape Town,” she replies. ” I drove and we did the trip over a couple of days, staying overnight in hotels. We stayed with Aunt Felicity in Cape Town for a week and had a whale of a time!” She chuckles at the memories of that trip. I am amazed. I would hesitate to drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town, but Aunty Pat does it without batting an eyelid! That’s so typical of her! Nothing phases her!

She’s the rock of the family, the glue that keeps them together. She doesn’t interfere, but she’s always there when any of her four children, their spouses and her grandchildren need a sympathetic ear. She adores all of them equally and worries over the future of each of them.

She is so many things – a mother, a teacher, a friend, an artist. I have one of her paintings, a basket of flowers on a paved patio, done in oil, in pride of place on my bedroom wall. I remember when my uncle died, she painted a landscape with my him in it. When she passes, she told me, her daughter Jenny will paint her into the picture next to him. Her love for him was deep and true, standing the test of time and many trials, the worst being his death from cancer.

I look at her again, memorize the sparkling eyes, her soft, white hair in a short bob cut. Her face is soft to the touch as well, making you want to touch and stroke her cheek. She laughs again, a warm chuckle. I see the way my cousins look at her, adoration and indulgence in their eyes.

A whirlwind rushes into the room with long legs and flowing blond hair. “Grannyyyyy!” Aunty Pat opens her arms wide to hug her, beaming and chuckling.

“Hello my sweetheart,” she murmurs,and another grandchild basks in her love.

Starting over

Written in response to the writing challenge which you can see here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/writing-challenge-starting-over/#more-12992

Starting over

Silence bounces off the walls,
friends and family have drifted away
warm hugs, promises, invitations 
Left like solemn gifts of love.
 
Survey the walls
Listen to the silence
(How long have I yearned for silence,
surrounded by your music?)
Now I don’t want it,
Yearn for your music.
Ache for the sound of your voice.
Tears flow.
 
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Stretch out before me.
I pack my tears and fears away
Rise up to face the day.
 

Can anyone explain the formatting problem I had here? The first three lines had normal spacing, but then the lines became double spacing. Nothing I do seems to change it. Help?