Thursday, July 1, 2010

This is Africa- it is not safe. Not like America- not like home.

Sitting in my room late at night, writing about the leprosy center we visited earlier that day, when Peter comes in demanding our passports saying that there were fifteen men outside with machine guns. I could sense the fear in his voice. The fear that we were not be safe. His job, which is to protect us, was being jeopardized. In my room with all of my roommates, we devised a plan to escape if the situation got out of hand. With windows covered in metal bars and only one front door, we decided, if needed, to push a bunk bed against our door and crawl through a hole we have in our ceiling and escape, hoping to stay alive.

I pushed my ear against the door and listened intently to the yelling of the force that was threatening our well being. Yelling. The worst sound ever. Loud grumbling impaired through a wooden door. I was only able to make out certain words. “Leave...Tanzania...not safe...documentation...we are...police…” With our guard Babou hiding in a bush clenching a machete, sleepy eyed yet adrenaline pumped, the situation kept getting more frightening. As I pushed my ear against the door with my entire being, I juxtaposed what was happening to a Nazi invasion of a house hiding Jews. I don’t know why I made the connection, but I felt like I was living in that situation. Hiding. Praying for my life. Listening to the screams of a foreign language. Praying, and praying.

I peeked outside the window and saw a line of men with AK-47’s and began to feel my body coursing with adrenaline. As the men surrounded our house, window by endless window, I began to feel an overwhelming peace surround me. When I was the on the verge of not being able to physically stand anymore from fear, God spoke words of solace to me and clothed me gently with serenity...and then I waited. I waited for them to leave us alone to go back to whatever we were doing before they came and interrupted our lives. I waited for something, anything to happen instead of the stand off between us and them.

There is something unusual about being startled out of your comfort zone only to face a blood rushing, life threatening situation. It seems like the whole world has stopped. The tiredness of the night vanishes and you become more awake than you were in the middle of the day. The men finally calmed down after talking to the owner of our facility and in the last two minutes of their stay, they revealed that they were here to make sure we were safe. Safe from the other people of the town. Safe from the people of the city next to us. Safe. I feel like they could have revealed that tidbit of information a little bit earlier in the confrontation. No one actually knows why they came, but people doubt it was for our safety. The men agreed to come back in the morning and "check on us."

After we all sat in the hallway, bewildered and wide eyed, everyone resided to their designated rooms and went back to whatever they were doing before, as if nothing had happened.