Thursday, January 08, 2009

reality contrasts

It's hard to explain how surreal the job is some days.

At the day job, I work as a writer for a large international charity, traveling to poor countries to document cases of extreme poverty and suffering. I travel with a photographer, get stories of the worst of the worst.

Starving children, for example. Kids who may not make it.

It's such a vast contrast to my job as an author, where I write romance, sometmes about werewolves, sometimes about Egypt's splendid past. I can lose myself in the worlds I create, and some days that's a welcome diversion.

Today is a day of sharp contrasts for me. I'm going to Haiti next month, and to prepare for the trip, I was researching hunger in Haiti among children. Since four storms basically wiped out roads, homes, and left Haitians even more miserable and hungry than before, the need has escalated.

I have on my computer screen an article about hunger in Gonaives, a city I visited in 2004 that was wiped out, again, during last year's storms. The malnutrition rate among children is 4%. Children have red hair, arms and legs thin and brittle as dry twigs, and skin conditions so severe their skin is cracked and bleeding.

Contrast this to what I found when I went on Yahoo and scanned the page. "A contestant on The Biggest Loser has been arrested for allegedly assaulting a housemate with a bag of flour."

It's just too bizarre. I'm reading about starving kids and then an overweight woman tossing a bag of flour (allegedly) at her housemate in an argument.

Nothing against overweight women. I'm one of them! But all I can think about is the flour. What a freaking waste of food, when I'm looking at kids who can't remember when their last meal was. Kids who might end up dead by the time I finish typing in this blog.

And then we found out that this little guy, only 3, who was starving, and had a very bad skin condition as a result, this kid one of the other writers found on a trip, died. We stood around for a minute, silent. What can you say? It's happening more and more. The kids we find, the kids we see, not all can be saved. Sometimes it's just too damn late.

You just have to go on and do the best you can, under the circumstances. Even as heartbreaking as it is.

Little boy dies of starvation.
Overweight woman tosses bag of flour in argument.

Life, some days at this job, is just too damn surreal.

1 comment:

David Driscoll said...

Visit the Hands On Disaster Response volunteers while in Gonaives. It should be interesting. See