A heart full of women

More from Week 2 of my recent trip

In the social and cultural milieu in which I live, there is an oft-repeated truism that once one drinks of the water of the Nile, one will surely return. Perhaps that is how I have migrated up and down the banks of the Nile over the course of the last year, rarely venturing too far away.

While staying in this town, my colleagues and I head out to the Nile once or twice or thrice a week to walk or jog on the banks of the river. It’s amazing how the Nile experience repeats itself… I wrote the blog below several months ago when I was staying here. And it captures exactly the emotions I had when I returned to the banks of the Nile last week.

Oh, how I wish I could take a photo of their faces, that you could see the hope and lack-of-hope that I see, the joy and sadness, the soft and hardened hearts… the spirit that I see in their eyes. But photos of faces of women here are simply not happening, so instead I’ll just copy the blog below:

Some women saving money to start their little businesses

9 February 2010: Hope… Women on Display

This evening God did an amazing thing. He created a display of the women of this land, in their vast array of bright colours and strong scents, and set it out for my heart to see.

As I walked up and down the Nile Corniche right before sunset, I realised that all the tea-makers setting up their plastic chairs and washing their cups and glasses, they were all women. Many of the socialisers were women, and women were manning the random food stall halfway down the road. They made the sandy beach into a garden with their bright clothes of turquoise, green, yellow, red, blue, and every combination of bright colours you might think of.

Some women were focused, frighteningly so, on arranging the jars of different types of tea leaves, sugar, spices, and incense on their two-foot-tall tables. Others were chatting with friends. Some looked like grandmothers, or older. Others looked like they may have been studying at school all day before they came to work in the evening. One young lady smiled at me every time I walked by, as if I were a good friend.

Have you ever tried to keep a scarf loosely covering your head while you lifted boxes and moved chairs in the riverside breeze? Maintained a small business in the evening hours while caring for your family at home and very possibly going to school or holding down another job during the day? These ladies are amazing.

As I walked and saw pairs of teenage girls chatting, mothers walking with one child’s hand in each of hers, fully and decently covered women exercising in faux-‘converse’ walking shoes, I was struck with the deep needs of the women in this land. They work so hard and earn so little respect. Though they hold their community together, they are kept in their place by little things like the fact that it was always the men driving. They are strong but they don’t believe in their own value. They might even know they are amazing but they don’t imagine that anyone else might realises how just how amazing they are.

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