The next morning, not long after they started off, Chess pulled Sariel aside. “I’m worried about Ileana,” he said. “She’s not eating, and I think…” His voice trailed off as he realized that Sariel was not listening to him. Instead, she was gazing intently at the sky directly above them, where the tree cover opened to show an area of blue.
He sighed and tried again, but before he could speak, he heard a strange sound, like many voices crying out, high pitched and rapidly getting louder. Alarmed, he looked at Sariel, but she merely smiled as, within a few seconds, the sky above them filled with geese. The sound of their cries was close to deafening as they passed in a v formation, not far overhead. They were large animals, moving fast on powerful wings, and they seemed to be headed downward.
“There may be water nearby,” Sariel commented as the last geese disappeared behind the trees.
“Sar,” Chess said, feeling exasperated. “Ileana --”
“I know: Princess is not eating,” Sariel interrupted him impatiently. She tipped her head, and the long ponytail that she wore nowadays fell to one shoulder. “Should we put her out of her misery?”
“We need to try to get her to eat.” Chess answered slowly, starting to feel anger rising. Briefly, he scanned the area for Ileana and then asked in a clipped whisper, “Look, why do you call her Princess, anyway?”
Sariel squinted at him, appearing confused. “It was your story,” she answered simply.
With a twinge of guilt, Chess remembered the story about the dragon that he had told to the kids in shelter. It seemed like that had happened so long ago. “But I didn’t mean it in a derogatory way.”
Sariel appeared even more confused. “Derog…?” Then she shrugged the question away. “The princess could always go back to her castle,” she explained. “Prin --Ileana can always go back to Razor… or back to walled civ, when she no longer wishes to be here.” Her delicate eyebrows lowered as she spoke. “People who come from civ can do that. When I worked at the hospital, the medical staff all went back to civ when things became too dangerous.”
Chess suddenly froze, intent on her words. He hoped that she would keep talking. Her gaze seemed far away, and she had never shared her thoughts like this before.
“Most of the workers had already gone by the time I arrived,” Sariel continued. “Those who were still there scorned me as an outsider. Then, when we could not get supplies because the gangs were attacking on the roads, they all left. Men in uniforms came in to get them all -- except for one doctor.” She seemed to smile a little. “He said they would have to shoot him to make him leave.”
“So…” Chess ventured carefully, “so, then it was just the two of you, taking care of patients?”
“Oh no.” Sariel shook her head. “The patients had family members with them who helped out, and brought food when they could. But there was no one else with medical experience. I gained many skills in those weeks,” she concluded softly, and, for a moment, she looked very young to Chess.
Chess just stared at her, realizing that he had learned much more about her history than ever before. But he was afraid to comment on it, afraid that it might prevent her from ever opening up to him again. Instead, he swallowed hard and just said quietly, “Ileana’s not going back.”
Sariel shrugged and turned to walk in the direction that the geese had traveled. Chess followed her. “I can make a stew,” she said, unexpectedly. “It is an old recipe from my village. It will not only make Princess forget that she eats the flesh of animals; it will make her believe that she consumes the food of the gods.” She stopped, raising an eyebrow at Chess. “You might also enjoy it.”
Amazed at her offer, Chess stammered, “And… you have all the ingredients for that here?”
Sariel tossed her hair aside. “When the goddess Lilumei created humans, she said, ‘My children, I have given you much: intelligence, imagination, and this lovely earth full of many good things for your home. But you will not always have all that you wish.’” She smirked. “‘You must learn to improvise.’”
Chess stared at her, unsure whether he should laugh or not, until Sariel began to walk again.
“Bring Princess,” she ordered. “Let us go see where those geese have landed.”
Continued next page...
The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital often makes use of medical staff without formal degrees. As is common in poor countries… one of the top surgeons is Mamitu Gashe, who never went to elementary school, let alone medical school. Mamitu grew up illiterate in a remote village in Ethiopia and suffered a fistula as a young wife in her first pregnancy. She made her way to the (hospital) for surgery, and afterward began helping out by making beds and assisting Reg Hamlin during surgeries.
- Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Here in what we call the “first world,” we all shudder at the thought of having to go to the emergency room because we broke a toe playing touch football on a Saturday afternoon. We dread the amount of time and money spent to receive first-world care. Imagine having as your only option a hospital where most of the staff has no formal training, supplies are critically short, the doctors look beaten-down tired, and your family is asked not only to pay the full price for your surgery, but also to go out and purchase the necessary medical supplies, pre-surgery, and to provide most of your in-hospital care, post surgery.
Half the Sky is a shocking and enlightening book by authors who have researched the spectrum of oppressive living situations of women, in what we tend to refer to as the developing world. They tend to place a particular focus on health care because women in the developing world seem to require medical care for life-threatening issues far more often than men do. First and foremost, any complication of pregnancy or giving birth requires professional medical care to ensure the health of both mother and baby. Also, despite the fact that the wars and conflicts that are currently raging are mostly carried on by and among men, women somehow seem to end up victims of this violence in disproportionately greater numbers. Sometimes the victimization is an accidental byproduct of war, but too often, it seems to be purposeful.
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