Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures

I'm ashamed of what I don't know about what's happening in the world around me. I have worked and lived in my own little world, really only paying attention to the one off big events like tsunami's, earthquakes, and elections. But I have not taken time out of my own comfort zone to learn or pay attention to what's happening for countries under ongoing conflict and terror. I picked up this book for two reasons, it's title is pretty catchy, and then, I should see what I can learn.

Heidi & colleagues in a UN Pakistani Battalion Communications transport vehicle
Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures is a catchy title, but not one that truly describes it's contents. It's much more about the lives and experiences of three young Americans who throw themselves into a world of trauma, violence and horror for the sake of making peace. They went in naive and came out battered, bruised and cynical. Their lives changed forever and somewhere along the way their faith in their country, their god, fellow human beings and themselves was also shaken to its core. They were involved in managing communications, thereby being fully informed of all horrific news and events, they were sent into prisons to advocate for those who were literally left for dead, they walked through check points not knowing if they'd be walking out again, and were sent out to search for evidence in mass graves that would haunt them forever.

There were went to Cambodia, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Rwanda and Liberia. It was the 1990's. I was old enough to know better, but I am ashamed to say I hardly knew where these countries were. I even had a colleague go to Rwanda for 12 months to work with orphans in the late 90's - and I don't recall understanding then what the significance was. Now I do.

A few quotes that stand out for me:
"My life here is coming undone quickly, I'm in the middle of someone else's nightmare and even my boyfriend is a spy and there are tapes and bugs and radios everywhere and every clean-shaven white man in Mogadishu knows my name and my room is a fucking secure intelligence hangout and I can't trust anyone" Heidi p 152.

"We went to Haiti and walked unarmed into the offices of the men with guns and dark glasses and told them to their faces that they couldn't go on doing what they were doing, that it was unacceptable and had to stop. I played a high-stakes game with an empty hand and felt clear-headed and alive. We all assumed that sooner or later the assassins would be forced from power - by America, the only country that could do it. But after Mogadishu, the macoutes paid to see President Clintons hand., called his bluff. Just a gang of thugs on a dock and he folded. I still cant quite believe it." Andrew p 186.

"And then one morning, after a very long time, you hear a rose bloom and the sun no longer makes you sad and you feel clear and privileged to have shared a life. You take each moment and hold it on your tongue and taste the bitter and the sweet and the sour and know that life is beautiful and you're grateful for the gift" Heidi, p289.

1 comment:

Karen said...

I read this one a while ago now and I must admit I can't really remember a lot of the exact content but I do remember the sense I had when reading it.