Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Woman in the Well

Exactly one month ago today Hadiza fell into the well. It was noon and I was about to head there myself when I heard a strange, eerie actually, mixture of yelling and crying. Kids are always yelling or crying, but this was different and everyone in the village must have heard that difference because when I stepped out of my door to see what was wrong I saw that everyone in the village was walking towards the well. More and more people started wailing as the news spread. I don't know what it is that makes the moments of disaster a blur or unforgettably crystal clear, but I remember sounds, wailing. I remember seeing Ali climbing out of the well somehow carrying Hadiza. I remember that she was dripping wet and I thought to myself, "she fell all the way to the bottom". Of course she did. It's a10 meter deep well lined with rocks, and not the kind of polished stones you'd see in a Thomas Kinkade cottage, rocks that regularly tear the rubber containers used to pull up the water. The well is ringed with crumbling cement and beyond that is mud. It had rained that morning. If anyone was least likely to catch their fall, it was her. She was eight months pregnant.

She was conscious. Everyone migrated to her house. Her family put her in her best clothes and onto the back of a motorcycle to ride the 5k through sand and mud to the dispensaire where later I found out she had refused to have a full exam because the doctor is male. Women here feel "shame"; that's the closest translation into English, but really it encompasses so much more than what might be conjured up by an American mind. It involves etiquette, morals, and lifestyle choices all silently dictated through tradition.

She is the fourth person to fall into this well. In a village, not too far from mine, I heard that a person fell into a 17 meter deep well and died. Here is the good news: Hadiza had a baby boy last week. I went to the baby naming ceremony. He seems healthy. Also, I'm convinced that getting funding to improve this well is the right thing to do. I would feel shame if I didn't.

6 Comments:

Blogger amy monaghan-machado said...

That is a great story and you Natalia my dear are a geat writer!!!! you inspire me so to actually join the peace corps. I think I may go to South America instead of Africa...don't know for sure. I am so glad the lady in the well and her child made it , and are well, no pun intended.Everyone who met you in alaska would be so proud of you, you are amazing. thank you for the stories and such!love and peace form amy monaghan-machado.

8:25 AM  
Blogger amy monaghan-machado said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:25 AM  
Blogger amy monaghan-machado said...

That is a great story and you Natalia my dear are a geat writer!!!! you inspire me so to actually join the peace corps. I think I may go to South America instead of Africa...don't know for sure. I am so glad the lady in the well and her child made it , and are well, no pun intended.Everyone who met you in alaska would be so proud of you, you are amazing. thank you for the stories and such!love and peace form amy monaghan-machado.

8:26 AM  
Blogger amy monaghan-machado said...

That is a great story and you Natalia my dear are a geat writer!!!! you inspire me so to actually join the peace corps. I think I may go to South America instead of Africa...don't know for sure. I am so glad the lady in the well and her child made it , and are well, no pun intended.Everyone who met you in alaska would be so proud of you, you are amazing. thank you for the stories and such!love and peace form amy monaghan-machado.

8:27 AM  
Blogger deb said...

Natalie,
Great story. I would love to see a picture of the well and pictures of your village including your hut

12:52 PM  
Blogger Michelle Evans said...

Natalie,My daughter Katie is currently a PCV in Dan Sara, Niger. She is trying to raise money for a Chateau there. Your story is such a poignant illustration of the need for improved well systems there that I have "copied" as well as a link to your site to her proposal. I don't have your full name to give you credit. thank you for your service and your incredible story telling talents. Katie' blog is www.katieevansnigerafricapcv.blogspot.com

8:52 AM  

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