Flawed Beauty

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I can still see the mesmerizing red dirt that covered the floors of Tanzania, I can still feel that hot sun beating on my back, I can still smell that burnt corn on the cob as if it was being sold right next to me. The country became my home in such a short time; the people there became my family. It was hard to ever imagine that such a lively place; a place full of characters that enclosed so much beauty could ever have flaws.
The tap was on, but nothing came out. Disappointed I went into the lounge and found a comfy spot on the floor; all the sofas had been taken. I could see out the window the little children playing a game they had made out of sticks and stones, they were whacking the stone and letting the red dust from the dirt come up and color their shirts. It was day six on my trip to Tanzania. People at home said that I would see the time fly by but it actually felt like the time had froze. Arusha, the beautiful rural city I was volunteering in this summer was facing a drought, which basically meant that all 40 of us would have to keep the showers short and the toilet flushing to a minimum.

Covered in dirt myself, after a long day working at the orphanage me and thirty of my peers waited for the guest speakers. All the boys sat across the room to the closest door, I snickered because they all had positioned themselves ready to run out. “Please guys be mature, I know its not a topic you necessarily would want to learn about but try to listen you never know what…” my mentor trailed off into a lecture. We were learning about female circumcision or what the guest speakers would rather call it female genital mutilation. The whole concept gave me a mix of emotions a feeling of both nervousness and eagerness. The nerves were kicking in because 17 or not I still felt uncomfortable with discussing such a private part of a female’s body. But the truth was I had no clue what to expect, actually all thirty of us had no clue what to expect. Thirty kids from all around the world, around the same age group knew nothing about this topic.

The doors swung open, and the bright light of the sun shined through, it was after all the middle of the afternoon. Two women along with a man walked in. The man and the elder woman were both locals of Arusha, while the other lady who looked to be in her twenties came from New York. They started the presentation, and well horrifying could not even possibly cover what we witnessed. The topic seemed unnecessary at first, for it made everyone uncomfortable including the people giving the presentation. But the elder woman kept at it, she said this was something needed to be discussed, for it is estimated that over 130 million women and girls have fallen victim to this. Everyone in the room had shut up in amazement and awe that over 50 percent of the 132 tribes that composed Tanzania practiced such a tortuous and degrading act.

After the feelings of both fear and pity passed away I was overpowered with anger. How could I have not known about this before? Why would anyone do such an inhuman act? Questions kept coming up and started blurring my thoughts, yet no one spoke a word and so neither did I. Regardless, the elder woman realized and told us that the emotions we were feeling at the moment was normal, anger is justified. She however brought up the point that the people who were practicing this act to this day didn’t view the act as horrific or unjust rather they saw it as a tradition and a must to keep their women beautiful and clean.

After the video presentation only girls were sitting in the room, many people had left after watching the painful stories from various girls who lived in polar opposite conditions. It’s a funny thing, I realized as girls were crying; the video had reached inside of us and made us somehow all interconnected. We all experienced the same agony the little seven-year-old Catherine felt, we had all felt the anger of some of the tribal mothers who had to watch their child be used as a toy for much elder men. At that point I became resonated with the thought that after years of trying to act older than my age and trying to be measured as an adult, I finally was being considered to be one. And all I truly wanted to do was to run.

Now I’m back home, my own little bubble away from what it feels like is a whole other world. A part of me is frightened and will always be a little frightened of growing up so fast, witnessing things I don’t want to witness but sometimes have too. But the truth is it’s through these type of experiences that I’ve grown to what I’ve become today, it’s my child-like curiosity that makes me feel the need to travel across the world alone. Without having gone to Tanzania I wouldn’t have realized that all beautiful things are flawed in some ways or the other, but it are these flaws that motivate people to rise to any occasion.
Some may find this as a story of how I got onto a plane quite naïve and left it a girl more cynical of the world around her and it’s people. I rather find this a story of how I got onto a plane naïve yet ready to witness both the beauties and the imperfections of the world, ready to learn and even become aware of things I had no prior knowledge too, ready for anything that might be thrown at me. And the truth is I never got off that plane. I still haven’t.





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PoisonMind This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 18, 2012 at 2:25 pm
I really enjoyed this piece. I feel a great respect for you as a fellow human being on this planet with me. I love that I can realte to your emotions felt when writing this when I have never met you and live in a different country altogether. This article gives me hope. :)
 
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