When the drought comes

Columns | Vienna Review | July / August 2010

I remember standing at this same place just two weeks ago. The smell of the flowers in full bloom mingled with a delicious smell of rice. This mix is still embedded in my senses, yet it is just a glimpse of that perfection I can enjoy only a few times per year.

Otherwise, I simply stand here and dream of it – dream of those deep blue oceans. I’ve seen them on the maps in the geography classroom of the school situated in Agbo Malu, the main village in this part of Nigeria.

Not as many people live where I do now. It is fairly far away from Agbo Malu, and even farther from bigger cities. Only a couple of families live this far away...our small village, one ‘big’  family. I personally have never visited any of the neighbouring towns, my only route seems to be the long walk from my home to the school.

There, we, the children from the nearest villages, go to learn about the landscapes owned by the wealthy people of the world. We would listen to the geography teacher - oh,well.. the  only actual teacher in the school - lecturing on European seas and American oceans. But, when the drought comes, no school is held.

Our daily activities are reduced to knocking around, searching for food and hoping for rain. My parents work 20 miles away from the place where we live. On dry days, it is almost pointless to go to work. The company cuts their staff, keeping only the minimum number of employees.

I am used to this, as I never knew anything else. I have learned how to live with it. The village is like a big family; people keep supplies on hand and help each other. It can be seen on the face of every villager that even when he is uncertain about his future, he is grateful to be there among his brothers and sisters.

A tear and a smile at the same time. During the day we fight nature; at night we celebrate another day of life.

Yet this is just the beginning. We have five more months ahead of us, and we are not disheartened. People know they must endure it.

As for me, I am left with my dreams – dreams of aromatic cooking rice, of the harmony of flowing water, the river surface covered with sparkling diamonds, and I, standing across from the sleeping animals, with my look lost in distance, waiting for the rain to come.

- Bojana Simeunovic

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