Monday, December 03, 2018

What I Learned in November

At the beginning of November, I read this devastating Smithsonian article about Anne Frank and why hers is the most famous book about the Holocaust that everyone reads. Hint: the article's lead reads: "People love dead Jews. Living Jews, not so much." In a time when anti-Semitism appears to be on the rise around the world, this is a must-read. Hard to take, but necessary.

This article introduced me to the blue heron from Maine, Nokomis, that is wintering here in Haiti. She caught my imagination and I wrote a poem about her. I shared it with The Heron Observation Network of Maine on their Facebook page, and had some fun interaction by email and Facebook with some people in Maine.

As the month went on, the political situation in Haiti deteriorated, and we had to spend several days at home "sheltering in place," as the U.S. Embassy calls it, while people demonstrated in the streets. We have been through many such times during our years in Haiti (here's a post I wrote during one such time), and I learned that I'm pretty tired of it, while continuing to sympathize with the issues the Haitian people face and realizing that ways to make one's voice heard are limited. I was glad to go back to work and have a full five days of normal classes last week.

The month ended with a big earthquake in Alaska. In the last couple of years I have not been reading earthquake articles; they are too difficult and cause too much emotional upheaval. But this one was right near some friends, plus it was a 7.0 just like "ours," so I let myself start reading. It doesn't end there, of course. Once I begin, I am soon scrolling obsessively through reports of aftershocks (as of today there have been over one thousand). I have the USGS "Did You Feel It?" site open on my desktop again. I'm talking all things earthquake with my husband again. (He thought he felt some tremors over the last few days, so it's not just me.) One thing that's missing from the Alaska articles: death. And I'm so glad. But I'm also, once again, tied up in knots by the memories from "our" earthquake, and all the thousands and thousands of people who died. Partly it's because Alaska has incredibly strict building codes, after their 1964 earthquake. Partly it's because of a far lower population density up there. And partly it's because the world is just not a fair place, and people in poor countries suffer from everything more than people in rich countries do. That's a reality I'm aware of all the time, but it's making my stomach hurt even more than usual these days.

(Here's what I learned in October, and at the bottom of that post there's a link to my September post which in turn contains links to all my "What I Learned" posts from this year.)

1 comment:

Tabatha said...

November seems like it was a pretty intense month :-) I read the Anne Frank article -- thanks for sharing it.