At about sixty years old Mammy is my most excited greeter, saying good morning to her "son" with a cheerful embrace and a warm hand shake. As with so many of my relationships with solely mende speaking adults from the villages, greeting can be as far as our language barrier allows us, so we make up for that with enthusiasm.
One morning Mammy took my hand as she always does in welcome as I walked to the office with suitable drendo-time lateness. "So soft" she said, stumbling over the english but making it to the other side admirably. "Mine, so rough," she continued opening her other hand and looking at the palm. I looked at her as she smiled, a few teeth missing in her weather beaten, wrinkled face, and was utterly humbled and moved by the hard graft of her existence. She still works on her farm at an age when she should have been able to leave behind such things, particularly given her high blood pressure, but in a place where a failure to farm results in a failure to eat. I held the chief tools of her trade in my hands and felt like crying. Then I went to the office and moved bits of paper around...
I had been dreaming about the coming of my brother and the International President of COTN to Banta. I woke up, rolled over and fell asleep. I woke up again and decided to go to the toilet, stepping in to the parlour (that's SL speak for living room) and as I did so I was bombarded by noise, by shouting, by screaming, by gunfire. I looked out the window and saw streams of people running past with bundles on their heads and backs. The rebels had come and were bringing horror with them. Overcome with terror I brought my hands to my head and let out a cry of panic. Why had I come here? Why had I put myself in such danger? Why was this happening? I turned to the back door, my mind racing - what should I do? The advice of my friend, a man who spent 14 years of his life as a refugee, rang in my ears - "I learned that people who ran got shot. It is better to drop to the ground and wait."
I woke up with a start, my heartbeating like a hammer in my chest, the fear slow to leave me as the dream-fuelled adrenaline coursed through my veins. I had not had a nightmare for I don't know how long, 15 years (?), and there was much that was terrible about the experience. But what I was struck by that night, and what made me weep, was just how real it was. Utterly real. And how long it took me to recover even after the visuals and the sounds had left me. And what I thought of was our kids because I know they have flashbacks of the past and cruel dreams about the present and future - one girl for example dreaming just recently that her father came back to her and asked her to follow him. I cried for them that night and what sleep can mean for them.