Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Heroes in Seemingly Ordinary Bodies

Images from Zimbabwe violence

Today I came face to face with what I have been talking about and studying about for the past year. As I said earlier, I am teaching HIV/AIDS and STI awareness at a high school here in Gaborone Botswana. In part of my lesson I teach about the emotion consequences of sex and the risks one takes in this day in age when living a sexual lifestyle that involves many partners. I start off by asking the class of 16, 17 and 18 year olds what they would be thinking about if they were told they were HIV positive tomorrow.

The question is one that I have wrestled with myself as I have delved deeper into the human aspect of the disease in my travels. After asking the question, the usually rowdy class goes quiet and begins to think about the question in detail. Most often I get students who say they would commit suicide, feel shame, cry, and hide their status from their family and friends. I also get students who say they would accept the disease and continue forward with their lives as ARVs, when taken properly, can allow a person to live their out their natural life.

But today was different. Today we (I teach with three other students) got a question we couldn't really answer. A student asked if there exists a minimum age that a person can begin taking ARVs. As teachers we stumbled for an answer as our research on the disease did not provide us with an answer.

And then it happened. A girl rose her hand and quietly said this: "There is no age minimum for ARVs because I have been taking them since I was five." My heart dropped. She was so young, so beautiful and living with a disease that seems like such a far away problem for some.

As the class struggled to move on I couldn't help but realize how brave this little girl had been. She looked like a typical high school student but instead she was this brave young woman whose small voice told a story of courage, persistence, and drive for life.
And then it hit me, how brave am I? How brave have I had to be and would I ever be able to tell a whole class of my peers that I was infected with a disease that carries the stigma that HIV carries? She may not have realized it but this girl challenged my goal of living a safe life.

Go to school, continue on to law school and ignore the fact that in your heart you want to write about issues others may be too scared to. That was my life plan. But,I love writing and in my heart I know I want to write about issues that effect people
internationally but will I be brave enough to do it? Will I be brave enough to really take a turn of adventure and answer the voice inside me that says "Go." Honestly, I don't know.

But as Zimbabwean opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai pulls out of what was supposed to be Friday's election day I can't help but reflect on the bravery of those seemingly ordinary people in the country which say they will vote in spite of the number of rapes, beatings, and murders committed by Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF. They're international heroes and may not even know it. But then again that's why I want to write, to tell the world about these heroes wrapped in seemingly ordinary bodies.
I want to write, period.

1 comment:

Ellie said...

So, I look crazy right now because tears are streaming down my face in this UCT computer lab. Yamiche, that was beautiful. I truly admire the courage of that girl, and I know that you will have the courage to write about what's on your heart and what the world needs to hear. You will change the world.