Antonio Aragon Renuncio
The Paradise of Forgotten Hearts
Heat, sun and illness. All I see is bodies roaming the Savannah in search of food, shelter and survival, but all there is, is stones and more stones. More than ten years have passed and thousands of patients by the committed doctors from our NGO OASIS at Saint Louis Orione Center in Bombouaka, the home to about 70 children mostly in neglect- with severe and profound physical and intellectual disabilities. Ten, fifteen or thirty expeditions I’ve lost count. To bring medical attention (traumatology and plastic surgery/reconstructive surgery) to the children of this forgotten country The countless wounded and disabled resemble beasts. Deathly African pathologies. Hours and hours of work in the operating room. Mutual suffering both alien and heartfelt fill the harsh, rocky and inhospitable plains. Sands. Red. Covered in blood. Thick. Sweet and red. And there it was, amidst a gazillion pages in the dictionary, the big, bold T of trauma. Trauma: a lasting injury from a generally external mechanical agent. Emotional shock that causes lasting damage to the unconscious. Negative emotion, strong and lasting impression. Now I have discovered a new synonym. One that defines the emotions I continuously feel when I look into my Nikon journal. Club feet, deformed, twisted and burned. Mutated arms. Rotting legs and exposed bone. Putrid air fills my lungs. Exposed membranes. Exploding tumors. Cleft lips. Everyone, everywhere crippled and maimed. Whole regiments. Long days. Beautiful nights. Mosquitoes. Sick people. More mosquitoes. Wounded and disabled. Children with disabilities (especially girls) and high risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Abandoned by their families. There is a perception on the part of their communities that the incapacities are due to a divine punishment, the result of the sins committed by the parents, of an act of the devil, or that the child is a sorcerer. These minors are considered "supernatural", "strangers" or "demons". In some areas, children with cerebral palsy are known as "snakes", as they lie on the ground. These little ones are drowned in the river in rituals "for the serpent to leave" Why would I come back? To Africa? To Togo? To a region that social welfare indicators place at the bottom of the planets human development index? To a country that it was also considered the least happy on the planet according to the UN World Happiness Report? You ask absurd questions. I know. You know and He knows. There are things in life that exist only because without them our lives wouldn’t be so fucking amazing. Live your life and live it well. Compromised. Limitless. Without regrets. As our beloved Africa. The real Africa; the one that hurts your throat as you try to swallow. The one made of pain, friendships, solidarity, and grief. The Oasis. Africa. Six Letters. One after another. Ten years. One after another Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc. Times flies. Life goes on. You either lead your own life or sit back and let it pass right by you. The Africa that once seduced you from within, from the depths of your soul. We cannot deny it, we should not want to deny it. Let alone forget. Oasis Full of joy Compromise Hidden smiles Pretty light.