Sadly, stealing is all too common in developing countries. No matter what the situation, it’s hard to not feel violated, upset and angry. What’s harder is to forgive and move on. Within my first week in Tanzania, I lost 2 Ipods and a set of headphones. I was devastated and confused as to why no one seemed to know who snuck into my home. Later, after a mutiple stolen phones and lost cash, you come to realize that items and money are transient and worse things can happen. Nevertheless, that doesn’t take away the pain and frustration you feel each time it happens and, without doubt, it will happen. Travelers learn this painful lesson right off the bat. However, what can hurt the most, is when something is stolen from a space that you thought private and secure. Our clinic director, Chantal, experienced this today when her computer was stolen from inside her office. Despite me sitting outside working on my computer, someone managed to sidle inside and take her laptop. Her heartbreak was palpable. While she is a strong, patient and wise women, she couldn’t help but be hurt. The words that she uttered right before leaving were “what hurts the most isn’t the missing computer, but the lost documents and the disrespect.” Unfortunately, too many of us can empathize with this pain.
The next day, my morning at the clinic started with some somber faces, perhaps in light of the theft that Chantal experienced yesterday. However, as I sat down outside her office to wait for her, a women exited from the trauma counselor’s office in tears. Wrapped in kitenge and clutching a black, fake-leather purse, she heaved herself into the white plastic chair outside his office and let her head fall into her hands. As her shoulders heaved from the tears that were springing forth, I fetched a napkin from my purse and brought it to her. “Morakoze” she uttered and I felt helpless, not even knowing the correct response in Kinyarwanda. Leaving her privacy to cry and be sad, I stared back at my computer and recalled the disappointing news that has surrounded the last 24 hours. Lizzy’s bitten feet, Chantal’s stolen computer….and I remembered that while our pain can heal with some medicine and the purchase of a replacement computer, hers was springing from a much deeper place of hurt and sadness. As Chantal arrived, she floated to the crying woman’s side and placed her hand on her back, guiding her into her office. The woman shuffled in slowly and with the weight of a heart that holds more grief that I would wish upon my worst enemy. The things that these women have experienced.