Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Yellow. Their skin was yellow. They had dirt under their fingernails and their feet were dirty. There were six of them, all women, under the tarpaulin. Some of them lived long enough to have their wounds bandaged before they died. Some died more or less instantly as shrapnel or 7.62-mm rounds entered their bodies. They had been dead for about 24 hours. We came to witness their funeral, to witness and to stand a type of guard. If we were present, the Serb snipers would not shoot at the family members as they buried their dead.

     It was the first time I had ever seen war dead. I remember being surprised that their skin was yellow. My experiences with death before that day were limited to a few funerals: a friend's older brother, my grandmother. None of them had been yellow. So I was surprised at the color. It was the first time I ever saw dead people without embalming, without make-up and a nice suit of clothes. They laid in a tangle of limbs under a blue tarp in a trailer that, only weeks before probably carried peppers and corn to the market in Malisevo.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Deus ex Machina

Faking it. That's what I'm doing every day when people blithely ask, "How are you?" What would they do if I said, "Well, Kristen, now that you ask, I'm a complete mess. I have these visions of dead people in my head and I can't feel my hands sometimes. And you know, I think pretty soon I'm going to collapse into a pile of quivering goo. Of course, that's if I don't start wearing a tinfoil tiara and proclaiming that the TV is emitting death rays, first. But enough about me, how are you?" What do you think they'd say?

Of course I'm not going to say that. No one really wants to know how you feel when he or she asks. So I say, "All right, you?" and keep moving, wringing my hands and staring at the ground hoping to hell no one speaks to me or sits with me at breakfast expecting me to make polite conversation.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The French Lieutenant's iPod

The French Lieutenant and I are riding beside one another in a rattletrap, 30 year old, Soviet-made cargo helicopter. We're returning to Abeche in eastern Chad from a refugee camp called Kounoungo about 120 kilometers away. Kounoungo is close to the Darfur border and is home to refugees who were driven from their homes by the war. It's not really a giddy flight.

We're quiet partly because it's a very depressing problem. The war in Darfur has been going on for four years now and these people are no closer to going home than they were three years ago. But we're also quiet because we've just more or less witnessed two senseless killings and then walked away because we were worried that something worse might happen. Something worse than two men killing each other, that is.