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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What’s that “60” on your profile picture mean?

I can’t tell you how many people have asked me that question...
Everytime i hear it, i shed a silent tear...
“60”... just a number, yet for me, a symbol of strength, courage, failure, perseverance, suffering, love, magnificence, torture, and so much more...
I remember waking up in the morning, excited to be packing my supplies for rukinga, where I volunteer for wildlife works regularly on their anti-poaching patrols and desnaring activites.
I got my menu sorted, checked my sunblock and toothbrush (the things I ALWAYS seem to leave behind! ), and started loading everything in the car. Throught the entire busride, I couldn’t stop thinking of what I would encounter this time, every time is different, some days are quiet, some days, are unbelievably eventful... I slept the rest of the way.
I arrived in rukinga later that night, and was greeted by one of the staff, I couldn’t sleep without getting an update first; I had been told about the rise in poaching in that area, especially elephant poaching, and Taita was one of the regions badly affected.
A few minutes into a talk about recoveries, arrests and poachers, I was told about an elephant in Taita... I remember those exact words as if I heard them just this morning, “The rangers found this one elephant with sixty bullets in her chest. She must have charged at them in defense.”... :’(
I had heard enough, I went to my sleeping quarter, and I was so deeply hurt, I couldn’t stop crying, so I borrowed my little brother’s mobile, and got onto facebook, writing to Jude Price and Kerstin Bucher:
February 25 at 10:57pm
hi kerstin and jude.. My heart is heavy as i write to you tonight :'( it is past midnight and i am unable to sleep. I am using my brothers phone, its his first time out here and i brought another volunteer friend of mine so my original field posting was changed for security reasons. I am crying as i write so forgive me if i'm unclear, i need to let this out and you both were the only i would like to talk to. I arrived earlier today and as alwys caught up with the team. The poachers who set their dens in the caves in my last album were caught. But, now there are others who have taken down over 30 eles in the last month. The team say, they found one ele with 60 bullets in her chest :,( she must have tried to charge them in defence :( my heart is weak tonight :( please kerstin, jude, pray for the eles in taita area :,( poachers are gunning into whole herds :( its worse than i thought :( i must quit my job soon :,( i will share more details when i'm back. I leave for another area at first light and will have no network. :( thank you both for your strength for elephants.. in hope and tears ...

I remember the ache in my heart while i wrote... there are no words that can describe it...
All I know, is that I cannot stop thinking of her, I see her in my dreams, I see her roaming the vast land with her herd, and then, I see her fall...
I hear the shots every night, as though I were there; and then, I see her fall...
I see the red soil form dust clouds under her feet as she charges to defend her own life, her family...
I hear those shots... and then, I see her fall...
In one final cloud of red dust... she is gone.
Who will remember her? Who will tell her story?
She never had a collar, she never had a name, she’s “just another elephant”...
But to me, she is “60”...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Someone asked me, "do you still cry at the atrocious things you see or over time become hardened to it?" ...

This was my reply to Lisa Tieni:

lisa...
i'm not sure my words will be helpful, but i will write from the heart, as i always do...
do i still cry?...
lisa,
everyday... without fail... i have seen things that would crumble a man in a second, i have smelt the death of wildlife, i have touched it, i have heard its sound, the sound of working maggots inside the body of a poached, faceless elephant...
there is no getting over it...
i have held dying animals, and i remember them all the time, i remember the tears they shed on my clothes, i remember the pain in their cries, in their eyes...
there is no getting over it...
i remember my ol'boy... George. my lion spirit, and best friend, i remember the day he was taken from me, they din't even call me, i didn't know... i never got to say goodbye... i was his only friend, his only company all those years in his rusty cage... i never got to tell him, it would all be ok, and he would be in a better place...
i never got to hold my ol'boy and wipe his tears, ease his fear...
when i got there, i was told, it took several shots to put him down, and they took him out "in pieces"...
there is no getting over it...
but, i live in his spirit every day.
i live in their memory everyday...
i live in a hope for their kind and their families, everyday...
i live in tears, but also in strength, from the love they gave me in their short time in my life.
and this, is enough for me.
i don't care about other people, yesterday, i was walking through town, crying inconsolably in cafe's with my friends, i dint care what everyone thought...
"60", deserves to be grieved for. she deserves to be remembered, and to be loved enough, that she is worth some tears...
so yes, i cry. but i NEVER lose focus of what i must do. i NEVER forget them, and i NEVER lose hope.
perhaps you will find my 2-day rule helpful.
when i feel REALLY sad, i give myself 2days. 2 days to cry it out, scream, whatever i need to "detox"...
then, i come back to the cause i have dedicated my life to, a cause i cannot walk out on, a cause i fight for until my final day, a cause i must win. and i'm stronger...
you feel hurt, because you CARE. and that raises you above other people higher than you know. never step down, you're closer to heaven than you think ;)
and heaven, is where they are... those we have loved, and lost...
God knows, i can't wait to see george again!... :')
Raabia