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The Privilege of Thinking About Food, But Never Worrying

Food. I always think about food when out here. On each of the 30 trips I’ve taken to this region, I have lost between 10 and 19 pounds. I eat less than half the calories I normally eat. I regain most of the weight when I go back home to my big meals. What a privilege to never have to worry about food. I chose to limit my intake here, in part because I bring what I eat, but more than that because limiting myself for these relatively short periods of time has a way of re-centering me.

I just got back from refugee camp Djabal. I had a long conversation with our friend Achta. She tells me that all she thinks about is her children and offering them a better future. Achta says that the monthly rations they receive will last, at the most, 14 days. There are very few jobs for refugees in this area. If a woman is lucky to find a backbreaking construction job, it pays less than $2 US for a full day of work. Mothers have had to go far away to find pieces of land where they can plant small crops. They usually need to take their children with them. This keeps some of the kids out of school for up to half of the school year. The rainy season is unpredictable. Sometimes it does not rain enough to produce good crops. Sometimes it rains too much and areas get flooded and spoil the crops—as it happened to Achta this season. Food is expensive here, as you would imagine given the extreme conditions.

For dinner tonight I’m going to have some tuna, crackers, and dry fruit. Oh, and some gum for dessert. I’ve only been here a few days, and I’m already thinking of the first meal I’ll have when back home—more than likely some good fish tacos. I will try to keep some of the weight off if I can, but I won’t have to worry about having to make the choice between food and education for my kids.

Peace, Gabriel


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