When you’re a humanitarian aid worker in a place like Yemen, the thought of being killed for no good reason is always there. When you talk with colleagues about security threats, sometimes you joke about the false impressions people back home in western countries tend to have about life in the Middle East.
Dear Santa: Thanks for last year’s gift, the Gulliver’s Travels book. I enjoyed the Houyhnhnms, those horse-like characters. So bright. So noble. And those savage Yahoos. So dim. So lost. Poor Gulliver couldn’t see himself in them. But Gulliver really was a traveller. Like you Santa. That’s why I’m writing. Distribution problems down here are getting worse.
Life in Yemen is different. Still, a colleague surprised me not long ago when I invited some boys from the office for an afternoon getaway at a local recreation centre.
The children. Oh, the children. The smallest hold tightly onto black, tent-like baltos that drape over their mothers. Others sing in a school courtyard near our home. But the beggar kids who run to our vehicle when it’s stopped at intersections really get me.
Jean is back in Hamilton to put final touches on McMaster University’s Nov. 8 symposium on international women’s health. My wife has left me to fend for myself. But rather than take on our kitchen stove, I’ve decided it’s better to get kidnapped.
Dear Osama: We’ve been back several weeks now and Jean and I are settling nicely in this ancient land of your ancestry. But we’re still not sure where the old bin Laden family homestead is. And where, Osama, are you? Somewhere warm?
Folks who lined up to throw pies at the prime minister for his candid suggestion that 9/11 was linked with growing global disparities and Western greed may want to stop reading this. The rest of you may meet my wife, Jean, a woman I thank God for every day.
It’s daybreak and we’re again travelling the dusty roads of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital. After two days of travel, Jean and I are nearing home, a ground-level apartment on a street with no name. Thank you U-2.