Living

All the houses in the villages in the area we visited are built according to the same pattern – I see Christopher Alexander’s pattern language everywhere. The houses face west, there were people can catch the late evening sun after a day of hard work on the land. The windows are tiny, no glass, just wood shutters. They are no bigger than a square foot. People sleep on the upper story, with the livestock on the ground floor. You get to the living part, a single room with reed mats for sleeping, by climbing onto a small ladder which can be pulled up in case of raids by bandits.

In the US we associate bandits with the Wild West. Here the wild west is very much alive, with cattle raids to pay for bride price, so one can marry and start a new family.

I was wondering about people like me with sore joints and not very good at climbing skimpy ladders to get to bed. But here the old and the young are good at that. They are used to hard labor, walking up steep hills, bare feet. Younger people do the same but with 250 kg of rice in large bags on their backs. No one needs a gym, the gym work is part of everyday life.

What about the disabled I wondered? My colleagues tell me there are no disabled – but WHO tells me that is not true. When labor is obstructed and emergency interventions are not available, if the child survives it would have cerebral palsy. Where are these kids?

My ICRC colleague tells me they are there, hidden on the top floor, never leaving the house – growing up in the dark, and probably not getting very old.

We see the disabled in the cities where they beg on corners. Some of them are organized in DPOs (Disabled People’s Organizations), who advocate for a life that doesn’t require begging, showing that physical disability doesn’t mean intellectual disability.

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