Dear Amazing Pap & Porridge Fast-Team members,
I had planned to write to all of your earlier today, but have been in ultra-s-l-o-w-m-o-t-i-on for the past 2 days, so am only getting round to it now that I’ve settled into bed with my laptop, my final meal of porridge rumbling away in my truly spoiled foodie stomach! I’ve been catching up on all your amazing blog posts and emails, and have been deeply inspired by all of you, for sticking with the fast, and for doing the kind of reflective work that makes these small sacrifices so powerful. We may not be able to change the world or upend the intersecting systems of oppression that cause poverty and hunger with small acts of solidarity like this, but if we can raise some money to help change the lives of just a few children – and put ourselves back in touch with the kind of reflective living, where we are able to step out of our own position in the world and try to wear, even for a short time, a position sharply different than ours, then it is well worth doing. I am so grateful that tomorrow morning I can walk to the fridge and choose anything I want to eat. I am also really grateful that there are so many amazing people in the CHOSA family that would do this.
As for the past couple of days on my side, I have to say it has been a lot tougher that I thought it would be. I did a 7-day Ayurvedic fast with some friends in October, and practically breezed through it, feeling better and better each day. But that was a ‘health restoration’ fast, complete with daily yoga, sesame oil self-massages, saunas, special teas and supplements, and most importantly, a complete protein meal which, though bland, included aromatic spices and vegetables. This, on the other hand, is truly a ‘health deprivation’ fast, and it really does focus one’s mind on the question of hunger and poverty in our world. We’ve all mentioned how weak and dizzy we were feeling by the end of Day 1, and most of us have had headaches. By lunchtime on Day 2 I was feeling dangerously dehydrated – despite drinking water – so I had to add some salt into my porridge. By suppertime yesterday, which got delayed because I was babysitting a friend’s child, I was really feeling the lack of protein, and succumbed to a hard-boiled egg. Despite these “cheats”, I felt so weak when I woke up today, Day 3, that I gave in to a glass of OJ with my porridge, and then still spent much of the day bumbling around in a brain-fog. Each time I tried to make these minor adjustments to offset my lack of wellness, I was forced to think about how unlikely it was that most of the people poor enough to subsist on this meagre diet would have that option (not to mention the hot shower, comfy bed, internet access, and even the ability to cook my porridge on a stove instead of having to forage for wood and start a fire to boil the bloody water!). Talking with my housemate as she looked on my bowl of white starch with some mixture of sympathy and pity, she reminded me of all of those horrible ‘disaster-porn’ videos of famine-torn regions, such as in Somalia most recently, where viewers are ‘reassured’ by the sight of humanitarian aid workers passing out bowls of some white starch or another. “At least they are getting some food, finally,” we sigh. But think about it: what they are getting – often after months of not eating anything at all and walking hundreds of miles in search of food or refuge – is a plain tasteless bowl of some kind of pap, porridge, or maybe white rice. Can you imagine trying to eat this to ‘recover’ from starvation? Wow!
Most of you have talked about the kids you worked with at Baph or Emasi, and have held your memories of these kids high in your mind through this fast, which is awesome and just how it should be. I never had the pleasure of volunteering with CHOSA in my time in SA, but I spent enough time with poor urban and rural communities to have lots of visions like that to hold in my mind the way you do the kids. But when I think of why it matters so much to engage in small acts of solidarity like this, even when we know the problem is so much bigger, I close my eyes and hold a few different visions in my head and try to think about how all of the problems those memories show me fit together – poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS, vulnerable children, deadly famines, the climate change issues in focus now in Durban, (and Christina’s struggling pupils in the Ninth Ward keeps Katrina and all that implies in the forefront as well) – and I am reminded: those of us who are adults today will not be able to solve all of these problems in our lifetimes, so we need to make sure that next generation, the kids of today, have all the tools they need to hit the ground running. After a mere three days subsisting on the staple food of the whole of southern Africa, I can testify that these kids need a whole lot more than pap & porridge to feed their growing brains, bodies and hearts. Thanks so much to all of you for helping to make sure that a few of them will.
Ann Eveleth, Washington, DC
Board Member, CHOSA
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