Some days I need to regroup and look at the bigger picture. It is easy to take this place for granted once you have been here for a while. It is easy see it as a routine and every now and then I need to remind myself it’s not a routine and that I truly love for this place.
This was one of those days. This particular day which was actually the day of Arafat which is the day before Eid celebrating the end of the Holy Pilgrimage.I went and sat in Zainabiyya which is mostly known as the place where we gather to pray but is also just used as a hang out spot for the kids. Some come here to study, others to talk and others just to sleep.
It was about half an hour before prayer time and at this point just wanted to sit and listen to the Quran that was being recited. I just wanted to be at peace and there was nothing I wanted more than to be right here, in this moment. I sat and one of the girls, Sabrina, came and sat next to me. Coincidentally enough, whenever I need to regroup and come to the girls, she always finds me and is always there. As a result quite a strong bond has been created between the two of us.
She is fun, confident, respectful and upbeat with a twinkle of mischief in her eyes She’s 15 years old and has become a lot like a little sister. Somehow as soon as I enter the secondary school (which is always at completely random times), she’s somewhere in sight and is able to bring the biggest smile to my face. If she doesn’t have a class to go to then she stays by my side for as long as I am there.
It was almost prayer time and so I got up to do my ablutions before prayer and asked Sabrina why she wasn’t coming. She said she had already performed them as she was praying non-obligatory prayer before I got there.Out of curiosity, I asked what she was praying for and she replied : “I am just praying for all those in the world who have problems.” I looked at her astounded.
Let me tell you about this girl: Sabrina comes from a well to do family in Zanzibar. Her English is amazing compared to most of the girls. She used to live in Zanzibar but then lost her father and her mother. Family friends took her in but then soon realized they couldn’t afford to take care of her and tried to marry her off . She refused to do so and ran away from home and lived with a friend’s son and his wife. The house belonged to his wife and unfortunately they got separated and the son told her that he was going to find his life and she was to find hers (this is a 14 year old we are talking about). After that her neighbor took her in and they went to the village government for help. A lady there took her in and they found a sponsor who sent her to this school. This orphan girl who has probably experienced the most amount of emotional pain a person can go through is in the middle of Africa praying for those who have problems in the world. I was ashamed of the problems I thought I had.
After prayers, she asked me what I was doing for Eid and I told her I wasn’t sure. I had been invited to town but also wanted to be here and while others told me to stay with them, the girl I had grown closest to told me to go to town. I asked her, “Don’t you want me to be here with you for Eid?” and she replied ” No, go to town there are more festivities , you will enjoy it more.” Her unselfishness never seizes to amaze me. I have no more replies for her. Her answers leave me silent.
A few weeks ago I had come to the dorms after being at the office and found her sitting there. I was unusually quiet that day and she took me to the top floor of the dorms where you can see most of the campus from. We sat there for a while and I asked her if she ever got lonely. She said she didn’t. She had all her friends right here with her. Then I asked her what she would do when she did get sad and she said that she recites Quran. This is not an answer you would expect out of a popular 15 year old girl but it’s the answer of this one.
She finishes her Form 2 in 5 days and so I try and spend as much time as I can with her now.Every moment is a last moment.Yesterday, I asked her how she does it. How is she ok with everything ? How does she manage to always be so happy and fun-loving?How does she not look back and get bitter and sad? She replied so eloquently and said, ” I just thank my God and say it’s ok.” Yet, I continue to question her wanting to know the source of her strength. She tells me, “Do you know what my name means? It means Patience” and just continues to tell me that she is grateful to God for everything. Then she tells me the only time it really gets to her is on visiting day when all the parents come and she just likes to sit in her dorm and for the first time I see Sabrina crying out of her own sadness. In two months of knowing her and meeting her on a daily basis has she never cried to me about anything but today she did and I hugged her and simply did not want to let go.
This is the girl who has taught me how to hand-wash my clothes . She is the girl who has taught me my Swahili and this is the girl who has expanded my view of life when I was busy examining it under a microscope. Every time I think I have a problem my whole world stops. The world seems to suddenly revolve around me and then to gain perspective and snap out of it I go and get lost in the lives of these kids and I realize how tiny my problems really are. That is when I decide to let go. These kids have taught me how to let go. They have taught me that we need to be patient and have faith that things will get better. They’ve taught me that we can’t control anything and things will end up going the way they are suppose to. The only thing that will truly set us free is not trying to control it and letting life take its true course.