May 27 2008
The women love dressing up with the brightly colored scarves that I carry around. I guess they don’t often get to play with costumes in jail…it’s a pity. One of the main prison wardens (a woman) showed up today during the workshop and she called me aside. With a very concerned
expression she said, “Some of them are having intercourse, woman to woman. Can you tell them to stop?” She added, “That would help me a lot because they don’t listen to me.” Helllooooo?
I was so exhausted today that I could barely see straight, but somehow I managed, and it was another exquisite day. I’m not good at pacing myself…I don’t know why. I may need another seven weeks in bed after this trip. The women complained about lunch and they talked about all of its shortcomings for a very long time. I could even understand the Swahili after awhile. They told me that they were still hungry. Me, I couldn’t even finish half and I gave my plate to Betty. Next time we will have boiled beef and ugali (maize meal)…heaping plates, because that is what makes them happy.
I talked to some of them about why they landed in prison. Betty (with that crazy and mischievous smile) said, “I was at my friend’s house, well, actually it was breaking and entering with violence, and I got three years. It was because of poverty and there was nobody to take care of me. I got HIV because of poverty.” Then she said, “I am an orphan and my ten year old boy is with my grandmother. She is very old. I want him to get a good education. Will you help him?” She said, “I have changed my ways.” Earlier when we were painting “our past and where we came from.”, Betty painted herself in a bar, drinking beer and smoking. She said, “That’s what I like to do.” I can imagine. A handful of the women have handed me long (several pages) handwritten letters that describe their very sad situation, asking for help. That is the overwhelming part and I don’t like it. I still have to sit down with them and respond face to face.
One of the Elizabeth’s told me, “I was accused by a former employer of stealing some items and I was arrested. I didn’t do it,” she said. I know she is telling the truth. Then she told me that the employer later found the items, after she had been in jail for one year. Now she is going to court in June and that person is apparently going to report that it had been a mistake. I wonder why she has to wait until June?
Kezziah told me that she was in prison because of stolen money. I said, “Really? Who stole it?” She gave me a wicked smile and walked away.
One of the exercises was to paint a “safe place”. Doris shared, “I feel safe when I am having sex and that is why I painted a penis.” Everyone laughed. Two of them reported that they felt safe in a bar…they drew themselves walking to the toilet to pee.