When the Words are too Small

Sometimes the words you need are too small for the story you have to tell.

I’ll try.

We arrived, the crew and I, on the far western edge of Tanzania on a morning brittle with justgone dawn air. Smoke from woodfires rose to mix with low cloud and the two conspired to smudge the edge of a great lake. We only knew it was below us as the aircraft swung in low to land.

We ate chapatis and drank masala chai whilst we waited for our vehicle. It broke the ice. I’d never met any of them before. We recognized one another only because each of us that bundled off that plane seemed prepared for a similar mission. Cameramen are easy to spot; they come with hefty paraphernalia. The pretendwriter only bore a satchel and a hat.

We were headed, once we got going, to Nyarugusu. Because there were stories to tell, films to make, pictures to take.

It is an enormous sprawl of humanity – the Congolese have been here for two decades, the Burundians less than two months, they number more than 100 000 now. There is despair and sadness and untold trauma. And there is happiness and hope and, astonishingly, lives are picked up so that among the dozens and dozens and dozens of tents, there are small businesses being pitched: a tailor, a barber, a sugar cane vendor.

So I asked my questions and I considered story telling strategies with the crew and I slept in alien beds with cheap linen and rock hard pillows, and bathed in a bucket of cold water. (And amongst the delicious chapatis and mugs of masala chai, I ate something bad enough to have me heaving into a plastic bag for an entire afternoon).

I am on my way home now. Tonight in a big, wide, white, soft bed after a steaming power shower. I am returning unscathed.

But for the scar that has seared my soul; the experience that has branded me.

As I said. Sometimes the words are too small for the story you need to tell.

In time I will find better ones.

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6 Responses to “When the Words are too Small”

  1. mwaonline Says:

    Your ‘small’ words have me spell-bound, wondering, thirsting for more. You are a real writer.

  2. Ceri Says:

    Please tell me. I can do nothing but I need to hear.

  3. iotamanhattan Says:

    You are not a pretend writer.

  4. docmomma Says:

    You’re doing just fine. More than fine. Keep writing!

  5. Ad dy Says:

    “But for the scar that has seared my soul; the experience that has branded me.” I can only begin to imagine what sadness you have witnessed. I am sure the words will come tumbling out after a good night’s sleep.

  6. Kit Says:

    Maybe we all feel like pretend writers – I know I do, and even more so hearing about your real life in the raw journalist assignment. But I think feeling that fear is all part of being a writer, what keeps you on your toes striving for the right words. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway is what most of life seems to be about, that I can see.

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