The Mountain of Prayers

There are times when no (wo)man is an atheist – in a foxhole, on their deathbed, and when clinging to a mountain (sand?) face where the trail has deteriorated to nothing more than the remnants of the last guy’s desperately clinging foot-wedges (too small to even be deemed footsteps). The entire hike to and fro from our little campsite outside of the village of Taghia was, for me, a personal exercise in calling upon any and all deities I knew as we trekked 6 miles on a dirt and rock path that, in some places, narrowed to the width of one of my feet. The path is largely devoid of shade, littered with small stones and rocks which are treacherous to the feet, and composed of several sharp inclines and declines. Our trek took us across streams and in some places the path devolved completely, and involved climbing up a large rock and then back down. Despite taking my own time (I was the slowest in our little group), the trek was not what I would call easy, even for a relatively healthy (if not terribly fit) individual.

Admittedly, having grown up in the region, the people of the valley are far better able to negotiate the sharp inclines and slopes than a city- or hill country-raised girl like me (evidence: small children in flip-flops running up and down what appears, to me, to be a sheer rock face, to them, their front yard). In addition, they do have animals that serve as transportation such as mules, donkeys, and horses. This is all fine and well, but what if the person is sick or disabled, and unable to make the long trek from Taghia to Agudin to go to the clinic? What if they are pregnant, in the middle of labor? Mohammed Ben-Said of the ATTDE out of Taghia tells us that the nurses do not come to the village from the clinic in Agudin, but that the pregnant woman (who usually has been in labor for two days now) must go to the clinic. Even if they are accompanied and the journey is made on mule-back, it is a bumpy, uncomfortable, and long ride. Unaccompanied or on foot, I can’t even begin to imagine the difficulty of making that kind of trip when feeling poorly. It’s no wonder the NGO in Taghia is pushing so hard to put in a (dirt) road, so that, at least, the village has access to the ambulance from Agudin.

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