I am so happy to announce that my blog statistics is going up again since it was re-activated about 2 weeks ago. From zero, it has an average of 150 unique hits per day now. Not bad at all for a comeback. Anyway, I want to share to you an old post from my Yahoo! 360 blog, which I wrote exactly 35 months ago and while I was in the Philippines. As you know, Yahoo! 360! was closed on July 13, 2009. I am lucky to have saved my posts in time. My story is about a lady named Waris Dirie. Read on..such lovely story. Very inspiring and touching.
Yesterday, Amber and I went to our dentist, Dr. Serafin Sarmiento of Cagayan de Oro, for our regular prophylaxis. As she was taking her turn and I was left alone in the waiting area, my eyes caught a pile of old Reader’s Digest issues on the side table. To cease boredom, I dug a number of copies and started scanning.
There was this one particular copy, dated sometime in 1999, that caught my attention. In the cover, a pretty black lady named Waris Dirie – a renowned model in London’s fashion scene. A supermodel to be precise. She is indeed a pure African lass, a Somali.
Waris has a Cinderella-like life story. A nomad trapped in a cultural glitch with no money and education to boast, but with lots of ambition and determination on her shoulder. I will narrate here the facts that really struck me, and that I could’t forget.
At the age of 5, she had her genital circumcised by a Gypsy lady. As Somalian culture dictates, she had no choice, but to succumb to such painful ordeal. With the unsanitized razor used, she had an infection (tetanus) and got sick for a couple of weeks. In their culture, a woman is said to be unfit for marriage and is consider dirty if she has not been circumcised. It was only there that I learned about this female genital mutilation (circumcision). Just imagine this…mutilating the labia, closing it using a wooden needle, and leaving two holes, a size just enough for peeing and for the “monthly visitor”.
At 13, her father found her a 60-year old man for a husband…for a price of five camels. She rebelled against her father’s will and ran away from home, with her mother’s consent and encouragement. She went to Mogadishu (the hometown of her mother), the capital of Somalia, to look for her sister, who also ran away from home because of an arranged marriage. Her relatives there were all well-off. Her mother came from a well-to-do- family, only got poor when she eloped with Waris’ father. She went bare foot, walking and running under the heat of the sun, with no money. At one point of her journey, she laid under a tree and was waken up by a roar of a lion, which was staring at her. That was a point wherein, she gave up and asked the lion to just eat her. When the lion turned its back, and moved away from her, she then realized that God had indeed a plan for her. She continued her journey until she reached Mogadishu, and found her sister, who was already married and pregnant at that time. She lived with her for a couple of months, and then with her aunt (a sister of her mother) as a household help. One time, she sent money to her mother through a family friend, but it never came close to reality. Her mother did not receive it.
Until one day, she heard her aunt and her uncle (who was the Ambassador of Somalia to London) talked about moving to London as part of his work stint. Right there and then , she begged her aunt to consider her. She wanted to go away from Africa to search for a brighter future, even if it means being a maid in an unknown country.
Off to London. A naive. An amazing journey. A culture so rich.
She worked as a maid and later, a nanny of the Ambassador’s daughter. She took and fetched her to/from school. One day, while she was walking, she noticed a man, who was staring at her from head to foot. Scrutinizing her. The man also took and fetched his child in the same school. Then he came to her, smiled, and told her, “You have the perfect profile”. Scared, she ran away from him. So each morning when they crossed their paths, he would just gave her a smile and nothing more. However, one morning, he approached her and gave her a business card. With no English proficiency, she could not understand the writing in the card. She went home, and showed it to her aunt. He was a photographer (sorry, I forgot the name). A famous fashion photographer, her aunt told her. Still, she remained uninterested but never threw the card. She kept it, for she knew that she would need it in the future. Also, she enrolled in a free language class to improve her English know-how.
When time came that her uncle had to leave for Somalia, she hid her passport. Guess what she did? She dug a hole in the backyard and buried it. She told her aunt and uncle that she lost her passport and she could not leave. Finally, she told them that she wanted to stay and assured them that she would be fine.
Her aunt, uncle and niece, bid goodbye and they were off to Somali. Waris, with few money in her pocket, started to walk away and look for a place to stay, a job to keep. Then she met this kind Somali woman, who let her slept for a night in her place. They became instant friends. Waris showed her the business card the photographer gave her. Her Somali friend encouraged her to go to the address in the card, for he might help her find a job. Indeed, she looked for the place, and found a studio. A photography studio. She went inside and saw him. He recognized her, and entertained her and explained to her what was really on his mind when he gave that business card a long time ago. He wanted to offer her a modeling job. That time, the Pirelli Calendar was publishing its yearly calendar featuring African models. Waris fit the job. In the same week, she had her first photo shoot as a model. Her springboard to the modeling world. During her early modeling years, she had a surgery. She had her genital fixed.
Now, she is one of the supermodels in the world, living a jet setter life. In fact, she found her husband,Dana, who worked as a drummer in a New York night club. They hit it instantly, and eventually, got married. Now, they had a child.
After learning of her history, BBC took the lead in featuring it, and so the quest to go back to her roots transpired, primarily, looking for her long lost mother. After a few months, she found her mother. She asked her mother to live with her, but she declined. She wanted to stay in Somali with her ailing husband. She asked Waris to just find a place for her and her husband. Gladly, Waris understood her mother’s plea.
I shed a tear reading this part.
To date, she has written three autobiographical novels, namely, Desert Flower, Desert Dawn and Desert Children. She has been a UN advocate against female circumcision.
Her story is a story of hope. A story for those who has nothing, but dream of everything.