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我在我的非洲回忆录《援外手记》里提到,同中国医疗队同期在索马里的,有一支国际志愿者队伍(主要来之英联邦国家),帮助索马里难民(见《援外手记》第35篇《可爱的年轻志愿者》)。其中有一位叫Cecilia Liddle 的澳大利亚女孩,同我接触较多(见《援外手记》第91 篇《可爱的澳大利亚女孩》)。在网友们的热心帮助下,借助互联网,我居然在33年后找到了她,并同他取得了联系。为了回忆那一段历史,感谢中国网游,她给中国网友写了一封信。我把她的信发表在这里(原文照发,未作任何改动),供网友们阅读。倘使我们的年轻朋友们能从信中有所体会,相信 Cecilia 将十分高兴。

Dear Henry,

I am not quite sure what your readers would like to hear about, but here are a few thoughts and you can cut out whatever you want.Cecelia(左)同她的学生在澳大利亚天主教大学教室合影

Somalia 1979. It was an extraordinary time. A time that is now almost impossible to duplicate. How you came to be there I am not sure, but I was sent as part of a volunteer program from Britain where I was on holiday at the time.

I lived in Agabar Refugee Camp, 56 miles and about 2 ½ hours ride over unmade roads to Hargeysa, where there was a bit of civilization, the chance of finding a vegetable or two and a cold drink with ice in it.

For the first year, there were two of us in the camp, Marilyn, a paediatrician from London and myself a nurse from Australia. The camp got bigger by the day and by the time we left there were 42,000 people in the camp which spread across the banks of a wadi or dry river bed.

Our job was to set up feeding centres for malnourished children, and although we were not specifically involved in acute care we did from time to time find cases that needed urgent transport to Hargeysa and so we ended up in the Hargeysa Hospital where we found, surprisingly, the Chinese Medical Team and Henry Zhou the team’s interpreter.

I think that for both the Chinese team and our team, it was a very intense time. Conditions were difficult, supplies were limited and communication from the camp was non-existent. We didn’t have a phone, electricity or a car. To get into town we hitched a ride on a goods tr**** coming through from Djibouti.

To me it seemed like the Chinese Medical Team lived in a little oasis or their own creation. Their vegetable garden was productive and it was rumoured that they even had fish in a pond. But this was a different era and relationships although cordial, were somewhat constrained and formal. China was a much more closed country then. The Chinese were intriguing and they were clearly doing a great job. The Chinese built road from Beldwen to Burau still stands today, 30+ years after it was built and even after twenty years of neglect due to the political vacuum created in Somalia when Syad Barre was deposed in 1992.

The person who I got to know the best was of course Henry because he spoke for the others and was very friendly and kind and with a good sense of humour too. We had some rather funny sessions making cassette tape recordings of authentic English for the medical team members and in exchange I had my first encounter with acupuncture. I remember that the acupuncture point which I was shown was the one for headaches and that afterwards, I had a terrible headache. I am not sure what went wrong!

So then roll forward 30 years. Life goes on. I get married, have four children, get more qualifications which combine my nursing qualifications with a Masters of Education ( TESOL – teaching English to speakers of other languages). The a job comes up to combine these two qualifications in a tertiary preparation course for nurses at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. Many of my students are Chinese.

Two weeks ago I received a facebook message from someone in Hong Kong saying that someone was looking for me in China. Very strange. I was waiting for the follow-up email with the bank account details into which I should put my life savings! When I went to work the next day, there is an email from one of my students telling me that he follows a blog in China and that someone is looking for me and there is a picture. Me and Marilyn with Dr Lee and one of the other Chinese doctors, outside the Hargeysa Hospital in 1979. I couldn’t believe it.

When I read the blog and saw, the letter and the notebook, I was practically speechless. So, after all these years Henry and I have reconnected and it seems like this is the start of two other journeys, one to fill in the gaps of 33 missing years and one to see what the next 33 years might hold, if we can last that long.

I am so glad that Henry has found me. It will add a whole new layer of understanding about that time and the work that we did in Somalia. Doing something for someone else when you are young is a gamble, I guess. Many people would say that this is really a backwards career step. I know that many doctors in London said that to Marilyn and yet she ended up as consultant paediatrician in a major English hospital. I am now coordinator and lecturer at a university and Henry, from what you have told me, you have had an interesting and fulfilling career too.

None of us can read the future, but taking time out of your life to do something for other people can be so rewarding and the friendships and connections can really exceed your expectations. And if you do go somewhere and do something different, I would always recommend sending some letters, they are so much more valuable over time than an email.

译文

亲爱的Henry,

我说不好你的博文读者希望我写点什么,这里只是我想到的几点,你可以任意取舍。

1979年,索马里。那是一个非常时期。那样的时期,如今几乎无法复制。你是怎么去的那里我不知道,而我是作为自愿者项目的一个组成部分,从英国被派到索马里的,当时我正在英国度假。

当时我住在阿伽巴尔难民营,那里离哈尔格萨56英里,从阿伽巴尔到哈尔格萨,汽车要在土路上颠簸两个半小时。只有在哈尔格萨,才能见到一点文明社会的影子,吃到一两种蔬菜,喝到一杯加冰块的冷饮。第一年,难民营里只有两名自愿者,我—-一名来自澳大利亚的护士,和另外一名伦敦来的儿科医生—Marilyn。难民营的人数与日俱增,到我们离开时,已经达到4万2千人,他们都聚集在一段干枯河床的两岸。

我们的工作是为营养不良儿童建立喂养中心。虽然我们的任务并不是对重症患儿进行紧急护理,但实际上,有时我们需要把患儿转移到哈尔格萨医院。来到哈尔格萨医院,我们惊奇的发现,这里有中国医疗队,Henry Zhou (为方便工作,我为自己起的英文名字)是中国医疗队的翻译。

我想,无论对中国医疗队还是对我们自愿者来说,当时的状况都是十分严酷的。条件很艰苦,供应十分有限。难民营与世隔绝,没有电,对外也完全没有通讯联络。我们的自愿者医疗队既没有电话,也没有汽车。需要进城时,只能搭乘从吉布提方向开来的大货车。

对我来说,中国医疗队生活在一片他们自己动手创造的绿洲之中,自己的菜地里种着各种各样的蔬菜(中国医疗队驻地的确有一块菜地,只不过由于没有时间照顾,我们种上了木瓜,而没有种菜—周洪立注)。我甚至还听说,他们还有一个小鱼塘(实际上没有—-周洪立注)。

当然,由于时代不同,尽管中国医疗队同我们之间相处都很真诚,但双方也都比较拘谨、正式。当时的中国还是一个封闭的国家。在我们看来,中国人非常神秘,很明显,他们在那里干的相当棒。中国人帮助索马里修建了一条从贝莱特温到布劳的公路,尽管三十多年已经过去了,而且索马里自从前总统西亚德巴雷1992年被赶下台之后一直处于政治真空状态,公路无人照顾,年久失修,但那条公路现在仍然存在。

在中国医疗队当中,我了解最多的当然是周翻译。因为在中国医生中,只有他讲英语,而且他非常善良、友好,同时不乏幽默。记得很有有趣的一件事情是,我们给中国医生用盒式录音机录标准英语,作为回报,医生们为我们演示了针灸。那是我有生以来第一次接触针灸。当时在我身上选的是管头疼的穴位,但事后,我却出现了剧烈的头痛,不知是哪里出了毛病。

一转眼三十多年过去了,生活在继续。我结了婚,有了四个孩子。同时,结合原有的护理资格,我又拿到了教育学硕士(教外国人学英语)。我现在的工作把我在上述两个领域的资格结合在一起,就是在墨尔本的澳大利亚天主教大学讲授护士专业的高级预备课程。我们的许多学生是中国人。

两周前,我收到了香港一个人通过Facebook发来的消息,说中国有一个人在找我,我感到非常奇怪。我原以为,这不过网络中常见的一种骗述,估计还会有第二封邮件,进一步套取我的银行账户信息。但是,第二天一上班,发现又有一封我的学生发给我的邮件,说他在跟踪阅读中国的一个博客,有人在找我,而且还附了一张照片。照片摄于哈尔格萨医院外面,时间是1979年,上有我,Marilyn ,李医生和中国医疗队的另一位女医生。我简直不敢相信。

当我看到博文,见到我当年写给Henry的信和那个笔记本时,我惊奇的一时失语。就这样,在这许多年之后, 我和Henry 又重新建立了联系。这样的“重逢”,同时让我们踏上了另外两个征程:一个是填补已经过去的33年的空白,另一个则是展望未来33年的前景—-如果我们能够那样长寿的话。

我非常高兴Henry 找到了我。这将有助于我进一步理解当年我们在索马里度过的时光和在那里所做过的工作。我想,当一个人还年轻的时候,去为别人做一些事情,是要冒一定的风险的。许多人说,对于个人的事业来说,这是退步。据我所知,当年伦敦的许多医生就是这样说Marilyn的。但是,Marilyn 最终还是成为了伦敦一家大医院的儿科咨询医师。我本人则成为一所大学的讲师和协调员。而Henry,从你告诉我的我得以知晓,也有一个非常有趣并且非常充实的事业。

没有人可以预知未来,但是,从一个人的生命中拿出一部分时间去帮助别人,总是会获得回报的,更何况,在这个过程中建立起来的友谊和联系会远远超出你的想象。如果你去了别的地方,做了其他不同的事情,我的一个建议是,你给朋友寄信。比起电子邮件,书信要更加宝贵得多。


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