"Hustlers of the world, there is one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside.”
Boston is all about its history.
"When he first came to us, he wasn’t talking. He was about four years old, but we knew nothing else about him. Occasionally, he’d imitate the other children, but he’d express no thoughts of his own. He couldn’t tell us anything about his home, his family, or where he came from. To make matters worse, aid workers had further confused him by suggesting hometowns to him— which he had readily agreed to. So we started with a completely blank slate. We drew a house on a piece of paper, and we said: ‘Is this your home?’ And he said: ‘No! You forgot the gate!’ So we drew a gate. And he said: ‘But you forgot the tree!’ So we drew a tree.
Piece by piece, day by day, we filled in a picture of his home. He was still very reserved and traumatized, so the process took over a month. But we met in the safety of my office every day, and we figured it out. It was like putting together a puzzle. The saddest moment was when we drew his father. ‘You have to draw him laying down,’ the boy said. ‘I tried to get him to come with me, but he wouldn’t.’
When we eventually used the drawings to identify the boy’s hometown and find his mother, she confirmed our fears. The boy had disappeared after seeing his father get shot.”
(Juba, South Sudan)
"The army asked for donations. I was the smallest one in the family, so I was given. I was seven or eight. I heard my parents arguing. My mother didn’t want me to go, because I was her only child. But a few nights later, my father brought me a new white robe, and told me I was going to go to school. When I first arrived at the military camp, I was scared to see the guns. In the morning we would go to school, in the evening we would train with the guns. But there were many children there who I grew up with and played with, I eventually felt more comfortable. After a few weeks, they marched us to Ethiopia for training. We never made it there. We ran out of food and water on the way.”
"Are you angry with your father?"
"I speak with him regularly now. I’ve forgiven him. And in the end, I would have never been educated if he hadn’t sent me away. But I was very angry with him when we were dying. While we marched, the children who gave up would sit down in the shade. We would tell them not to sit but they’d say, ‘I’ll catch up later.’ And they never would. I saw many of them get eaten by wild animals."
(Tongping Internally Displaced Persons Site, Juba, South Sudan)
"The landlord doesn’t care how much furniture you’ve sold this month."
I normally go into my conversations with a set of proven questions to ask, that I find will elicit a wide variety of anecdotes from people’s lives: happiest moment, saddest moment, things like that. But with people fleeing war, it is absolutely impossible to discuss anything beyond the present moment. Their circumstances are so overpowering, there is absolutely zero room in their minds for any other thoughts. The conversation immediately stalls, because any topic of conversation beyond their present despair seems grossly inappropriate. You realize that without physical security, no other layers of the human experience can exist. “All day they do is cry for home,” she told me. (Dohuk, Iraq)