Upon my arrival to Algeria, one of the first thing’s I did was volunteer at a hospital for spinal and back injuries called Tixeraine. This was to be my first stop of many over the next several months. The objective was to meet as many new people, and hear as many stories as possible.
I remember arriving on the 18th of April, and many of the doctors and staff all were proud to boast that this particular hospital was ranked the number one rehabilitation center in all of Algeria. To my surprise it was nothing like I had in mind. I guess I have gotten too used to the high standard of living in Vancouver. But then again I told my self, to provide the best possible care for your patient’s has nothing to do with a high standard of living. The lack of nurses, and Doctor’s who showed the least bit of empathy shocked me. Equipment is lacking, and many of the task’s that would normally be done by a nurse back home I found my self doing, well that’s why I volunteered. But I found my self taking a crash course in everything from changing band aid’s to changing diapers. Again this didn’t bother me in the least bit, it was the lack of empathy that the staff showed that was beginning to bother me.
The job did have its upsides. I ended up meeting men, women and children from far and wide. The stories ranged from the day’s of French colonization to the brutal civil war that ended up taking hundreds of thousands of lives. I quickly began to notice a huge generational gap between youth of my generation, to the “old timers” who fought against the French and the terrorism that plagued Algeria for 10 long years.
The “Old Timer’s” as they were called by everyone under the age of 30, had a whole different view on the state of affairs. Most of them were veterans from day’s of colonization. They viewed the country as a “pack of spineless youth” who had no appreciation of the sacrifices made by they’re grandparents and all those involved in liberating Algeria from French rule. Contrary to the view of some of the youth I met at Tixeraine, they felt the government had done a sufficient job in dealing with terrorism and they were rather pleased in the direction the nation was heading in. They didn’t mind that they didn’t receive no compensation like their terrorist counter parts. Many were retired, and had made some sort of contribution to the country. In their time they had something to fight for, if they died they had something to die for.
One particular young man who stood out was Hussien, but everyone called him Ouargla (pronounced wir-gl-a). He was my age, 21. He was shot in the spine in the late 1990’s when terrorist’s were going around committing atrocities in his home town. He lost his father and brothers to terrorism. His particular view on the current state of affairs in Algeria, and how the country responded to the civil war was rather interesting. He view’s the government as weak and corrupt. When I asked him why, he told me that instead of dealing with terrorism in a swift and efficient manner, they ended up giving some of the most horrible men land, stores and vast amounts of money in order to “buy” the peace. He went on to tell me, even though the unrest has been dealt with, the people who truly deserved compensation never received it. People like him and his mother, and every single Algerian who was effect by civil war. He went on to share with me the current state of youth. Many of his friend’s have either spent most of their lives in and out of jail or were currently in prison. He also told me that with out the proper connection’s it’s near impossible to find proper work, let alone find meaning for their lives. Even for those who pursue some form of post secondary education it’s just as challenging to find a meaningful fulfilling job.
Despite the fact the Hussien lost half his family, he had an amazing sense of humor. He started sharing with me how life in the desert was. How he had to travel for over 2 days to arrive for his treatment. Even though his life was changed for ever, he managed to maintain a positive attitude. And to Hussein his attitude was worth more to him than any land, or financial compensation from the government.
And I started thinking, it’s only been a few weeks since I arrived and Hussien’s story really got me thinking. It felt like something out of a Hollywood movie. My curiosity was starting to get the best of me. And I started to wonder..what else does this country have in store for me..?