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A storm gathering

Summary The short story ”A Storm Gathering” is overall about cultural clashes and diversities and, in continuation of that, misunderstood aid and external versus internal contrasts. Malik is a delegated aid worker who has got the responsibility of an area in Sudan where he has to distribute food and medicine to the villages. But he has trouble in doing so because the supplies are either delayed, missing, inadequate or ruined. Then a foreign female doctor from the aid organization shows up and Malik is relieved. But she is only there to inspect and hasn’t got any supplies with her. In good spirit she decides to drive out to a village to help the chief who is ill. The next day the chief is dead and Malik can feel that the villagers blame the doctor. Then a sudden violent sandstorm stops all frustration that has been build up and Malik and the doctor are safe – for now. Characterization of Malik Malik is a well-educated aid worker and is a good man. He has to distribute food and medicine to villages in his area and with that responsibility a lot of problems and disappointments builds up for him and the people of the town. It is one long battle to help the people “It had been a difficult week for the little town.” (p. 7, l. 7.). He really wants to help, is embarrassed that he can’t do more and does his best but still the villagers blame him as a representative for all that is foreign. He is afraid of them and almost only thinking of the affect on himself: “A delivery, he could make a delivery.” (p. 8, l. 42). He is caught between wanting to do good, disappointment and that he is forced to be grateful and submissive for the supplies that do arrive. He is treated badly by the foreign female doctor, she humiliates him – and he lets her do so: “Malik had never known such humiliation.” (p. 9, l. 88). Despite of that he is attracted to her and he feels warmth and gratitude towards her; she is a breath of fresh air, representing ‘civilization’ and things getting done. But then – when the villagers apparently gather up against the aid workers – the roles are turned around; he is now the strong one who can make decisions, who understand the minds of the villagers: “Tomorrow we go early, quickly we go away!” (p. 10, l. 155). Malik is a good hearted man, but also lacks confidence – torn between being an educated man from the city and still being one of the villagers. Torn between his own people and the foreign doctor. Wanting to help more, seeing the inefficiency of the aid but still afraid of expressing the dissatisfaction. Therefore he is relieved when the storm sets in – now he on a deeper level hasn’t got to choose between the two worlds; “…and he wished that the storm might last forever.” (p. 11, l. 178). My comment on the role of the female doctor I think that the foreign female doctor is representing the developed countries, wealth, education, progress – and the more negative side effects of all that; she is selfish, has got no empathy and understanding of the culture she is in. I think she is the picture of misunderstood help and the ignorance that comes with having enough or even too much – her help kills the chief. She is the opposite of Malik, but still I can see that there is a bit of her inside of him. She is a breath of fresh air in the middle of all the misery. In the big picture she is development tumbling in, taking over the town and Malik and being stopped by nature. When nature storms in she can’t do anything, then she is powerless and Malik and the villagers are the ones who know what to do. I think that the author wanted to make a triangle between Malik, the doctor and the nature (the haboob) and the effect they have on each other – pointing out the differences and similarities between especially Malik and the doctor symbolizing the developing countries put in contrast to the developed countries. The challenges of an aid worker First of all I would like to thank you all! Thank you for wanting to help others. You now face a lot of different challenges and you need to be prepared for them. It is hard to watch people starve and die from simple diseases knowing that they could have been saved. So – stay strong. One thing you have to have in mind is that you are actually only a guest in the country where you are stationed. Even though you are there to help you are there on the people’s behalf and on their premises. It is important that you remember that nobody – I repeat nobody – likes to be dependent on others help. They receive it because they absolutely have to. Please respect that. Second – you are all going to different countries where different cultures and religions are represented. Before we send you on your way you will all receive a course about customs, religions and cultures in the country you are going to. Remember what you learn! The most difficult problems we have had can be related to ourselves misunderstanding our mission – that we are there to help them on their premises. And remember – you can’t save the whole world.

Other essay:   Stuck in the storm

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