Blogs by Hilary Hopkins


November 14, 2013 / Attention Must Be Paid

A week ago this morning, 96 of us eclipse chasers filed onto the large chartered plane to begin our flight to London after our trip off the coast of West Africa.  Most if not all of us were in the midst of, or edging along to the end of, large lives, as doctors, business executives, scientists, scholars.  Influential lives, comfortably and confidently lived.  We were ready to return to them in California, or New York, or Texas.

We settled into our seats.  The plane taxied and roared down the runway.  Time to bid goodbye to the islands of Cape Verde.  We’d seen the eclipse and Morocco and West Sahara, and it was time to head home now. 

I had a window seat.  A white-knuckle flier, I seldom look outside at takeoff.  But it was a short run, and suddenly there we were, airborne. 

I looked down, looked down at the brown, dry landscape of Sao Tiago, where we had been driving yesterday.  Unaccountably, I burst into tears.  How could I be leaving when they were staying, those valiant people?

Attention must be paid.  Valor must be recognized.  The people are not living large lives, but constrained, difficult lives, with great valor. 

In hope the man and his family have placed corn plants up and down the near-vertical volcanic slopes, the smallest niche of land planted.  But we saw the leaves dried up on the half-grown corn plants, their fruit blasted by drought, and what will he be feeding his family this season?  He will turn to fishing to feed them, and hope for the best.

Little settlements, connected by cobbled tracks, claw their way up the precipitous mountains.  The air is thin, cold, foggy.  Sometimes there is no way to get the children to school.  The school is too far away, over some other mountain, and so they stay at home.

When the earthquake came, my mom woke us up and we all ran outside, our guide tells us.  The houses, you know, they can fall down on you, he added softly.

Attention must be paid to valorous people, living modest, difficult lives all over this planet.


  • Ginger Lang 07:36am, 11/26/2013

    I think of our daughter, Cilla, who is Ouagadougou and her impressions of life in West Africa. She is collecting the stories of these valiant people.


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