Local doc delves into the darkness and finds the light in iconic book

Book Review Kambites
Local psychiatrist, Dr. Gerasimos Kambites holds a copy of his book Tears on the Equator as he poses on the deck of his home near Kilmarnock. With infinite pathos, courage and honestly Kambites’ book tells a story about the glue that maintained a humanitarian vision until time, politics and war ripped it apart. Photo Credit: Howaida Sorour-Roberts
Posted on: August 15, 2016

By Howaida Sorour-Roberts
heddy@pdgmedia.ca

Tears on the Equator by local psychiatrist Gerasimos I. Kambites, is a must read for anyone involved in third world development or anyone even vaguely interested in the world beyond these borders.

A former journalist who went on to become an ordained Orthodox Priest, and then a doctor so that he could establish a church and a clinic on a remote island in Lake Victoria with his Ugandan wife, Kambites is a skilled storyteller.  In fact the book has its roots in two articles that Kambites and his then wife wrote for National Geographic.

In many ways it’s a love story.  It’s the story of two idealistic lovers and their trials and tribulations as they navigated the world of development with their entire family in tow.  It’s the story of family love and more broadly it’s the story of love and faith in humanity and community that can nevertheless go very awry as it follows the twists and turns of human hubris.

“It was I thought a tremendous story, and as a storyteller it was easy to write that story,” said Kambites, although it took him 20 years to complete the book. “There was so much anger in the first few drafts, and that was part of my own personal therapy,” admitted Kambites.

There are still vestiges of that anger in the book, although it’s mostly directed at himself.  Thankfully Kambites is able to ameliorate that anger with the healthy humour of a man who can laugh at his own quirks and quarks.

The book chronicles the story of the young couple’s arrival and more than five-year sojourn on the island of Bukasa in Lake Victoria.  It does not attempt to romanticize the reality nor does it hide behind clichés of the genre.  This is a courageous, honest account of the kind of experience that would give even the most committed humanitarian serious pause.

“I see the book as a channel between two different cultures and people and another way for people to understand each other,” said Kambites.

It is the kind of story that is at times frustrating, at times edifying, tragic and heart wrenchingly sad while still managing to spark questions and debate.

“I wanted to inspire young people who want to go to Africa or South America,” said Kambites,  “and I wanted to show how wonderful and resilient the Ugandan people are.”

The experiences he chronicles are inspirational but also cautionary. Cultural differences cannot be taken lightly, deep cultural mistrust and racism cannot be ignored, as Kambites was to find out when he was arrested and tortured during that five-year period.

Tears on the Equator is an aptly named book that at times gently and at times more forcefully guides the reader through tears of frustration, anger, sadness and joy.

Published by Anaphora Press the book is available at http://www.tearsontheequator.com.  Read it.

Photo Caption:
Local psychiatrist, Dr. Gerasimos Kambites holds a copy of his book Tears on the Equator as he poses on the deck of his home near Kilmarnock. With infinite pathos, courage and honestly Kambites’ book tells a story about the glue that maintained a humanitarian vision until time, politics and war ripped it apart. Photo Credit: Howaida Sorour-Roberts