Life as a white refugee

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Africa » Ghana
May 5th 2008
Published: May 5th 2008
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So the time has come...yes I'm FINALLY coming home! Next week in fact - Friday, May 16th. While I'm looking forward to hot showers, running water, electricity 24/7 and chocolate milk (and most of all to see fam and friends) I'm soooo sad to leave (but I don't know how much longer my parents can stand it with me over here and my sis in Australia!). My 7 months in Africa turned into 10 and I've been on this continent for almost a year now - I've made amazing friends, have had unimaginable experiences, emotional ups and downs and now its over with. It will for sure be culture shock getting off of that plane in NYC and even more so when I arrive later that evening back in Burlington (at least its springtime and not winter cause I for sure have nothing "wintery" in terms of clothes with me. I don't even know how many showers I'm going to have to take to get the year's worth of red soil outta my nails and every pore in my body but the truth is is that I'm not sure I want to get it out! I've seen so many things here and have met so many wonderful people but am still not ready to come home. There is so much to give to this continent and the people here and they too have so much to give to us as well. I still want to be a part of them and want them still to be a part of me. That is why I'm looking to come back much sooner than expected as I'm looking for work in Liberia, Sierre Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, and Morocco. I'm hoping to get work with one of the thousands of NGOs here in Africa. I'd like to continue doing work with peace/human rights work . But I'll at least be home for the summer and probably early parts of the fall - all depending on the application process and if I actually can secure a job. If nothing then it will be searching for jobs in NYC and D.C.
Okay so let me tell you now what its like to live on camp. My first month living on camp we had electricity - it would come and go for a few hours but it was pretty consistent. The mid-March we lost it and didn't get it back til about 3 weeks ago. Then we lost it again and just got it back. It's just soo freakin hot that at night without my fan it is really hard to sleep and the mosquitos have gotten really bad here! I've yet to get malaria but (knock on wood) I have a week and a half left. I've been off my mosquito medicine since mid-December and no longer use my mosquito net cause its just too damn hot! In terms of health I've never been sicker in my life but its been worth it. Usually at least once a week I have a day where I can't do anything but run back and forth to the bathroom. I talked to my grandmother the other day and she thought my "bathroom" situation was hilarious. I have a lil entry way and then my room and then another lil "shower stall" - it has a drain and it costs 10 cents to get a bucket of water and that's how I take my bucket shower. When I pee I also pee here and just wash water down after it. Now if I gotta go poo...thats where it really sucks! I have to pay 5 cents to poo down a hole or 10 cents for the "vip hole" - pretty much vip or not they are nasty...never imagined that many maggots could be in one place at once. All vip in this situation means is that they wipe the newspapers out (yea, thats what you use for toilet paper) out more times during the days then they do the other stalls (you dont throw the paper down but just on the floor). So on days that I dont feel well the bathroom situation can get "expensive!". Once the sun goes down though if you gotta poo you go to the "gulf" which is a huge field and just squat - most of the Liberians go there anyways during the day since the 'bathrooms" are soo nasty. you seriously HAVE to bathe after going poo cause you're hole body just stinks and it doesn't leave! Vomiting sucks the most cause you cant just flush it down and it doesnt easily do down the lil hole in my shower so I try to run out behind my house for those occasions. I pay a guy to do my wash - of like my pants and stuff- but my tops and undergarments I do myself. That;s because my hands are now scarred from washing clothes and it makes me uncomfortable cause about 40 people will come outside to see the "white woman wash by hand". I love all the people in my yard and will miss them all dearly. They have taken such good care of me and have really become family. Everyone calls me Lady D or D (cause Danielle seems to be too hard for some and so people call me Dina, Diane, Diana - anything but my name). everyone knows how much I love children here and I love it cause in the States if you see a cute lil kid or baby you couldn't just go and pick it up but here its no problem. My neighbor next door - Sis Miatta (everyone calls people Sis or Brother if they're around you're age or you call people Mama or Auntie or Uncle to older people out of respect). The kids in my yard call me Auntie, Auntie Danielle, Mama or white mama. Anyways, Miatta and her 3 kids - Cece (12) and her twins Joe (we call him Baby Joe) and Joel (6) have helped me soo much. The kids run errands for me and just love to be arounds me at all times - Baby Joe especially. Everyone is actually really concerned as to what will happen to him when I leave because he is so attached. When all the kids are playing he will just sit there next to me and hold my hand or my arm and sucking his thumb. He swears I'm carrying him back to America with me and if I could I totally would. He tells everyone - when I ask him if he wants me to call him he replies" ha, how are you going to call me if I'm going to be with you - you're too funny danielle". We were all sitting around one day and all of a sudden he just said aloud "i was born and then i was just praying and praying to God that he born Danielle - i was just praying for her to be born" - this kid is 6 and the stuff that comes out of his mouth just surprises us all sometimes. He swears that all people are born in Africa and so when we go to America then we turn white. so he tells everyone that when he goes to america with me he will turn white and that when he comes back to africa to visit he will be born a white man. he also has this idea that we turn white by painting ourselves. The other day he said "im going to buy a ship for you, a ship for my mother, a ship for my sister, and a ship for my brother - but let me make money first" and that when he is in america he will send me money here in africa! I really don't know how I'm going to leave this lil kid - he follows me everywhere even when I tell him to stay home and cries when I leaves - he's become like my own son.
At night if its not a friday, sat or sun night I'm usually at the video club where for 35 cents you watch 3 movies - quite the experience watching movies in this packed and soo freakin hot of a place cause the Liberians just talk throughout the whole movie. They've also got me into watching all the european soccer games with them - which was fun at first but now that the championship was coming to and end it could get pretty hostile in those places. I've had quite a few cooking lessons but it sucks cause what they eat here we don't have it in the States so I won't be able to cook it for people at home. I drink a lot of hibiscus juice (they call it bisou - pronouced like bizza - and laugh when I say that its juice since they don't consider it juice for whatever reason) which is great though since I drank a lot of it in egypt. for lunch and dinner its all about rice and whatever spicy sauce they have to go on top. i eat a lot of fish but stay away from the meat since its usually random pieces of cow or goat or pig feet. My time is ending and I'm trying to think of other lil things....but nothing is really coming to mind.
My birthday up north was fabulous saw tons of elephants and even had my breakfast snatched right out from in front of me by a baboon. Im having a bunch of african clothes made for when I go home.
I'll be gettin a new cell with a new number so for now when I get home I'll have to be contacted at my house 244-8910. Again so sad to leave but looking forward to seeing everyone!
Love to all ~D


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