Monday, February 27, 2012

. doner moi

what does it feel like to be put in a box? to be labeled? to be part
of a generalization? to be viewed as a non-person, part of a collective?

I'll tell you how it feels.

It feels like your in a box.

It started off with,

I can't pay for the camera you bought me.

I'll pay you later.

Okay, when? March 15....ok, okay..... because I'm nice and it was the

then the other person can't pay for their camera either

never mind the fact that they told me before I left they could afford it
and would pay me back.

then its the nurse I brought the headlamp for - the 15 dollar headlamp

give it to me, she says.

give it to me.

oh no. pay me first. 7,500 F.

pay you?? she looks astounded, shocked, hurt

pay you??

I am a mother with children, she says.

you would make a poor mother with children pay you??

yes. pay me.

i don't have the money, she says, i thought you would give it to me.

I told you how much it was going to be. i told you and you agreed. you
told me to buy you a headlamp and you would pay me.

hii!!! she says, but i am a mother with children.

yes. and I'm Bill Gates.

and then it was the bean leaf hay -- i negotiated a deal in which i
payed a certain amount for each.

but, no, you are a nasara. you are rich, he says.

you will pay more.

but no! we agreed on the price! you agreed to transport it!

but my mother is sick.

you must pay me more.

i need to fix my roof. i need to hire the contractor today.

you need to pay me today.

no! i said, i will pay you the agreed upon price AFTER you deliver it to
my house.

he shakes his head dissapprovingly,

back and forth

you are rich

he says.

i am a father with children.

yes. and I am Bill Gates. or you can call me Angelina Jolie. Or
Obama. Or Madonna. or no, because we are in Africa, lets go with Bono.

I mean, i must be a millionaire.

I am from America.

so, finally, i give him the money. I may or may not see the hay

and then it is the mango

the little burned girl, the 13 year old with her face burn.

who i already gave all my silver sulfadine to

she calls me over

she is under a mosquito net, away from the flies, under the trees.

she is peeling a green mango

go buy me a mango she says

this one is green

no. no, i will not buy you a mango.

go buy me a mango

and then a woman calls me over.

give me money

she says

my child needs zinc oxide for his face.

the face was scabbing from some eruption or another

go buy it for me

i do not have the money.





I do not have the money.


white person. nasara. rich person. American. Affluent.

my demographic has historically and even presently been the one that
does the labeling. the one that puts others and even ourselves into our
boxes. redneck. southern. yankee. Indian giver. black. poor. rich.

and I have not really had to work to fight to raise myself up and out of
a label. to defy it. to ignore it. to obliterate it. to change it.
to succumb to it.

but when people view you as a label - they don't view you as a person.

you are not unique, you do not have feelings, you are not someone which
something can be learned about.

when you are labeled,

they already know.

maybe they met one person like you one time.

and you are the same as that person.

and you both are the measure of a nation. of a color.

and it doesn't feel good.

it might make some people smile,

the middle-class white girl finally getting discriminated against.

finally finding out what it is like to be in a box

finally finding out what it is to be befriended for others personal gain.

but it still made me cry.

it is a hard thing - working with people that assume you have
everything. that you can and should give them anything, because why
couldn't you? the fact that you are white and you are working in
Africa, and you have a nice phone, and you can fly home when things get
hard, that fact alone means you have everything.

everything is all in how you define it.

do i have more?

almost certainly.

should i give more?


but it is a hard balance - trying to be kind to people, to give of your
resources to those that have nothing - to balance that duty while trying
not to be taken advantage of.

When people like me are burned too many times, we want to stop giving.

when too many people assume that just because we are white it is our
duty to pay for all their expenses, we want to stop giving.

and then we tend to guard our finances and our souls a little tighter.

and then a little tighter

until it is too tight,

until we miss those truly in need because we do not want to be taken
advantage of.

and i have ALWAYS tried to err on the side of giving too much.

of giving to every bum on the street, knowing that of the 5 that go buy
alcohol, 2 of them might have been really hungry and really sad

thats what i do.

and i do it here too.

and should i give in silence? yes.
and should i give not expecting or needing thanks? yes

and is it my duty to give of what i have to the less fortunate, yes.

but it just gets so hard.

it is so so so hard.

should i feel guilty about where i come from, where i am, and where i'm

should i feel guilty about the money i spend? the money I will make?

should i live in poverty?

what is a good balance between giving enough and taking care of my
dreams and my soul??

because, to american standards, i am not rich.

i have barely any money in the bank

i have one tiny credit card.

all my savings will be spent flying out when i go.

i will have to scramble to get another job ASAP and rely on the grace of
friends until then.

I am not rich.

or am I??

and if I had nothing? would i be the same?

do people ask out of desperation?? does desperation make it okay to be
just plain rude?

but its okay to be rude to white people. its okay to cheat them at
every turn. to lie to them, to charge them more, to take advantage of
them. because they are white - and that means they can take it and that
means they can give it and they will go one day like all the others
before them so why not get what you can while you can???

but then i'm generalizing too. I'm acting like all tchadians are like
this. and they are not. my family is gracious, giving, grateful. so
are others I know.

we all need to be careful not to put each other in boxes

to take off the labels that exist only in our minds

to erase the invisible lines

and to treat each person with respect, as someone new and unique, some one.

I am not a country, a history, a statistic.

and I need to realize that no one else is either.

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