She's One Of Us

I had only been in village a few months.  Most of the time, I was the only "tubob", or white person in my West African village. One day, as I was walking from the backyard of the main house, my host fathers youngest son, Mohamadou (3 years old) came running around the corner like the devil was at his heels.  He saw me, screamed my name and threw himself into my arms.  I picked him up and held him while he gripped me and burried his face in my sholder.  My Serehule wasn't that great yet and even so I couldn't really make out what he was saying through the tears, so I went to find his father to ask him to help me find out what was wrong and how to fix it.  His father spoke to him, and they had a little conversation.  Then Ansu started laughing.  When he was done, he translated it for me:

Ansu: What is wrong, why are you scared and crying?

Mohamadou: Tobabs are in the compound.  They were going to get me.  Manda was there.  She will protect me.

Ansu: But Manda is a tubab.

Mohamadou: No she isn't.  She is African like I am.

It turned out that some Spanish workers had come to the village and came into our compound.  They surprised Mohamadou and he was scared and just started running looking for anyone in his family to protect him.  I was the first he saw.  That night, when the "Manda is African" story had gotten around, some of them women asked about it.  It turns out the rest of the children knew this and were surprised the adults didn't.

One little girl, Jompolo who was about 7 or 8 explained it to us all.  She took her arm and my arm and put them next to each other.  She said when I first got there, I was very white.  But now, look, my skin was darkening.  Soon I would be as dark as they were.  Then she turned our arms over and showed the undersides. Both were pale, and closer to the same shade.  She said that this proved that we were the same, since the skin was nearly the same, and soon the rest of me would darken like it was supposed to be.



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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.