Monday, January 7, 2013

Sticks and Stones

Toubab. Toubako. Chinois. Toubahaako.

I can't leave my house without hearing these phrases being yelled at me from every direction. Usually, I let it roll off my back and ignore the immature teenagers, but sometimes it just gets to me. I've been here for over 2 ½ years and being called a foreigner hasn't gotten any easier. Sometimes children yell it because they want to say hi and when you tell them your name, they immediately change to yelling that. Other times, it's said in a derogatory manner and usually the best course of action is to ignore it as to not fuel the fire. There are days where I miss the safety bubble that was village, where anyone who dared to call me Toubab was reprimanded.

Friday was one of those days.

I was walking home for my lunch break when a child kept yelling Toubab at me. I ignored him. After I was a few yards past him, he started to throw things at me. It wasn't until a rock rolled passed me that I realized what was happening. I immediately turn around and he takes off in a sprint. Furious, I turn my attention to another kid, and demand answers. Who was that other kid? What is his name? Where does he live? He wasn't any help. There were three other women around and one of them had the audacity to tell me to forgive the kid. Seriously? So I said “You wouldn't stand for a child disrespecting you, let alone throwing stuff at you, and you want me to forgive him!?” And her response was “yes, he's just a child and he doesn't know any better.” But children turn into adults and if they don't realize that this is unacceptable behavior, then it gets perpetuated from generation to generation.

This is the second time that I've had rocks thrown at me. The first time was after a really long day at a clinic and I called my friend in tears- it was exactly what I didn't need that night. This time around, I had a wonderful morning and was in high spirits, but this immediately changed it. More than anything, my feelings were hurt. No matter what, I will still be a foreigner.

Yesterday, while my friends and I were at a dinner stand, a man comes up to us and asks us for money. He doesn't address any of the 20 men standing around, but hones in on the three white girls. I'm still upset from Friday, so I'm immediately on the defense. I call him out for not asking anyone else and focusing on us because of our skin color. He admitted to it and proceeded to stay around. I appeal to the other people at the stand for assistance in getting rid of the guy, but all I got was a few half hearted attempts. So frustrating.

It's times like these where I wonder what I'm still doing here. Why do I continue to subject myself to verbal abuse? These situations are few and far between, but they cut me to the core. At the same time, all it takes for me to smile is one of my neighborhood children calling my name or a baby grinning toothlessly at me. Life here is stressful and a roller coaster, but in the end, it's worth it.  


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