Out of Africa

May 29, 2012
By Anonymous

Cary was born in Tripoli, Libya January 22, 1967. She lived with her mom dad and sister as American citizens living in Africa. After living in Tripoli and Asmara, Ethiopia she moved to Dallas for a year and the moved to Lagos, Nigeria. Cary is my mom.
Q: Why was your family living in Africa?
Cary: My father was a Geologist for mobile Oil and so he was over there looking for oil reserves.
Q: How long did you live in Africa?
Cary: We Lived in Africa for a total of almost seven years. We lived for three and a half in Libya and Ethiopia from when I was zero to three. And then we lived in Lagos, Nigeria from 1975 to 1978.
Q: What would you do in you free time?
Cary: We didn’t have television, or telephones, or movies, or any of that. So most of the time the neighborhood kids and I would play games outside, ‘cause it was beautiful weather outside all the time. We played kick the can, we played hide and seek, cops and robbers; those were most the activities we did. We played in the neighborhood. And also in the evening my family did a lot of things together and we played a lot of board games. Like Yahtzee was a big one in our house. We had a lot of family time because we didn’t have television.
Q: What did you know about America while you lived in Africa?
Cary: Well we came to the United States every summer for about two months for vacation and to shop because we needed to buy everything for the year and have it shipped over. So I was pretty familiar with the United States but to me it just seemed like a candy land. We didn’t have all of the stuff in Africa that is available here. It was just one giant consumer fantasy for us. And another thing is Americans who live overseas are a lot more patriotic then Americans that live in America. So when you’re overseas and you see the American flag or hear the National Anthem it’s a lot more moving, you’re so grateful for your country because America is a fabulous country. You really don’t know how wonderful it is until you live in a third world country.
Q: Did the kids you live with also come from America?
Cary: Some of them, we went to an American international school; it was part of the Tacoma Washington School district. It was from kindergarten through ninth grade and after ninth grade you had to go to Europe for boarding school because there was not a high school. Most of the Kids there were from oil companies or state departments. And there were a lot of international students.
Q: How were your friends and school in Africa?
Cary: The kids were very close because it was a small school and it was a small community and there was nothing to do but interact with each other. The school had a lot of after school programs. But the one thing that was difficult was it was a very transient community, most people that lived in Legos were there for two to three years. So people were always coming and always going, so you didn’t build those deep friendships. Somebody was always moving in and always moving out.
Q: Do you consider the schools in Legos harder or easier than in America?
Cary: I would say school was a little more challenging. Since the school was so small it was really based on your more individual level no matter what grade you’re in. Like my sister was in ninth grade when I was in fifth grade and we were both reading out of the same textbook, because English was one of my stronger Subjects and not hers. It was a very individualized program. I liked it very much.
Q: What was happening in Africa while you lived there?
Cary: We had a couple humongous events. When we lived in Tripoli about six months after I was born the six day war started and we just happened to move the day before it erupted. But many of our friends had to evacuate and leave their pets behind, leave everything they owned behind. So we were very lucky.
Also when we lived in Ethiopia Haile Selassie was the emperor and my sister got to meet him when he went to her school and he gave her a gold coin. My parents were very good at giving us as many cultural experiences as Americans were welcomed.
And then when we lived in Nigeria, I believe it was 1975 right down the street from us the president was shot. Not even half a mile from our house by the military. The military over through the Government, it was a coup d’état. That day they closed all the bridges and my dad worked on one island we lived on another were my mother was, and my school was inside the army base on another island. So my dad and a couple of his friends went to the school, when the bridges finally opened, to get the kids out from the school that was being held on the island. And my dad took a machine gun away from one of the guards and the dads stormed the school. And of course they wouldn’t let us out until the crazy American surrendered the gun. But the embassy got involved and it was a huge deal. And my dad was able to get us home. Then there was no school and they set a dawn to dusk curfew, so at night they could look for Dimca the suspect for shooting the president. That went on for several weeks until they found him. I’m sure it was a really scary time for my parents but I didn’t really know what was going on. All I knew is they were having parties every night and we were gathering at people’s homes and climbing over fences cause you couldn’t go outside. We lived on a street with a lot of military people so we kinda hid in our little community. It was fascinating. I was in Third Grade.
Q: What do you think living in a foreign country taught you?
Cary: I think it’s something that I regret not being able to give you kids more of, but having more of a world view really helps you appreciate what you have in America. As much as people complain about America it is still the best country with the most opportunity, it’s the fairest country in the world. And I think you don’t appreciate that, you can’t appreciate that until you live with open sewers no phone, in a city where they spent millions of dollars on traffic lights in the 70’s, and they turned them on for one day. There was so much confusion and the Traffic was at a complete stand still that they shut them of f and never used them again. What I got from that was an appreciation for the abundance in America and the importance of being grateful for that.
Q: What was the fondest memory you had from living in Africa?
Cary: My best memories are of my family in the evenings, together with no electricity, playing cards in candle light and really we had a lot of fun.

Cary moved back the United States with her family to New Orleans in 1978. She lived there and went to Tulane University until she married my dad. They move to New York then to Atlanta and had my brother then moved to Evanston Illinois and then to Park Ridge, Illinois where they had me. As a family we moved to Iowa and then came back to Park Ridge, where we are today.

The author's comments:
This is an oral history i did of my mom while she lived in Africa as a child.

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