My African Initiation | Teen Ink

My African Initiation

November 14, 2008
By Anonymous

I was a white sheet in a sea of darkness. Even worse, I was a scared white sheet in a sea of laughing and pointing darkness. I stuck out like a sore thumb, and not just because I was white, but because I was alone, 18, and utterly ridiculous looking. I was frustrated by the points and the taunts that I was receiving, but, in all fairness, I would have laughed at myself too.
My face was bright red due to the fact that I had just realized how extremely overheated I was and perspiration dripped from my face as steadily as droplets from a leaking faucet. My brown curly hair had become a giant mass of triangular frizz due to the immediate change in humidity levels and my attempts to force it into a ponytail only made me look all the more ridiculous. My sweatpants were 2 sizes too big as I had borrowed them from my mom in a last minute attempt to have something comfortable to wear on the plane, and my sweatshirt looked stupidly small in comparison. I looked like I had dressed myself in the dark. In my mother’s closet.
I was alone and I looked like an idiot.
The stares began to get worse now as my momentary pause in the middle of the tiny airport was simply earning me more onlookers. I attempted to move out of the way when I realized why I had stopped so abruptly in the first place. Having never been to Africa before, or anywhere for that matter, I had packed everything I could possibly ever need in the hopes that I would be ready for anything. Yet here I was, surrounded by tacky 4th grade luggage, alone, with cone hair and about ready to cry. I could not move out of the way because I could not manage my luggage, so I was forced to attempt a type of holding-on-to-one-bag-while-trying-to-kick-some-of-the-other-pieces-out-of-the-way-while-keeping-an-eye-on-all-of-my-luggage-so-it-doesn’t-get-stolen-while-quickly-running-back-and-forth-to-transfer-all-of-my-bags type of maneuver. It didn’t look good. The process of attempting to transport my bags to a different spot attracted even more of a gathering as I now looked as though I was performing some sort of odd ritual dance by running back and forth, throwing my arms up into the air and kicking all over the place. I was getting laughed at and I couldn’t even blame them. Even worse, I didn’t know how to ask them to stop. I was surrounded by people that I couldn’t communicate with but it was obvious they all had no problem communicating to each other how ridiculous I looked. I found myself surrounded by mutterings of, “majununi mzungu”, or “crazy white-person.” I had become a crazy white person. I was the top of my high-school graduating class, had been accepted to a handful of highly prestigious Ivy League schools, was a member of every club imaginable and a model child and all of this had only led me to the title of “crazy white-person.” My transformation was complete. I guess everyone has their own “welcome to the world” moments, and I suddenly realized that I was living mine.

The author's comments:
My sophomore year of high school I did travel to Africa and lived there for 4 months volunteering in an orphanage. This was not quite my initiation to the continent, but it was pretty close. I always wanted to write what that moment felt like, only in a more humorous fashion, and this is what resulted.

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