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Smile and Pretend to be a Fat Man

November 25, 2012

James brought this bird to me a few weeks ago. He had a string tied to its leg and was “walking” it to town.

My mother raised me to read books.  I had a library card before I could either read or write and, though there was never much money, there was always enough for new books.  Reading let me travel places I wasn’t sure I dared to actually go and meet people who scared me as much as they inspired me.  It helped me become the person I am today and gave me the courage to fly away from my life and into Liberia.

As I grew older I found less and less time for books, but when I joined Peace Corps I imagined hundreds of lazy days reading on my porch.  I packed my favorite translation of Anna Karenina because if you can only fit one book in your bag you better make it a big one you don’t mind reading five times.

I haven’t touched it.

Reading has been an elusive and sporadic pastime for me, something I only returned to in the quiet days after Krista left.  I called my mother and told her I felt lost, “Please send books.  Lots and lots of books.”  I needed to hear someone else’s voice.  I needed to borrow someone else’s path for 266 or so pages.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I’d hear or see something that would make it all… make sense.

My mother responded with her usual force and within a month boxes of books were arriving in Sanniquellie.  I packed them on the shelf and thought “well, that’s nice.”  I let life wash back over me and it wasn’t until two weeks ago that I found myself again staring at that shelf.  It had been a rough day.  Probably twenty students were at the house using the classroom and their entitled attitudes were pushing me over the edge.  Kids were screaming.  Not enough people were wearing pants.

That’s the moment Little Bee flew into my life.  I picked it up and never put it down.  I’ve had nonstop lessons, exams, and programs the past two weeks, but I can’t stop thinking about this book.  I read it by candlelight as I lay under my mosquito net at night and I packed it in my bag every time I left the house.  I cried while I drank soft drinks and read it at the green bar.  I heard a voice and followed a path that was at once painfully close and heart wrenchingly far.

I can’t begin to tell you what it’s about.  Even the jacket refuses to do that.  Just pick it up and let it slip through your hands and into your heart.  It helped me rediscover my strength and my purpose, both in Liberia and in my life.

If your face is swollen from the severe

beatings of life, smile and pretend

to be a fat man.

~Nigerian Proverb

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 26, 2012 2:23 am

    Thanks for the book suggestion. Hope I can find it. Have a great week.

  2. blondie permalink
    November 26, 2012 2:35 pm

    A wonderful entry.
    I love how off guard your entries find me, from feeling pain to joy to laughter in your journey.
    “Not enough people were wearing pants” gave me a giggle!

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