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Bad Santa

December 26, 2012


My second Christmas in Sanniquellie started hopeful and quiet enough.  I got up early and went to the market to buy meat for my soup.  The butcher gave me a nice cut of cow meat and, hidden between the fish stalls, I fortuitously found a woman with a pile of frozen chickens.

No one was harassing me.  No one was grabbing me.  No one was calling me white woman.  Perhaps it would be a good day.

I went home and started my preparations, cutting the meat and the pumpkin, cleaning the pin feathers from the chicken.  Then, as I knew they would, things started getting out of hand.

Everyone wanted something and what I had to offer wasn’t good enough.  They wanted money.  They wanted food.  They wanted me to dance for them.  Everyone demanded “gimme my Christmas!” but only one person offered me my own.

Christmas Eve, at about 9:00pm I heard a small voice on my porch.  “RB?  Come outside.  It’s me!”  I opened the door and small Zed shoved $5LD (about seven cents)  in my pocket.  “Merry Christmas, RB,” he smiled in the dark.

Thank god for him.

Having been through this once before I was prepared to take the day in stride and was doing ok until I went to draw water around 5:30.  I was on my second bucket when my neighbor across the street came over.  I greeted him and wished him Merry Christmas.  He just shook his head, “Things are not alright with you and me, Ma Rebekah.”  This was a shock.  I told him I didn’t understand and asked what was wrong.  He proceeded to tell me for half an hour that I had been the cause of a great humiliation for him and his family some two months ago.  I suffered my own great betrayal and his family, like many of my neighbors, was wrongly interrogated and embarrassed.  Then he said I had only made it worse by refusing to give him $150US to bail his wife out of jail (in a wholly unrelated incident).  “You told me you didn’t have it.  I’ve never been to school, but I’m a clever man, Ma Rebekah.  Don’t play with me.”

What is happening?  Why today?  Was it the palm wine talking or was he seriously mad at me?

I finally pulled myself free but as I lugged my buckets to the house, willing my mouth to stay shut, he yelled, “Pray about it, Ma Rebekah.  Pray about it and God will tell you what you need to do for me.  You need to do something for me.”  Then he threw in as an after thought, “What are you cooking?  Bring my own, ya hear?  Bring my own.

It is burning right now,” I hissed under my breath and disappeared into my house as fifteen children swarmed the door screaming for stick candy.  I chunked a fistful in the yard and barked, “Merry Christmas.  Now go, ya hear??

It was true.  My food had all spoiled along with my day as Miaway lashed me with his tongue.

I piled the blackened pots in the corner and poured myself a very stiff drink.  I don’t know how Santa does it, all this quiet, jolly giving to us ungrateful mortals…

I watched a Nigerian show about an angry, crazy, prince until the candles burned down and my battery died.  I really sympathized with him…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrea permalink
    December 26, 2012 5:10 pm

    I’m sorry your Christmas was not very much fun…people around you should understand that your kind heart is a gift everyday. Miss you and love you, friend.

  2. Darryl Dieter permalink
    January 17, 2013 9:21 pm

    Hi Rebekah: I stumbled onto your blog today over lunch at San Francisco State University. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I was a volunteer in Sanniquellie from 1988 until the war. On my second Christmas we drove into town only to find the streets empty and rumors about rebels crossing over from Cote d’Ivoire. Are you still in Sanniquellie? Wow. I have a thousand questions I’d like to pose to you, but I’ll restrain myself. I so empathize with your frustrations. I suppose the frustrations fade and the better memories remain. Good luck to you! Darryl Dieter

    • February 4, 2013 2:13 pm

      Hi Darryl! I am still in Sanniquellie and will finish my second year this summer. We are two in Sanniquellie, both teaching at Central High. Feel feel to email me any and all of your questions at and I’ll do my best to answer them. I was the first two year Volunteer to come to Sanniquellie since you left. There was one Response Volunteer before me but she was here less than a year. I look forward to hearing more from you!

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