Sunday, November 15, 2009


"Obruni! Obruni! Obruni!" This what the village children shout at me as I walk to Fetteh. It means "white man." I don't exactly like being addressed as a white man for several reasons, first I am not a man, and second I feel that classifying one by color is harmful whether or not it is intentional. It is not harmful to me, but to them. Some of the rural/uneducated populations still see whites as somehow superior. I assumed that "obruni" had similar connotations as "gringo." In Mexico being called a gringo is a negative term. I learned that obruni actually doubles with the term "cherished one" in most tribal languages here. I still am trying to break some of the kids of the habit of calling me "the white" or obruni. They use it to tell someone that the white is calling, or the white is in need of something, implying that because a white is asking it comes with a sense of urgency. I try to explain how offended someone would be if you called them "the black" or "the white" in America. And its not like they don't know my name...

Meet Lovely. Lovely is a precious three year old girl who recently came to stay at the VOH. She is only here temporarily while a new arrangement is being made for her care. Her mother died when she was very young and she fell into the care of her grandmother. She cried constantly, and the only way her grandmother could get her to calm down was to tell her that obruni would come to catch her if she kept crying. So, whimpering, she would stick two fingers into her mouth to suck on and quiet down shaking in fear of obruni. Needless to say this practice developed quite a fear of obruni. She would even shudder at pictures of white people. When she first arrived she would run away from me, afraid to get near me. Slowly I broke her down, and now she is my friend. She jumps up and down to wave at me whenever she sees me coming, and occasionally falls asleep on my lap in church. I hope that I can do more than overcome Lovely's fear of obruni. I hope that I can bring a message of equality that transcends color and culture to any who still have the remains of colonial ideas.

1 comment:

  1. Chelsea I love your stories! they are so uplifting! thanks for sharing your experiences with us! Miss you!