All the above pictures were taken on the same day, in the space of 6/8 hours. Is anyone else excited at the transformation like myself? I forgot something insignificant in wum, but I am threatening to do 20 hours on the road to go get it… wish I could afford that now, just so I see my hero again and give him the pictures he asked me to develop, and thank him from the bottom of my heart from making my short stay so fulfilling. Also would have loved to get him a pair of snickers or take him one of mine.
Dear world, to wrap up this week, I share 5 lessons I learnt from my interraction with Erico:
There is so much to people than meet the eye… how many times do we need to read or hear this I wonder. Anyway, people are different and some take prejudice seriously and go with the general consensus that ‘a fool will always be a fool’. I am so happy I courted Erico and that he warmed up to me so much and agreed to go bathe and come back so we could go around. He talked about so many things and such wisdom from his mouth oh my God;
Erico for example told me that now when people laugh at him he says to himself ‘they are laughing at their own stupidity’. Those were his words, I didn’t want to ask him if he goes or went to school. I don’t think he does but the bottom line also is you don’t need to go to school to acquire wisdom. Erico told me when he just got to the village he was always angry and fighting especially when he felt or saw children and adults alike mocking him. The fights landed him into so much trouble because he was often beaten by the numbers or stones thrown at him and he had to run and hide home and not want to go out again. Gradually, his mentality changed and he keeps to himself but doesn’t fight back if laughed at;
The ‘fool’ may know something or somewhere you don’t and that could be your saving grace. I could have asked around for the direction to say the lake or the shoe mender, and I could have been ‘scamed’ or taken to a bush and assaulted… these are extreme examples but am sure you can imagine. Now it costs me next to nothing to court Erico and there I was with a warm friend, a guardian and so much information;
Accept your limitations in life and spare yourself head and heartaches. Erico told me that he knew what was expected of him by his grandmum everyday, and he knew that those were his responsibilities because he could not do much more. He couldn’t go to ‘big school’ (I marvelled at his expression), nor work any money. So grandma expected him to wash the dishes, clean the house and compound and go fetch water. He loved doing those and in return he was very grateful for the food he ate everyday;
Don’t take things for granted, it could have been worse. I mean when you see the man who doesn’t have his four limbs, or you see some picture like that of the famine ravished child who was been ‘eyed for a meal’ by a nearby vulture, how can you take anything for granted? Now, some will laugh at Erico and call him a ‘fool’ (probably thinking to themselves they are lucky neither them nor theirs are ‘fools’). Erico told me he was happy to be living with his grandma and able to eat everyday – even he didn’t take things for granted. He was maybe luckier than Tangatapan who lived in the market or motor park or wherever night met him, and carried his luggage on him. And then we want to whine at the weather?
Dear all, I learnt so much and was so touched by my friend and Hero Erico. Such incidents keep me grounded, more humble, modest and simply so grateful for life.
Please, you wanna share any insight?
Wishing us all a splendid weekend and lots of such in life.
Hello world, I met Erico during my last trip to Wum in the North West Region of Cameroon, and made him my Hero for my short stay there. That sub division made international headlines in August 1986 when the lake Nyos erupted killing over 1700 people and so much livestock… I wanted to go see that lake and gladly Erico knew just how we could get there. He negotiated for motor bikes to take us there and back. So this is the ‘so called Fool’ right?
Erico showed me round the market and took me to his grandmum’s stall. He had already been there when he showered and wore his Jersey, and had told all who cared to ask that he had a new friend called Marie from Douala – who had bought his nice jersey earlier on. His grandmum gave me some groundnuts in appreciation, and I was so touched. All the neighbours smiled at us that day and Erico was visibly proud of himself. I wish he keeps his glow mindful of the challenges he has to overcome daily.
Erico did keep his glow for all my stay there. During the wake keeping ceremony, he actually danced when I asked me to show me his styles. You see the guy behind Erico, that is Tangatapan another mentally challenged. He had been dancing to any music played since I got there but he preferred to keep to himself and barely answered my greetings. Erico had earlier made fun of his dancing and so had to show me how much better he could dance. Another thing is that Tangatapan refused to share a meal with Erico and Ndolo, insisting on wanting his own pan. Maybe that’s why there’s a pan to his name? Anyway, Erico did eat with Ndolo just like he had eaten with me that afternoon, and as I said he sounded so wiser than his age nor circumstances.
Dear World, remember I said I was gonna be away last week right? Yes, I went to a village called Wum in the northwest Region of Cameroon. I mention this village because over 20 years ago it was the scene of one terrible disaster. Will bring that up in another post.
Now, over to my Hero Erico. Some call him a fool. I wonder who is the bigger fool, cause after 8 or so hours with Erico, and all the places we visited and discussions we had and the transformation I saw in his ‘spirit’, I am humbled – simple – Amen!!!
When I got to the compound, I noticed Erico sitting isolated under a tree. Guess he’s used to. I decided to befriend him, and offered that we share a meal. He was so excited.
Now, while am sitting there with Erico, a lady comes up to us and ask me if I know Erico before. I say well I know him now and ask why, she says because he’s a fool and may embarass me. Ha!!! I let her go. Then a second man comes up, and asks me if I don’t want to go eat indoors; I ask why (like I don’t know he’s jealous of Erico), he says well it’s more comfortable indoors. I say no thanks.
You see people, their envy fuels me up with motivation to make Erico my Hero and star of my short stay. And Erico knows that village inside out. He was abandoned with his paternal grandma by his mum when he was 5 years old because she couldn’t cope with such a foolish child. I taught Erico how to take a picture and see his shot below. He was so excited:
He ignored the kids laughing at him when he initially fumbled with the camera, and am so impressed with his improvement. He took me to the market, and the infamous lake and talked about so much. I will be sharing more of those in p2. I end this with another more glowing picture of Erico taken a few hours later. I got him that jersey from the market as a souvenir.
This is the first part of my short series of a personal experience with one of the marginalized in our society – the ones we stigmatize because of their physical appearance or mental disposition which apparently is not ‘normal’ and so they should be shunned. One ‘Christian’ lady (she wore their uniform) actually made a gesture like they ( yes Erico’s 2 other friends Ndolo and Tangatapan also became my friends) were smelling and should leave the place.
So my e-world, what do you think of such experiences and different perspectives?
Richie looks at the Selfie and asks who is that cool guy there? He tells me he still thinks he’s got some looks and I add some style too. You see Richie’s necklace? And oh his Ray ban sunglasses? Richie says if I come to South Carolina he’s gonna buy me a pair. Oh, ok let’s start from the beginning right?
On a probably once in a life time opportunity, after testing of this infamous jetlag, and getting ready for Uncle Sam’s, I am hoping to zoom across at least 5 states. After MD and VA in three days, it was time to head south to NC. It was at the Megabus at the Union Station, that I met Richie. On the queue, Richie appeared somewhat nervous, and to some he could pass for a guy not worth befriending. Well, as it turned out, he landed in the seat right next to me. And to say I had first chosen a seat below, before changing my mind to seat on the top? And what to make of the fact that Richie had missed his morning bus and had had to pay a 5 usd fee to reschedule?
Well, I love people of his age, and Richie’s initial ‘stern’ look wasn’t going to deter me from striking a conversation. He carried a little box and my curiosity asked to see what was inside. ‘Oh my Clarinet he goes, it’s older than you are young lady…’ Richie says that clarinet bring him so much joy, it is simply his therapy and call to pursue to joy…
Richie the encyclopedia
Richie like most people his age, know way more than you can find in some text books. I love listening to them and I think they love having me pay them that attention. Even my boss’s mum often asked after that african miss! Richie told me where we were headed is known as the Deep South. He told me about his 3rd fore-generation who were slaves. Told me what ever he knew of the American Revolution, the Civil war and sure about life in general. ‘Oh Baby, I had a full one going he goes … ‘ ( He called me baby and I smiled in fond remebrance of some other pops I had met in Brugges Belgium). He told me his best hero was a man named John Brown, and this got me looking up this brave American Abolitionist I had never heard of. In short, Richie was good company and the bus ride was cool. I wish I were actually going all the way to deep south Carolina…
In Richmond, Richie bought me a coke and two walnut bars, and told me some story about the town. Richie made me laugh so hard when he told me his 100+ home in South Carolina, had been declared a historical site, but he hadn’t qualified for the grant to renovate the fast dilapidating bungalow. He said “Oh sure the house qualified, but not me…”. Richie is a hero to me, having lived in several states and held several various jobs…
Dear gentle readers and followers, I am glad to share some highlights of my US adventure. Another lesson here for me which I am confirming, is that some first looks may be deceiving or even revealing. Richie said I don’t talk like a lawyer, and could woo a tough guy. Wow, anyway I have worked in a prison for six months and I did woo Billy the Bully!
My Heros and Heroines are from all walks of life. All those who have touched my life in one way or the other. I know I can’t do a post of them all, but I take great pleasure in doing posts especially of those who aren’t obvious to the ‘conventional’ eye.
One of such people who touched my life and thaught me further how to look beyond appearance and listen beyond ‘Hearsay’, is Billy the Bully!I didn’t give him that name, he got it from the wardens in the jail where I met him.
In my search for more ‘meaning and purpose’, I volunteered to work in the central prison of my city for 6 months. Yes, that was one big episode of my life I’ll never forget. I went there often twice a week or even more, as the circumstances warranted. I was already a lawyer, and I took on several pro bono cases especially of those awaiting trial, even if only to help speed or unblock administrative procedures so they could finally be tried. I recall the very first case I won as a pupil lawyer was one of these. On weekends, I visited there and equally attended Sunday mass with the inmates when I could.
It was on one such Sundays that a guy burst into the small cramped and tight air something turned chapel for the occasion. He had a dagger and was hyper furious. I mean he had the ‘ready to kill’ redness and everybody was scared.
Billy ranted and thundered, and then he threatened and dared anyone to look him in the eye. I didn’t understand much of what he said, but I dared after ‘praying and meditating’, ‘dare to look him in the eye’. I was sitting in his direct view and you could tell I was from the ‘outside’. I not only dared to look him in the eye, I dared to stand up and take a step ahead while keeping eye contact. Mass went on and people were starring at me like I sure had gone ‘lun’. Billy was taken by so much surprise that he just dropped the dagger and ran out. I picked it up, turned around and gave it to some warden who was also there attending that mass!
After mass, I had the opportunity to meet Billy again in some corner of the prison yard where he normally took refuge and kept to himself and his ‘likes’. Weekends are also ‘visiting’ days in our jails and so the main yards are always very busy. Despite the warnings from the wardens and the plea from the ‘pastoral team’ I had come there with, I went to sit down next to Billy. I kept my head down in ‘submissiveness’ but I refused to leave when he didn’t even look at me for the next 10 minutes.
And then Billy started to talk – oh rather rant. He told me the world was against him, proof is that even his own family had abandoned him in there. He told me of what he was accused of and yes told me he’d done pretty much of those stuffs. He added that not only was he under so much influence then, but he belonged to a gang masterminded by some big shot in the army. I remember that period when there was a national curfew and the era was coined “commandement operatrionnel” seemingly to dish out and wipe out the alarming insecurity in the city. Billy must have ‘done much more than was expected’ and now he was serving a 15 year sentence.
Friends with Rascals
Billy wasn’t the first of such rascals I was becoming friends with. I am one in the sense that others could easily qualify me as such depending on when they meet me. Yet I always say that it is not only those behind those physical bars who are rascals and bandits and all. I became Billy’s friend and he would mise and call me even if only to rant or check on my boys. I visited him some Saturdays and brought him a bar of soap or whatever I could afford. When I showed up and asked to see Billy, the wardens would chorus who? the Bully? You see his label had another star. A rascal/monster and now a bully. Well, Billy told me didn’t care because being all that even provided ‘protection’ in that jungle.
I did become friends with several others there too during that period and did help many with my time, their case files and materially to my ability. Often times, I left there drained and in tears. There is so much pain, suffering, rejection, shame, stigma and all in that place. Even the air in there is different.
I say to this date that two categories of people I think are abandoned most by either their families and society, are the mentally ill/challenged and the prison inmates. Especially back home, this can be proven to beyond reasonable doubt.
Why is Billy my Hero?
As I earlier said, I further learnt to look beyond appearance, especially in a place as notorious as the ‘New Bell Central Prison’ in Douala – Cameroon. You tube this prison or google it and you’ll get more info. I learnt and could listen beyond ‘Hear Say’. Yes I risked a lot and put in so much.
To tell you some more, my ex husband even claimed that I had an affair with Billy! Oh Ayo had I suffered!
Dear gentle readers and followers, I would forever be grateful for that ‘internship’. I don’t know about you but I guess there is so much wrong in our world today than all the labels and categories we hear and see, as well as all those people ‘acting’ right?
My Ss Hero showed up to pick me just as l had expected He had this fragile and yet empathetic stare He stood by me while my mental challenges poked from several angles He tried his best and l add took the test l however thought he was so much of the puzzle He thought l was so full of over-reactions and non-adaptability I then realized that wasn’t the fairy tale I was dreamy of I don’t know if I’ll ever be fooled to dream that dream again! In the meantime my Ss Hero didn’t throw me out He let me be while I faced more of me He supported me on while I made the decision to quit Yeah he did help me lots as I moved out I now affirm that there’re surely several left turns before the Right And yet my Ss Hero almost made me think the this turn looked Right! I guess you don’t find many of such even among the stars One of such exception to the general rule? And so my Ss Hero, for all you taught me, for all you did for me, for all you didn’t or couldn’t, the joy, pain, and all you let me do and be; and oh for our last supper: I’ll for ever be grateful My Ss Hero you’ll always be!
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