As teenager I lived in an American dormitory school in West Africa. It was an international school with people from thirty nations. Now and then we heard noises from outside, but the school ground with the school buildings, the soccer field, the dorm and the teachers’ apartments were enclosed in a protected bubble. The school was located in the middle of the huge capital and protected with tall walls with barbed fence and shards of glass on top, guards and guard dogs. Necessary because we had many embassy children at the school. On one side of the school lay a more wealthy part, with neat rows of nice looking houses. On the other side a poorer part.
Us dorm children were outdoors playing on the soccer field. School was closed, so it must have been an afternoon or a weekend. We played and fooled around as we always did, feeling protected inside the walls. Then the stones fell. Not many, but they came. Over the wall. From the poorer part. The eldest dorm boys took up the hunt together with a few of the guards, but never caught the stone throwers, of course.
It was an episode I remember well. Not because of the stones themselves, and not because anyone were injured. But it was such a strong reminder of two worlds colliding. I am sure the people throwing the stones thought about us as intruders, as wealthy, privileged. They must have been desperate. Us dorm children were mostly missionary children. Our parents lived out in the bush, and we were not wealthy at all, at least not after western standard. Several of our parents worked with aid, health, engineering and so on. But the stone throwers wouldn’t know this. We were never able to talk with them and maybe even try to become friends. I think this is why I remember this. Because I was never able to defend myself against what the stone throwers thought about me, the thought that made them throw stones at me.
As an adult I know it’s impossible to make everyone like you, but as teenager it hurt. And then I think that this is what we people do, all the time. We judge people by appearances to be so and so, be it the clothes we wear, hair colour, skin colour, the American accent or the tall walls with the barbed fence. I also sees now the connection between the stone throwing and the conflict that escalated in this country later this year, when also foreigners were attacked.
If you’re interested in reading about my A-Z blog, see here.