In a few weeks, I will be leaving the US and returning to Sierra Leone. When I left 26 years ago, I was a scared girl of 15 who wanted to be a doctor. Not just any doctor, I specifically wanted to be a doctor who would keep women from dying in childbirth.
I vividly remember the stories …
” It is God’s will, he is young. He will marry another woman to care for his motherless child.”
The hushed whispers …
“Don’t worry, he was the firstborn. First born babies die sometimes, that is just the way it is.”
The parables …
“When a woman becomes pregnant, she places the first nail in her coffin.”
At age 10, I was so scared that my mother would die when she went into labor with my little sister, that I snuck into the car. Surely, if I was with her at the hospital, she wouldn’t die, would she?
I left home, determined to become a doctor. I left family, comfort, teenage bliss, and journeyed to the unknown.
As I pack my belongings, my experiences, my dog, and my family, I again journey into the unknown, as I unpack tears of sadness and tears of happiness.
Tears of sadness because again I leave my home to travel to my home.
Tears of happiness because I am realizing that dream, that childhood impossibility – I have become that doctor who will work to keep women from dying in childbirth. That doctor who will work to remove nail after nail from that coffin.
Tears of happiness that this has come full circle and that I am going home to do my life’s work.
Africa! My Africa!
Land of the milky waters and the dark forest
Land that when from apart
My heart would not rest
Land of the thundering lions
I hardly can leave alone
In my wake I compare
In my sleep I draw near
My heart bleeds to come back
To rest in thine dusty bosom
To return to my land, my people
Home! My home!
Home of the dirty shanty and the mighty castle
Home where education is sometimes a dream
I had to leave thee my heart doth scream
I want not, but my pen doth call
To seek, To find, to study!
In a land where I am alien, I am unworthy
But wait! I am yet to return to the swamp so muddy
To build, To re-build
For I bestow not my fate on anybody
(Fatu Forna, 1992)