an exile who flees for safety
At the time, we were living as
refugees, driven from our home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo because we belonged to a minority tribe, the Banyamulenge.
marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity
We knew one another
intimately, like family.
kill a large number of people indiscriminately
The men seemed to think they were on a mission from God to
The sound of rain was always loud in the tent, as the raindrops
pelted the tarp like little torpedoes.
It had not begun to rain, after all: The tent had been
doused in kerosene.
marked by keen caution and watchful prudence
I stayed a few steps behind,
come into view indistinctly, often threateningly
The shadows of the men
loomed in the doorway.
kill in large numbers
I emerged in the
decimated camp, standing for a moment, frozen.
a large knife used as a weapon or for cutting vegetation
I saw men with guns,
the territory in an administrative district of a nation
My parents grew up in these towering mountains, the Hauts Plateaux, in a
province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo called South Kivu.
charmingly simple and serene
But today when I see pictures of the region, known as Minembwe, it looks like the most
idyllic place on earth, with lush, leafy mountaintops scraping the clouds and miles and miles of green.
produced or growing in extreme abundance
But today when I see pictures of the region, known as Minembwe, it looks like the most idyllic place on earth, with
lush, leafy mountaintops scraping the clouds and miles and miles of green.
cause to be interested or curious
intrigued by the idea of an educated woman.
money brought by a woman to her husband at marriage
To arrange a wedding in my culture, the man’s family gives the woman’s family a
dowry, usually a number of cows in exchange for the woman’s hand.
a vaguely specified social event
The two married in a low-key
affair in a church, more like a business arrangement than a romantic wedding, although my mother’s bridesmaids did pamper her in the days beforehand, slathering her with lotions, making sure she looked beautiful.
treat with excessive indulgence
The two married in a low-key affair in a church, more like a business arrangement than a romantic wedding, although my mother’s bridesmaids did
pamper her in the days beforehand, slathering her with lotions, making sure she looked beautiful.
refined or imposing in manner or appearance
My parents made a striking pair of newlyweds, both tall and good-looking, my mom with a
stately, confident air, and my dad, soft-spoken, gentle, and sincere, with an easy smile and a long, straight nose.
avoid speaking to or dealing with
My mother had a very difficult time in those early years of marriage; she was a teenage girl,
ostracized by the adults around her.
characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination
My tribe’s migration came amid the time of European colonialism, and life was violent and
turbulent across the region, as Africans were seized as slaves and forced into hard labor.
compete for something
vying for power would come after my people to get them to fight for one side or another, and chaos reigned.
So many of my people today are
languishing in refugee camps, belonging to no country, always in limbo.
the state of being disregarded or forgotten
So many of my people today are languishing in refugee camps, belonging to no country, always in
done or made using whatever is available
He taught me to play soccer with his friends, using
makeshift balls made from wadded-up plastic bags and rubber bands.
She also had a
quirky sense of humor and loved to clown around; I remember her cracking up at fart jokes during dinner.
an exclusive circle of people with a common purpose
She and her friends often got into gossipy tangles, and she was always in a cool
small area set off by walls for special use
Chris would often take me to a little
kiosk down the street, where a man sold things like matches, candles, and candy.
devise or invent
We shared girly things too, like our collection of soft fabric dolls that we would dress with outfits we
concocted from cloth remnants.
a piece of cloth left over after the rest has been used
We shared girly things too, like our collection of soft fabric dolls that we would dress with outfits we concocted from cloth
having no definite form or distinct shape
Our dolls were lumpy and
amorphous, fun to cuddle up with in bed.
a loud harsh or strident noise
We went to sleep to a
cacophony of crickets, their chirps floating through the windows.
a disease caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite
Dad would sometimes give us shots to prevent
rough to the touch
I was envious of her hair because mine was
coarse and harder to maintain.
showing spirit and courage
I was more stubborn and
feisty, like my mom.
Our skin would look ashy from the residue, a
telltale sign that we had been swimming.
provide a service or favor for someone
oblige, but not without rolling his eyes.
money collected under a tariff
My father was often away in those early years, working at different jobs to support the family, including a job in
customs and immigration at the port.
not famous or acclaimed
Everyone knew her by name, even the most
obscure outcasts—a lady with swollen feet and a cloud of flies around her, a strange drooling man with a lisp.
a speech defect that involves mispronouncing "s" and "z"
Everyone knew her by name, even the most obscure outcasts—a lady with swollen feet and a cloud of flies around her, a strange drooling man with a
move or cause to move in a winding or curving course
On the holidays, scruffy children would
meander into our home, along with homeless people.
deeply rooted; firmly fixed or held
Eventually I came to understand that there was a spirit of unity among my people, a deeply
ingrained sense of helping those less fortunate than you because you could lose your own good fortune at any moment.