the brand

19 Aug

The following piece was written for this week’s trifecta challenge. Originally I planned to write a fictional story based off my experiences in Ghana, but I ended up with this truthful reflection instead. The views expressed are my own, and are not intended to offend.

BRAND (noun)
3a (1) : a mark made by burning with a hot iron to attest manufacture or quality or to designate ownership
(2) : a printed mark made for similar purposes : trademark
b (1) : a mark put on criminals with a hot iron
(2) : a mark of disgrace : stigma

Word count: 270

Everywhere I went, people called me by the color of my skin. Children would yell out to me, “Obruni!” and I would respond, “Obibini!” White, and black.

We were different. We were separate species, almost. You’d think so by the way the children would stare and, when they got braver, run up and touch or hug my skin. I suppose they wanted to see if it felt the same, this alien skin.

Even adults called me Obruni, or at church, Sister Obruni. It was my name, truer than Chloe and truer than the name I adopted for ease of pronunciation: Gloria.

I tripped, once, and the response was “Watch it, white girl!” followed by a silent conversation.
A man held up his plastic bag containing drinking water, bought for the equivalent of five cents. I nodded, sheepish, and he poured it over my skin, darkened by mud. I watched as the man restored that awful brand of my relative wealth.

I was branded to forever be a part of cyclical imperialism, a naive but well-meaning volunteer. Questions and accusations flooded my mind. How dare I try to step in with my WHITE, and lead children and adults both to believe that they need WHITE to fix their problems? How dare I spend more on the flight out there than on the Ghanian people themselves? How dare I give money to the beggar children on the beach, setting them up to starve when the next WHITE can’t or won’t give likewise?

And yet, many want my cursed brand.

To read more about my experiences in Ghana, you can read my travel blog I used to communicate with my family while I was there: Chloe’s Ghana


20 Responses to “the brand”

  1. Quickstepp August 19, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    Nice reflection and what an experience. Please write more about it.

    • chloeaevm August 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

      Thank you, I appreciate the comment.

  2. jannatwrites August 19, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    What an emotional experience. The last paragraph made me pause. Others may not carry on the help, but at least what you made a difference.

    • chloeaevm August 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

      It was. Thank you very much for your comment.

  3. Brian Benoit August 19, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

    Wow, incredible! This has the immediacy and pace of fiction (and is really well written to boot), which makes it all the more amazing that it’s also true. Really well done!

    • chloeaevm August 19, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

      Thank you for such kind words! 😀

  4. Ivy (Mommy Dourest) August 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    This is an amazing piece. The last paragraph is quite thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  5. Jennifer Dillon August 20, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    I wonder how much of what we think of ourselves as branded by, others actually see? Thought provoking piece.

    • chloeaevm August 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      That is a very intriguing question, thanks for bringing it up!

  6. debseeman August 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    What a powerful piece. Very very good.

  7. lovelylici1986 August 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    Very interesting!
    A friend of mine went to The Gambia and had an incredible experience. She had to get used to being the minority and sort of a spectacle very quickly. That must be something!
    -Alicia Audrey

    • chloeaevm August 20, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

      Thanks, Alicia!
      I think it’s very interesting how various countries and cultures acknowledge minorities. I lived in Japan as a white girl for a good chunk of my school years. I would get lots of stares but rarely would a stranger mention my race at all (to my face). My short time in Ghana was quite different! But I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel there; like your friend’s, my experience was really incredible. Thanks again for the comment 🙂

  8. Draug419 August 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    This stirs up lots of emotions. Great job.

  9. steph August 21, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Very moving. I’ve traveled quite a bit. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered the don’t ruin it for other travelers lecture when I would hand the equivalent of a dime or a quarter to beggar children or overpay a guide, a waiter or housekeeping staff by an extra dollar or two. To me it is the equivalent of a photographer getting the ultimate shot at the expense of a life he or she could have altered in some real way. Great post. Stirred up quite a bit for me, obviously. 🙂

    • chloeaevm August 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

      Thank you for your comment, Steph. I’m glad it resonated with you 🙂

  10. trifectawriting August 22, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    I lived two years in Kenya, and this really resonated with me. The white is something you really can’t escape. Thanks for linking up with this insightful piece.

    • chloeaevm August 22, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

      Ah, that must have been such an experience! I’m glad it meant something to you. Thank you 🙂

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