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For the most part, my brothers and sisters looked up to me for being so brave to leave all that we had known as comforts in the village—childhood friends, food from the farm, parents, grandparents and extended family. Funny though, how ones’ naivety often gets mistaken for bravery. In my early youth, I remember my grandmother holding my face in her hands, getting down to look at me eye level, and saying sternly almost as if she was trying to convince me of its truth,
“Oba me baing” or in English, “You’re my brave little man.”
If it wasn’t for a specific memory where I can recall being completely terrified as a young boy, I could honestly say that I never knew what it was like to be scared as a child. My grandmother had left me alone in her hut while she went to call on some of her friends. It was night time and in the village, with no electricity, everything gets pitch black around six in the evening. Unless there is a fire burning or a lantern, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Although, I’m not convinced a lantern would have done much to calm my fears at the time.
I lay there still, on a hard bed made of bamboo and tried to close my eyes long enough to forget I was all alone in the pit of darkness. But the slightest noise would roar as a lion in my imagination and before I knew it I was running as hard as I could in the direction I thought my grandmother had gone. No turning back and stumbling over sticks and stones on the path, I was thankful that at least the distant moon was lighting my way. I really don’t know how I thought it would be possible to catch up with my grandmother, but my terror was pushing me to go faster than I’d ever gone before and it was my grandmother who caught my arm to stop me, as I had been running so fast, I almost passed her on the road.
“Hey little man, where you going?” her friends chuckled and murmured in dialect about my bravery to venture out on my own in effort to catch up to my grandmother.
But again, this seemed to have been another instance in which my actions were personified as something completely opposite than what I was actually feeling on the inside. That memory must have been a turning point though, the point at which I was convinced it was more manly to be brave, even if my bravery really was just fear masked by innocence – shadowed by pretentions to make my grandmother proud—I was a brave little man and I would prove it next time.