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My Background (Your Host) October 17, 2007 8:33 PM

When I was a preschool child, I lived in a tribal village at the edge of the jungle.  I was not a native and was not brown (always wondered why) but was treated just like part of the tribe.  The native people carried me on their shoulders and welcomed me into their homes at any time of day.  They took me fishing and to gather firewood from the jungle and water from a nearby stream. 

When they had their dance celebrations they made me a colorful grass skirt and painted my face and put feathers in my hair and included me in their dances.  The dances went on all night and I fell asleep in their arms.  I felt so completely loved in the tribal community even though my parents were distant, anti-nurture, and were always pushing me away. 

Then I reached school age and went off to boarding school, all white and western.  I adjusted well.  But I was always puzzled as to why my dearest native friends became irrelevant- I was not to speak of them as fully human.  They were "off topic."  No one wanted to hear about them.  It was as if they no longer existed or were invalid human beings. 

I was so young, I just sadly set them aside in another part of my brain and dutifully did not talk to other white people about my native friends, since they did not want to hear about them.  But every year, I looked forward greatly to seeing them in the Christmas break, and always, they were as warm to me as if I had never left them. 

One year, my parents moved our family to a big city on the Pacific island nation where I lived (Papua New Guinea, made up of hundreds of islands with the main big island shared with Indonesia).  I went to a mixed school there, but there were only white western kids in my class, where I made friends and had a social life. 

But when I got home from school each day, my best friend was waiting for me, Kiusi, (Kee-yoo-see), a native whose mother washed our clothes and whose father did the gardening.  Kiusi was a friend unconditionally, and was sweet, humble, kind, thoughtful, and very endearing to me.  Her sister, Betty, was also my friend. 

When I had my tenth birthday party, I made it a slumber party and invited my white school friends and my two native best friends, Betty and Kiyusi.  My mother said there might be some trouble mixing the two sets of friends but I didn't see why. 

At first my white friends thought that my native friends were there to serve us, and they were happy.  But when they found out that I had invited them as birthday guests on an equal basis, to stay all night, they demanded that I send Betty and Kiusi outside because they refused to sleep with native people in the same room. 

I talked to my mother and she said it wouldn't hurt to send Betty and Kiusi outside to sleep on the porch.  I refused to do so, and all my other party guests said if I did not send them outside to sleep, they would all call their parents to take them home and would leave my party. 

I said, "Go ahead, then, call your parents.  I will not send these two girls outside because they are black."  And that was that.  My western friends huddled in a corner, talking about me in whispers, and pointing to me.  Back at school they never spoke to me again.  But I still had my best friend, Kiusi, and she was a better friend than the rest of the girls all put together. 

I saw a lot of poverty as a child and teen, and could not understand why we had things that others needed but could not have.  I tried to give away whatever I could in the way of food and clothing to those in need, but my mother usually forbade me to "because they can't appreciate nice things."  Yet I saw them appreicating things MORE than us, not less. 

When I graduated from high school, I taught school in the tribal village that had been so good to me as a little child.  I grew to love the people all over again.  The children were like any other children, except that they only ate supper and no other  [ send green star]
 October 17, 2007 8:37 PM

The children were like any other children, except that they only ate supper and no other meals, and were scolded if they did not come home with food in their hand, either fruit or fish. They were cold at night and had no blankets, sheets, pillows, or bedding of any kind.

I taught them to sew clothes and had them help me sew and stuff a pillow with their own native material, Kapok. We planted numerous kapok trees so they could always have pillows.

I worked very hard to persuade my mother to let me give them rolls or cookies at school functions but she would not hear of it. It took me a months to convince my mother to let me do simple medical care to clear up the people's very bad foot infections with hot water and salt soaks, which could dry up a bad infection in 3 days of treatment. I left them almost all my clothing when I went to the US for college, and everybody cried when I left.

I came to the US (a citizen from birth, descended from Benjamin Franklin's grandfather) dedicated to learn about, understand, and stand up for any people group that struggles with other people's inability to see their full humanity and afford them all human rights. Now, 28 years later, this group is a continuation of that commitment in my life.

I raised and home schooled 5 kids, with a rich education of text books and hundreds of library books and videos on African American Civil Rights and resistance to the Nazi holocaust in Europe.

It still frustrates me no end to see society not learning the lessons of discrimination and people abuse. I welcome you all to explore with me all the ways that we are treating some human beings as less than human, and talking about what we can do about it.

This post was modified from its original form on 17 Oct, 20:38

This post was modified from its original form on 17 Oct, 20:38  [ send green star]
anonymous  October 18, 2007 12:39 PM

Thank you, Marie for sharing that very personal story.  It was beautifully written.

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Marie, October 18, 2007 12:43 PM

What an amazing, and moving, experience you've had! I can see you have quite a wealth of wisdom and experience that you bring with you!  [ send green star]
Other cultures may enrich us October 31, 2007 8:52 AM

Thank ou for this wonderful life story. I also had good experiences with native people in Philippines and also in Republic of South Africa. As well in internet... They are much more direct and open hearted. Sometimes they appear less complicated. They do much more on a day by day basis and do not develop consequences of their acts far into future... And this makes them more spontaneous and less anxious - we can learn from this. They thus may appear as less responsible and this is where they need our care. We should seek to learn from each other and keep the riches and throw the poison...  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 October 31, 2007 5:17 PM

HUMILITY (Sri Lanka)

Make a bow, receive a blessing
There is hope for humanity if we learn to bow with love and trust, and to receive blessings. Lalith Gunaratne


Finding Solutions for what's possible
Where scarcity and survival are constant challenges in India, the people there adapt by being creative and innovative. Vijay Mahajan

YOGA (India)

Bend it like a Brahmin
Yoga lends to a harmonious society based on co-operation as opposed to the social model in the West based on competition. Jagdish Parikh


The real social security
The spirit of community provides happiness, support and hope in the poorest of nations. Whereas the West is built upon individualism and materialism. Kimanthi Mutua


One world, many truths
Finding the supreme truth only leads to conflict. Since truth always changes, the Jain religion in India focuses on non-violence. Satish Kumar


Ubuntu for all!
African democracy, called Ubuntu, is focused on including everyone, whereas Western democracy, with its basis in majority rule, divides people and nations. Baffour Ankomah

WORK (Nigeria)

Take the initiative
Asia, Africa and Latin America all host thriving cultures of entrepreneurship where people create work and provide inspiration, whereas the majority of people in the West work for large corporations. Seyi Oyesola


Families first
Single working mothers fall back on their extended family and close friends for help, guidance and support. Nthenya Mule

THE VILLAGE (Tanzania)

Someone looking out for you
The village provides strong community ties that help people get by. Zuhura Sinare Muro


Boost your country's GNH today!
The King of Bhutan introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as opposed to focussing on GPN. This is based on the idea that true development of society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to compliment and reinforce each other.Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley

FOOD (India)

The cradle of local food
Organic, local food is not new to the rest of the world. Farming organically is more profitable and less harmful to the environment. Vandana Shiva

This post was modified from its original form on 31 Oct, 17:20  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 October 31, 2007 11:35 PM

Thank you, Susan!  This is so excellent!  I couldn't find a better way to express the richness of the non-western cultures in the rest of the world.  If only the west would learn these important values, so much could be restored.  I think the loss of these values leads to many western ills such as homelesness, poverty, alcoholism, and violence.  Because the non-western way includes everyone as community instead of bumping people off in competition, the ways you described above are better ways!  What a loss we have in the Western world!    [ send green star]
 November 01, 2007 7:38 AM

Amen.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 November 05, 2008 7:57 PM

I like your tribal friends a lot better than the white people you had to deal with. I really appreciate your insisting on letting your dark-skinned friends sleep in the house. I would have either done that or slept on the porch with them; I believe I would have done it like you did.

I think the villagers were a lot nicer to you than the white people-even though they were poorer. Of course, believing all people are "created equal" and being white myself, I can't knock white people.

I think it makes my world more interesting to have it full of people of different colors and cultures. And I'm really happy that you got to stay in that village where other people were very kind to you as a child even if you were a different color.


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