It's all a matter of color.

Dear sister, 

Do you remember when we could drive to Namalu standing up in the back of the red pick-up truck?

Back then, the roads were bad always, but when they were somehow good, we could fly, leaning our chests against the hot cab of the truck and spreading our arms wide, feeling infinite.

Do you remember the piles of yellowed tomatoes and red onions? The heaps of white cabbages and dusty rows of grey cassava? 

In town, all eyes were on us as the red truck parked in the red dirt and we jumped out the back, firmly holding our lasos in place, silver bangles covering our white wrists like tribal armor.

At times, we felt like celebrities, strolling through the market, knowing we were being watched. Other times we felt like pure locals, blending in with the crowd--orange, pink, green--and bargaining for a kilo of brown sugar until the price was fair. As we bartered, gold mndazis fried over small yellow fires that peppered the side of the road, lacing our hair with the smells of burning oil and wood smoke in a hundred degree heat. The air stiffly vibrating with flies.

Do you remember the drives back from town? The clay road twisted through sorghum fields, and around the blue mountain, taking us north. The sun, white and hot, beat down on us all, black and white, as we sweat and clung to the back of the cab. 

We knew, even then, that no matter how much the red dirt and clear blue skies felt like home, we could never fully belong. We tried: holding children in dirt; buildng fires to cook; plucking chickens to eat; accepting nagwe to drink; learning the right words to sing. 

But we couldn't. Not fully. Oh, don't blame me for saying it, sister dear, there is no bitterness in it, and saying nothing at all will not change the fact. 

The fact is this:
It was all a matter of color.



  1. Wow, thanks.... this is a lot of how living in China feels. Because there you are always a foreigner.

  2. Kate, that is beautiful. You are such a gifted writer. Your (true) stories transport me to a different place.


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