Said the girls or should I say, my former friends.
I grew up in a poor neighborhood from age twelve until the time I left home to live on my own after college. I loved my time in the neighborhood (after I had got used to the poverty). I had a lot of friends and plenty of things to do/ we were great at entertaining ourselves. We would, among other things, play hide and seek and netball using homemade balls such as one below:
Retrieved from this link.
Life went on swimmingly until when we started hitting puberty, and playing was not as entertaining for some of my friends. Some fell pregnant and got married (which was common), others just stopped school and waited to get marriage (also common), others failed seventh grade and dropped out of school (common) and only two of my friends continued school and went to high school as I did. Only three much older girls had gone to high school before me.
Communication with the majority of my friends ceased at this time with some friends though we saw each other daily. This did not bother me because I had that elusive indoor loo in my sight.
I started hearing some girls saying that I was proud because I was ‘educated’ and thought I was better than them. I was only in tenth grade and I knew I was surely not educated. They never approached me directly about my perceived showing off but talked among themselves when I was within earshot. They tried to draw me into fights but I was not interested for a variety of reasons:
a) I did not want to get scars which I would carry all my life.
b) I am not strong physically so I knew that I would be beaten senseless. I would rather my so-called enemies thought I was weak and not have me prove them right [I am clever, see? :)]
c) People would laugh at me for my cowardice for a short while, but I knew they would forget it soon.
d) I told myself that even winners get scars from fights, therefore see point (a) above.
I just ignored the girls which infuriated them further.
I was coming home from school one day, turned a corner into a small patch of bush and what did I see? About ten people ranging from roughly six to fifteen years old were blocking the road. They were so organized that they stood according to their height! I knew something was up but was not sure what. I continued walking without changing my pace. The older girls started saying that they would “beat Zambian Lady and teach her a lesson. A beating will stop Zambian Lady from thinking she is better than the less educated girls”, etc etc.
My clever gene (I really wish I had one!) kicked in. I quickly went through my options and realized that it would be silly to try and go past this strange roadblock from the big girls’ side, so I went around the little child and continued on my way. The big girls started clapping and shouting that they had won since I had had to deviate into the bush so that they didn’t beat them. I found this interesting because there had never been a disagreement between the girls and I. I still don’t understand why they thought I was showing off when all I did was continue with school. That was my choice and stopping school was theirs.
Those girls won for just a season. They were joyful about their victory for just a season, but I won in the long run as far as I am concerned. I got what I had aimed for – granted, I could have done better, but I did get what I set out to get and do.
The moral of the story for me? Just live your life the way you want to in spite of opposition as long as you are not hurting yourself or anyone else.