If I were an African, living in Koza, Cameroon, chances are my name would be Suffrance (named after the ‘suffering’ that my mother experienced while pregnant with me) and I would, at the age of 22 already be one of many wives of a husband who doesn’t do much of anything. He would spend most of his days sitting on the side of the road with his friends playing cards and slowly drinking himself silly with home brewed millet wine while I tended to our house, our millet, corn and peanut fields and took care of our four children, all under the age of 5. Yes, I would have 4 living children but more than likely I would have undergone 6 or more pregnancies, and I would be lucky that my four remaining children have survived thus far. My first born probably would have died at the age of 7 when he was bitten by a snake and my third, probably would have died at the age of 2 when she got a severe case of cerebral malaria/polio/tetanus/typhoid/cancer..... your pick.
Most likely my day would begin at 4:30 when I would rise before the sun and walk a mile with a heavy clay pot on my head to fetch water from a contaminated well, which will help me throughout the remainder of the day to clean and prepare food for my family. The rest of my days are spent with an 7 month old tied to my back while I bend at the waist for 6 hours picking cotton and peanuts in 100 degree heat, and chances are, I’m probably pregnant. If I read, write and have completed the equivalent to the 8th grade in America I would consider myself very lucky and I would be rare among my friends. I probably have never left the Extreme Nord of Cameroon and the farthest I have ventured from my house of mud is 12 miles south of Koza to the slightly larger town of Mokolo, and I probably haven’t been there since I was 16.
I’m probably suffering from Tropical Splenomegaly, a perpetually enlarged Spleen which would be just one of the many side effects of having persistent malaria for years. It will not be surprising when I come down with Typhoid fever for the third time in the past 5 months and whether I am aware of the fact or not, I have worms. I also probably have a Sexually Transmitted Disease which is constantly passed between me, my husband and anyone else he wants to sleep with whenever he desires. Inevitably I need to be on medication, but being that my husband calls the shots on everything I do, when he deems treatment worthy, we will see a doctor. I have a mass in my abdomen, it causes me pain and a bit of worry but being that it is only the size of a tennis ball I won’t bother having it looked at until it gets big enough to impair all that I do. An interesting fact about me is that I probably don’t have a uvula being that as an infant when I had a cough a local ‘doctor’ cut it off with a used razor blade, the same one he used to cut my seven siblings uvula’s off with and the same one he uses to cut his hair.
I go to sleep each night praying that a pack of bandits do not break into my house and slice my Achilles tendon, preventing me from chasing after them and the few belongings that they have just stolen from me. I have never seen the snow, I have never touched the ocean and for me, 85 degrees is a clear sign that the cold season has arrived. I am not aware that such luxuries as contacts, ipods, tampons, microwaves and deodorant even exist and I have never seen, touched or sat on an airplane. However, despite the life of difficulties that I face, I smile incessantly. I laugh easily. I give generously. I am strong beyond comprehension. I am kind beyond belief.