“She Found it in the Clouds”, an extraordinary tale of a young girl’s life of seeming despair to triumphant victory. This book is full of vivid imagery of a girl’s life experiences, which enables the reader to feel as if they were a part of her journey. Readers will share a myriad of emotions from anticipation, despair, anger, fear, sadness, joy and most importantly hope, from the front of the book to the back cover. This book pulls at the heartstrings and helps to reaffirm that ones beginning does not dictate ones destiny.
“She Found it in the Clouds” is an inspiration to General audiences including the youth of today, teens, and women, men encouraging them to be tenacious and to persevere through any obstacle that may come their way. Though the main character encountered many adversities, she clung to those “clouds” that brought her peace. It followed her through her adult life and remained her source of strength. This book is a page-turner that a reader will not want to put down.
“She found it in the clouds” offers hope and encouragement and healing to anyone who is struggling with identity, no relationship with biological parent(s), emotional struggles from adoption, death of a loved one, sexual abuse, low self-esteem, or just coping with life issues. Each chapter takes the reader through an exciting journey (sometimes laughter other times tears) but always leaving the reader wanting to know more – how does the journey ends. The journey ends with evidence of healing, restoration, peace and love.
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Liberia is a country located in the Western region of Africa. History tells that Liberia is a place possessing rich iron ore deposits, with a flat coastal plain, which rises in a series of plateaus to a heavily forested interior of low mountains.
There are many small rivers, which wind through the country. The weather is tropical and humid. There are extensive forests, which contain mahogany, ironwood, and rubber trees. Some of the native animals are the pygmy hippopotamus, all species of snakes, the elephants, monkeys, and buffaloes.
Our flight to Liberia lasted about 20 hours. When we finally arrived in Liberia, as the flight attendant opened the door of the plane, I felt the unbelievable heat of the air hit me like a 100-degree heater blowing off vapors. It was extremely hot. I was now beginning to experience the differences in temperature and the humidity from that of America. With the door of the plane completely opened, a large portable iron staircase was placed against the side of the plane for the passengers to disembark from the plane.
As my parents and I descended the squeaky portable steps, I noticed a young impressively dressed black woman waiting off to the left of the airstrip for our arrival. As we descended the stairs of the plane, she waved to us as she waited patiently to take us to our destination. Once on the ground, we entered into the small airport to claim our bags and we were ushered into the taxicab and off to our new adventure.
To my surprise, as the taxi driver, the woman, my family, and I made our way in the taxicab from the small airport down town, through the city into the town where we were going to live, I spotted hundreds and hundreds of people hustling and bustling with their market goods on top of their heads and on carts. There were people everywhere. There were so many black people. So many children poorly dressed, bare-footed with extended stomachs. There were so many variations of people from light-skinned people, dark people to even in-between colored people.
I recalled that the same expressive stares we received in Scotland, was the same expressions these people were looking at us with. This was a new experience for me because they all were of dark complexion like me. However, as time would unfold, I would find out the answer to this focused observation.
As we continued driving through the overcrowded streets of the capital city, Monrovia, a very distinct odor enveloped my nose. Whew! It hit me in a hard way. Wow, I would never forget that one smell. There was garbage and sewage everywhere in the streets. The overwhelming level of poverty and sewage was overwhelming.
The street vendors were everywhere. Dirty water overflows onto the streets from the sewage drains, running in all directions. I saw a man facing the wall as he urinated without any shame. I thought to myself, how disgusting this sight was. I felt my stomach turn upside down. I saw a woman walking on the street with a pan on her head. In the pan appeared to be a blackened fist looking thing. When I questioned father, he said that it was monkey meat in the pan. I shrieked with horror as we soon left the city streets.
I began to see enormous, beautifully gated and magnificently built homes. I saw luxury cars parked in front of well-manicured lawns, artistically landscaped. I did see a few mud hut homes intermingled between these fine homes and on the side of the road, but they were rare. I saw women and children with uniquely colored looking wrap skirts and sandals on their feet.
The women were carrying huge baskets on their heads filled with produce either just bought from market or on its way to market to be sold. I even saw some women that were naked on their upper bodies. Their breasts were just swaying in the wind in total freedom. It was so funny to see this; I began to laugh to myself. I also heard many unfamiliar noises.
Chirping sounds in the air were strange to me and I could not recognize them. After about 30 minutes of driving, our taxicab made a turn into a long driveway positioned off the main road. As I looked out the window of the car, I beheld a beautiful home poised behind a high-gated wall.
It seemed as if it was on an acre corner lot. There were women peddlers sitting against the wall of the house selling freshly peeled oranges and other fruits and vegetables. This seemed strange to me. No one seemed to bother the women as they sold their produce. As I looked around my surroundings a little more keenly, I saw other women selling fresh fish, breadfruits, mangos, and a variety of products. I wondered to myself if these women had licenses to sell their products as we did in America.
There was a huge church located just a few feet from the high wall. There were hut homes made from mud and straw on the property and they were located just outside the gate of the house. A mother had her baby swaddled to her back in a type of cloth wrap as she bent over an outdoors-wood fire cooking the evening’s dinner for her family.
The taxicab pulled up to the front of the gate and the gate opened. As the driver proceeded to stop under the covered patio, a man came from inside the house onto the patio to meet the car. As he held the door open for the woman, my parents, and me, he further proceeded to bring the luggage inside the house.
One thing that I observed was that when he got to the steps of the side door, he removed his slippers, wiped his feet, and then he went inside the house barefoot. I was baffled. The woman who had picked us up at the airport was a missionary from England who had been sent to Liberia to work with my father. She introduced herself as “Sister Livingston” as she smiled at me. She said ever so politely “hello Miss Sharon!” I was speechless. Why did this woman call me “Miss Sharon”? I curiously responded, “Hi!”
Sister Livingston then proceeded to take me by the hand and told me that we were going to take a tour around the house. The house was about 3,000 square feet of living space. The entire house had white, marble tiled floors. There was a large sitting room with blue velvet and mahogany wood furnishings.
There were houseplants everywhere. I peeked into the four oversized bedrooms with four large full sized bathrooms. There was an oversized, immaculate kitchen with every possible customized appliance. In the large laundry, room was a modern electric washer and electric dryer. This was the most beautiful 4-bedroom house I had seen in a while, which looked like a mansion. My parents and I had house workers that took care of us, 24 hours a day, and 7 days of the week. While I was looking around the house, I thought that I saw something move on the wall. I blinked twice, and looked at the wall again. To my amazement, I saw a little white creeping creature glide across the wall. I let out a scream because I was not sure what I saw on the wall. Once I regained my composer, I realized that it was an innocent little lizard. These were quite common in the homes in Africa.
I hurriedly turned around and headed in the direction of my parents. In my haste, I realized that my arm was slightly bleeding. I had scraped my wrist on the corner of the wall as I ran from the lizard in the house. This scar would remain on my arm and in my sub-consciousness for the rest of my life.
I prayed that I would be leaving this place called Africa very soon. The people in this town had the same physical features like me but they were different in the sense that the indigenous population of people or those who were considered the poorer class of people was utilized in the homes of the affluent population as house servants. These people were responsible for washing our clothes and cleaning house.
There was no such a thing as equality to us. They were subservient. This made me very sad. They were not to hold conversations with my parents or me. Their wage compensation for their labor would be equivalent to a meal consisting of some rice, fish, and palm oil or whatever food was available. The injustice and inequality of these people made me very angry and I did not want to have any part of it.
I often wondered why injustice was so prevalent amongst these indigenous people. The very thought of this practice caused me to cry because I could not comprehend why these people were being treated differently from others. It was inconceivable for the helpers in our home to address my parents or me by our first names at any time. I was “Miss Sharon”. This view is a culturally appropriate attitude for demonstrating respect. It was incomprehensible for me to imagine as a thirteen year-old girl acknowledged as “Miss” by someone two or three times my age.
My first few weeks of settling into Monrovia were interesting. I recall one day, my mother, and I were taking the local mini bus into town. As we waited at the bus stop, I looked around my immediate surroundings and noticed some schoolchildren intensely checking me out. As I gazed at these inquisitive children, I noticed them looking at my feet. I had on socks up to my knees and nice shoes. I was shocked at their display of awe at this stranger.
I looked at their feet even thou they were dressed in their matching school uniforms. They did not have socks on at all and their shoes were worn down unlike my shoes were at that time. I began to chuckle within myself at their amazement as they looked at me and smiled. Even thou we looked alike; they knew that I was not like them, they knew that I was not one of them, that I was a foreigner from a strange country. What a lesson for me to learn. As time progressed on, I learned how to adjust my dressing so that I would not draw attention to myself in an attempt to blend in with the local native people, even though, as much as I tried to be like them, was the more I did not look like them.
The other foreign workers told me that I could not share any personal information about my self, such as my age, my birth date, or any other thing about my self to the people in our new community. The reason behind this was the attitude that to disclose personal information about my self or my parents would expose us to a superstitious belief called “voodoo” Or black magic, in other words witchcraft and evil.
Legacy has it that some of the people in Africa sometimes practiced a different religion other than what my parents and I practiced. Legacy even says that sometimes certain people would take the information shared to them and try to hurt people with curses and tricks. This bit of knowledge made me extremely scared and terrified. I am convinced that this information simply exposed me to a sense of unknown fear. From that day, I was very careful not to hold personal conversations with anyone outside of my immediate circle.
Mother was able to continue her nursing practices within the interior villages with the women educating them and helping them with their infants and children. Hundreds of children would come to see mother from various villages on a daily basis in the clinic.
Mothers would bring their newborn babies so that “Ma” as they called her, could take care of them and place her blessing on each and every one of them. Mother would regular take trips into the interior for those women who were unable to find transportation into town, so that she could deliver their babies, take care of the sick children, teach the women how to be homemakers and good wives to their husbands.
She taught many of them the basic steps in recognizing different symptoms of many common illnesses arising in their children, and steps on how to treat the different illnesses.
One unforgettably beautiful and sunny Friday afternoon, while I was playing by myself in the yard with my dog Rudy, there arose a sudden sound of singing and rejoicing, which resonated from the streets. As my curiosity peeked and I became attuned to what was about to unfold around me, I crawled up on the wall by stepping on an old crate resting on the side of the wall. I saw about 20 young girls in a processional dancing, as if in a school marching band. Leading the march was a man dressed in a native costume. It appeared that he was demonstrating a tribal dance and chanting some unfamiliar words.
He was gracefully twisting and twirling in every different direction with the timely beat of the drums. He seemed so intent, focused and in deep concentration. Immediately following the leader was a group of women, who probably were the team leaders for the girls. They were chanting all types of words and sayings in their dialect. They were making different funny sounds, whooping and hollering at the top of their lungs. Legends say that this was a ceremonial dance to their supreme deity. The atmosphere at that moment felt dark and the presence of evil was evident.
The town’s people came out from every area of Painesville to view the processional. They were cheering and clapping for the girls as they passed by. The girls were all dressed in native colored tie-dye wrap skirts and their upper torso being exposed revealing their breasts. Their upper bodies beautifully sculptured with a type of white paint, which covered them from their heads to their waists.
After a while, the processional disappeared, as the music faded away, and it was all over. No one could explain where the group went. Legend had it that these girls were going through their Right of passage. The girls in the parade appeared to be around 12 years of age.
Legend had it that they were going into a type of school where they would graduate and come out into society as women.
Some say that according to the culture of the people, as a custom, one of the girls possibly would not come out of the school because there had to be a sacrificial offering, so one of these girls might be a sacrifice.