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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Africa (03/05/09)

TITLE: A Lesson In Differences
By Sara Harricharan


The beauty of Kenya beckoned, tugging at every white wisp of hair with each dusty breath of wind. She called for the girls resting in the shade of the resort hotel lobby. Her head turned as they approached.

They were alike in age and height, yet worlds apart. Her heart ached as she stored away their expressions for later thought. The beautiful, dark features of Aisha showed her heritage of African roots, the opposite to the pale white face and silken hair of her Egyptian counterpart, Jiliena.

“Yes, Madame Clarrisa?” They spoke at the same time.

“Jila?” She touched the left armrest of her wheelchair.

The girl immediately dropped to her knees, reaching for a soft, wrinkled hand. “Madame? What is wrong?”

A coughing fit erupted.

“Madame!” Aisha exclaimed. “Should I bring you something?”

The dry cough sputtered a few more beats. “I am fine, Aisha, thank you.” She winced. “I thought now was a good time for a…lesson.”

“On what?” Aisha sat up eagerly. “Geography? Social studies?”

Jila turned away.

“No. On life.” Both girls stared in surprise, but her eyes had moved far beyond them, fixed on some unseen point in the land before her. Another breath of ancient air blew past. “Tell me. What do you see?”

Aisha smirked. “A lot of dust, I guess. Wide open spaces. Blue skies. A few animals in the distance.”

Jila’s face scrunched in thought. “What am I looking for, Madame?”

Aisha’s smirk was erased, her face flushing, a change noted by their mentor. “A wise question, Jila, quite interesting, Aisha.” The familiar wince surfaced. “I want to know what you truly see in this slice of Africa.”

Aisha chewed her fingernail for a moment. “There’s a lot of things to describe Africa. It’s quite large, and it’s like the rest, you know, it has strengths and weaknesses, wealth and poverty. The people are as strong as they believe they are and there is beauty within it.”


Jila hesitated, but the wrinkled hand gently squeezed hers. “It depends on what you’re looking for. You see whatever you want to see, wherever you are. It doesn’t matter what others think.”

“Thank you, Jila.” The smile blossomed several petals wider. “And what differences? What do you see from this balcony?”

“Seclusion?” Aisha tried.

“Explain, please.” Her mentor requested.

“Like that lonely tree over there, it’s spread out as much as it can, yet it’s still small.”

“Stunted?” A hint of mockery glinted in Jila’s pale eyes.

“Not quite.” Madame Clarissa interrupted. “It has been given all the space needed, but it lacks…community and support. Just like us when without a friend to share things with. When things are kept solely within oneself, it can eat away at the inner heart. The soul is the first to suffer damage and then the person is never the same again. They are like that tree, and even though a band-aid may be used as a patch, it is only a bridge between two sides of a very deep cut.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Aisha snapped, angrily.

“Aisha!” Jila exclaimed, horrified. “That’s no way to speak to Madame!”

“And I suppose all your polite little phrases are better-!”

Madame Clarissa’s hands flashed out, clapping over each mouth. “This is enough! I have given you numerous chances to reconcile your differences, of which, the only one I can note between you is your own preconceived notions! The two young women who agreed to accompany me on this adventure across Africa, would know better than to let their personal differences interfere with their usually sound judgment.” The hands returned to her lap. “You have been at this since the first week.” Her voice was stone cold. “Have you learned nothing from our travels? Have your mothers…my dearest friends…taught you nothing of common sense?” She turned away. “Leave me. Let me only hear of an apology between you two from the lips of a witness.”

Shame stained the faces of both girls as their words tumbled over each other, but nothing said softened the expression upon the elegant face. Every wrinkle tightened into a mask, her lips remaining tightly pressed together as the two girls slunk away.

A tear escaped. There is so much I want to teach you girls…so much! Yet you are like these countries we visit. So beautiful, special…and so different that their differences are the foundations of every war. Dear Lord, please…help me reach them, I fear I am failing you…


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This article has been read 884 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sharon Kane03/14/09
Prejudice certainly runs deep and can be so difficult to root out. And yes, it still tears this continenet apart. A nice way to tackle a very thorny topic! You did a good job of creating the different characters.
c clemons03/14/09
Honestly, I did not get the story at all. I did like the MC's first name,( although you spelled it differently in one place) probably just a typo. I also did not like the methaphorical description of things, i.e. the breath, the smile, not necessary. Overall writing was good, keep writing.
Karlene Jacobsen03/17/09
My favorite line: “It depends on what you’re looking for. You see whatever you want to see, wherever you are. It doesn’t matter what others think.”

This speaks volumes. I've been thinking a lot about a song sung by Sandi Patti, "Love in Any Language, pulls us all together, never apart. And once we learn to speak it all the world will hear love in any language, fluently spoken here."

You made me think of that again. Nice work.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/17/09
This thoughtful story did a good job of showing how the differences in people is similar to the differences in places. I really liked the character of the old lady and admired the way she was trying to teach the girls to learn to get along with each other, despite their differences.
Benjamin Graber03/18/09
Oh, I like this! I like how you showed that the girls were very different, but very well could have made great friends, if they just chose to...
Christina Banks 03/18/09
If only we could learn to put aside our preconcieved ideas of others. Thought provoking...do the girls ever make ammends?
Laury Hubrich 03/18/09
This is a very good lesson, indeed. Good writing. I love how you always bring your characters to life.
Henry Clemmons03/18/09
The story, message and all were good, but the writing at times was almost poetic. I liked the feel of the piece, if that makes sense.
Catrina Bradley 03/18/09
The depth of this piece really touched me. I couldn't really see dramatic differences between the two girls' characters, and I think you were trying for that? So I probably missed the main point you were making. I do love the old woman; her dialog is almost poetical, as are the non-dialog descriptions.