After my time at Ste Marie, I was ready for my new chapter. In the meantime, to ease the pain of my dad’s departure, we started Focolare movement, founded by Chiara Lubich. The Focolare movement, is a Catholic movement and it is an international organization. The headquarters are in Italy. Few years later, I would often travel to Italy. I was reminded that our faith in God, not only helped us settle in Geneva, but also soothed the pain of my dad’s departure. The Focolare movement was one of many activities my mum signed us up for. We also started scouts (which I will write about in my next post), as well as sol-fa (music education), my mum also signed us up for instruments lessons (I learned how to play piano) and more.
Keeping us busy was great for me especially, to forget the constant racism I was facing in Geneva and my dad’s departure. I was still attending sessions with the psychologist which helped dealing with my pain and anger.
I was ready to start school again. Having now lived in Geneva for 4 years, I was slowly adapting to my life in Geneva, even though I still didn’t feel myself at home. Our new school of Marcelly, was just 5 minutes away for where we lived. Before even starting school there, my aim was to fit in at all cost. At first I was shy, my sister too. No matter my strong character, I wasn’t confident especially in a new environment. I was only 9 years old. My early memories at Marcelly was me and my sister holding hands, reminiscent from our horrific memory in Bissau when we were brought down in the hole. We were not scared, but intimidated to a brand new world. So many kids, yet you could count the coloured kids in one hand, us included.
After meeting our new classes, we always met each other at play time so not to be alone. One day, a girl, dark skinned, came towards us.
She was so friendly and made us feel so welcome. She was definitely in a class above me. From then on, each time we met she often joined us at play time. Obviously, me and my sister knew we had to familiarize with our classmates. At times, I was so jealous of my sister. She’d fit right in. Given she is so light skinned, made it easier for her to fit in. Also, because of her friendly personality. My sister, at the time and even now, can befriend anyone. Of course, I was the complete opposite. I don’t let people in so easily, once I am familiar with you, I would open up completely. However, if the person then is not nice to me or does something bad to me, I am someone who doesn’t forgive nor forget. I was and still am a very resentful person.
I started to get to know my classmates. Many in that class will be lifelong friends. At first, however, I quickly realized there was a clique with girls. So those girls, about 4, would only hang around together and no one was allowed to be part of their group. Or, they would cruelly pick whoever they choose to play with them on the day. As a new classmate, I stood no chance and I was never picked. Also, at the time, I was the only person of colour in my class. I thought that history was repeating itself again. Then I looked at the boys, obviously I couldn’t play with them yet because they didn’t know me. Then, I befriended a girl who was the class reject just like me. As a mixed race and new, that was my reason to be the class’ outcast. However, for her, it was deeper. She has been in the school for years, since kindergarten, yet she didn’t have any friends, or hardly. Well, me and her began to hang out. I witnessed first-hand how she was treated by the others. She was mocked and ridiculed on a daily basis, in class or at playtime.
I was also advised not to play with her. I felt like I had no other options. Beside she was nice to me. I felt bad for her treatment, yet again I was powerless to do a thing. We began to grow very close, she used to share her snacks with me, our bond formed deeper as we were the weakest in the classroom. This stigma seemed to follow me everywhere, I wish I was good at something academically.
At that point, my mum was made aware of our friendship. As I started to go on playdates at her grandma’s house, her grandma revealed to my mum that my new friend hardly has had any friends. She also revealed that she didn’t have any siblings either. We also found out why she was a victim of constant cruel jibes, her father was a janitor. Also, in my opinion, she wasn’t very pretty either but for me she had a heart of gold. It seemed I was her first and only friend. My mum didn’t like her much because she was so spoiled by her parents and grandparents. Being an only child is understandable. Despite being super close to my new and closest friend, since my American friend at Ste Marie, our friendship was about to change for good.
It started as a day I will never forget. As I was walking to school, I saw my closest friend approaching with her dad. I was so excited to see her, so I walked quickly to her direction. Once I saw their facial expression, my excitement vanished as soon as it came. I looked at my friend for a sign, or some explications. She was looking down the whole time. What was the matter? Hesitantly, I looked at her dad. Her dad’s facial expression was of anger and hostility. He was quite fat and definitely ugly. Nevertheless, I was still perplexing as to why my friend refused to give me eye contact and her dad threw daggers at me with his angry look. Then, her dad finally spoked to me. He angrily demanded I stopped eating her snacks or stealing her snacks which he stated I do all the time. Hesitantly, my friend spoke, saying I do so only sometimes. She didn’t even look at me when I turned to her, desperate for some clarifications or understanding of the situation. Shocked and hurt by the accusation, I was shred apart by confusion. Why would I be accused of something I do not recall at all? She is the one who shares her snacks with me. I would be playful trying to steal her snacks but always gave her back. After they left, I just remember standing there in a pool of questions.
I eventually made my way to school. I don’t even remember if I played with her that day or not, but I was shocked at being falsely accused for something I have no idea about.
Years later, I would finally be able to connect the dots; her dad was simply racist and he used this pathetic excuse so I stay well clear of his daughter. Ironically, as I was settling in well at Marcelly, without anyone reminding me I was different because of the colour of my skin, reality slapped me in the face so hard I came to realise once again I was and will always be reminded of the colour of my skin. Sadly, I also started to be ashamed to be a person of colour and fed up of encountering racism everywhere I went in Geneva. All I knew and what was crystal clear to me was that my friendship, with someone who I thought would be my bff, was strained for good.