Persona Exercise based on the characters in
The Poisonwood Bible


Students were asked to spend fifteen minutes on the quad at Punahou observing their campus from the point of view of one of the characters in The Poisonwood Bible. After making their observations, they returned to the classroom and wrote up some preliminary notes. Then at home they wrote up a more formal set of remarks, with the goal of capturing both the voice and the manner of thinking of the character selected.

Ruth May


There are so many bad people in this world. Today I went to a big school with lots with big kids. They looked like Rachel and Leah them, except none of them wore mohair twin sets or had long white hair that reached all the way down their backs. Some of the kids I saw were saying bad things to each other. The Bible says that you can't say bad things and if you do you will burn in hell and meet the devil himself. There were so many bad kids at the school. I think it must be a school that parents send their naughty kids to. There was one day last year when Father took me to the candy store. I was plumb bad that day. I saw so many different things that were good to eat and I wanted them all. But I could only choose one. I promised I would be very good if Father brought me more candy. He told me I was a greedy evil girl. He said God was very mad with me then. But I'm happy Father didn't knock my head like he did to Leah a day ago. I think God is very mad with those kids. They are evil and hell-bound.

There are so many bad kids at that school that they don't know what to do with all of them. I saw a gigantic prison with big glass windows and a room full of bottles. The bottles were full of poisons for the really, really bad ones. In the wall of the prison I saw a whole lotta little gray boxes right next to each other, all in rows. There was a colored lock on each box. I think they keep the kids who won't listen in the locked boxes. They're so small, those boxes, I think it must hurt to be inside. The kids must have been really bad, almost like stealing or lying or hitting. Father hits big sisters and Mother and me, but only he can do it because fathers rule over the family.

Last time when Rachel was a-sassing Father, she got hit right smack across the mouth where all the bad words came from. Father told Rachel she would go to one of the prison schools when we went back to America if she kept her naughty ways up. I hope Rachel stays nice. Cause even though Rachel is bossy sometimes, I don't want them to put her in one of the gray boxes. She would make a whole lot of noise when her skirts get crumpled and her hair would get a-messed up too.

I was glad to go away from the little boxes. I wanted to knock on one and listen if any big girls like Rachel were in there, but I didn't. I think they might have yelled at me to get their make-up stuff like Rachel does to me all the time. And I knew Father hates make-up.

- Rhemashal H.


Today we flew on a plane to another village. Me, Rachel, Leah, Adah, Mama, and Father all of us. I don't know why we went there, but it was a lot of fun anyway. We just wandered around this weird village for a day. It was kind of like Georgia. I dunno, I hardly can remember Georgia. All I know is all them Africans. But there wasn't any of those here. All white people, and some other people not white or African. They have white skin, but their hair is black as the night. I've never seen it before so I don't know. Anyway, all the people from this village just sit around all day and talk is what it looks like. And their houses, man oh man. They were so big! I wish our house was like that. But today was fun. I got to run around and nobody looked at me funny.

Then it started to rain. I saw Rachel run under their houses. She doesn't like rain. But oh boy, I love the rain. Its a lot of fun to run around in the rain. Most of the time mama don't let me play in the rain, but today she didn't see me so I did. Then mama came back and saw me all wet. She was mad at me. I said I was sorry, and then we had to go back home.

- Donovan L.


I went to the hugest school today-- like Rachel and Adah and Leah's school -- but bigger. There were lots of kids but they were different than the ones we go to school with in Georgia. Back home in Georgia everyone at school looks just like me with blonde hair and blue eyes. Except for Leah and Adah. They have brown hair. But that's because they're twins and they're just plumb different from everyone else. Especially Adah with her half-self. But the kids I saw today were nothing like me at all. Some of them were dark, like people that lived in the Congo I thought that maybe they were part of the Tribes of Ham. But Father told me that they part of a whole different tribe. Either Shem or Japheth. The other kids though, the ones that weren't like the Congolese, had slanty eyes and very black hair. Most of them were boys. Father said they were probably Japanese and Chinese. In Sunday school Rex Minton said the Japanese were mean and ruthless and would torture all us Americans if they got a hold of us. He said, I can talk like a Japanese, listen here: Kung hee fat choi. So I stayed as far away from those slanty eyed boys as I could, yup you bet I did.

- Mia S.


              I liked all the green grass. In the Congo, they only had brown grass. Rachel says that's because the Congolese are color-blind and can't see green, but I think its because they are being punished because they are the Tribes of Ham. I wanted to run around, but I couldn't, because my leg hurt so bad. I wanted to plop down and cry so that Mama would come a give me a band-aid to make it better, but then Rachel would have got mad at me, so I didn't.

              There were lots of people just sitting and talking. It looked boring. They weren't even all sitting together. They were all split up, so I wanted to go talk to all of them and bring them all together, but I couldn't because they were all bigger and I was afraid to talk to them.
I saw something shiny in the grass so I bent down and picked it up because I thought that it might be money or something. It was just a candy wrapper. Mama won't let me eat sweets now because I'm sick, but I put the wrapper in my mouth anyway. Papa says that not doing what Mama says is a sin, so I must be a sinner because I ate the wrapper. But all the people here are sinners too, because they left trash on the ground and Papa says that's a sin too. The people here were dressed different than home, too. Not different like the Congo, because there people just wore any old thing, but different than home. Rachel didn't look happy. I guess that's because she was wearing more than all of the other girls. She always brags to me about how she keeps up with all of the new fads. I didn't know what a fad was, so she told me that it was contempalary fashion. I think this means wearing as little as you can. I bet all of the Congolese women would have won a fashion contest, then, because they didn't wear hardly anything at all above their waists. I saw a boy wearing a pink shirt so I giggled, but then he looked at me so I had to stop. I followed him around to see if he had other friends wearing pink shirts, and I felt like Adah, because she likes to spy on people. If my leg hadn't been hurt, I would have climbed the big tree and looked at everybody. But that would have been another sin because Mama told me not to. Papa says that Jesus loves me, but then why doesn't he let me climb trees?

              There was one old-looking building made with big stones. They were so big that I could have curled up right inside one and nobody would have ever found me. I wanted to try to pick one up, but I saw a funny looking woman so I hid and looked at her instead. She was walking around and talking to herself, which almost made me laugh, but I couldn't, because then she would have found me and gotten mad. I thought that maybe she was born with something wrong with her like Adah, because one of her hands was stuck to her head, but then she took away her hand and I saw that she was holding something shiny in it. Then she looked at me so I had to run away. And then Mama called me and told me that we were leaving, so I had to go. I picked up some trash on the way out, so that maybe Jesus could forgive me for spying and eating the candy wrapper. And if he doesn't forgive me, that means that he doesn't really love me. That means that Papa lied to me, and that is the worst sin of all.

- Peter G.


              I musta done something good because today we got-to visit some great big school and it was real nice. There were trees all over but not like the Congo forest and it was filled plumb to the top with big kids. Big like Leah and Adah and Rachel, except I didn't see nobody like Adah all slow. Rachel went to sit with boys over under some trees with pretty smelling flowers. The boys must think they're big and round like Santa, because their clothes don't fit them real good. In the Congo clothes are all this way and that but that's because everybody's only got one clothes. These boys, they had many clothes, and had pants falling down their behinds and I laughed but Mama said don't you laugh, Ruth May, so I didn't. But boy oh boy Rachel had fun with them falling-pants boys. But I think she was sinning and it's a good thing father wasn't there because he doesn't like that promise curious behavior, he says.

              I saw a funny tree at the school. Right by the library big like Goliath it was sitting there with big round branches. There weren't any leaves on it like Congo trees, so it was no good for spying. It had funny long brown things hanging from it. Like Nelson's peewee I saw when I was spying on the chicken house. Baby Jesus got mad at me for spying and made the rain stop in the Congo. But I think Baby Jesus is happy now because here I am at school, so maybe spying isn't too bad. I'd've liked very much to get me up in that tree but the whole lotta old men in the little cars would've made me come down, I think. Their cars go hum-hum and drive around ever which way and the each one of them has an old man and a radio inside telling important things. So I didn't climb up.

              There were plenty of big old leaves that I could hide under. They were tall and green and everywhere and Leah couldn't find me under there, no sir. Adah was off being quiet and Rachel was off laughing with the falling-pants boys. I could see her from under the leaves. She had some itchy bugs on her face because she kept on flipping her head around and moving her eyelashes real quick. So it was just Leah and me playing hide and seek and I hid good under the leaves.

              Later on Mama started a-hollerin' for me so I came out. She said Ruth May, honey, we best be leaving and I didn't want to be leaving but Mama said it's best so I had to. Rachel just about pitched a fit but along she came glancing over her back like she'd gone and lost something. I waved bye to the funny tree and the leaves and got on a sad face, but Mama says if I'm good maybe Baby Jesus will let me come back.

- Zoë M.


I watch the clusters of green flora struggle for sunlight seeping through the outstretched branches of a shading tree. Some get their food, but many are unsuccessful. Just like the families in the Congo. Some plants have been trampled on and smashed into brown pancakes of dirt and leaves. Father could easily tend to those plants; he'd just dig up the roots and start them over. He's been gardening since he was a boy. The plants that grow are the ones who get some sunshine and the right amount of rainfall. They look like the ones we grew in our garden back home. Sometimes I help father in the garden, against mother's wishes' (saying I should play inside!) I hope one day I can have a garden as nice as that.

- Katherine M.

Well, what a sight. From where I'm sitting, it seems like there isn't much of anything that someone can't do around here. There are a lot of children my age with a few mingling adults, and most everybody is carrying around books. This place sure does have an agreeable climate, not too hot and with a pleasant breeze. There are these lovely old stone and whitewashed buildings, shingled roofs on all, colored bicycles and trees, oh the trees, mostly the likes of which I've never seen. And there's a waste bin filled with some of the most remarkable things: boxes of all kinds, halfway-eaten sticky sugar cinnamon rolls, cans of what look to be juice with the name "Hawaiian," coffee in white plastic cups, honestly, it's endless. Even as I watched, boys were throwing pieces of cinnamon rolls into the waste bin. If they could only see the hunger hidden on what seems the other side of the world. The people around here are really a thing in themselves. Not just the people, but what they wear. They look fine enough, I'm sure, under the Lord's eyes, but you would think they would be a little more conserving in their dress. They show more bosom than girls ought to show even in an evening dress. Belly and navel and legs! Really, it's just scandalous. Right out of the same bean pod as Rachel. Father would never approve. Speaking of Father, I think I see him now. I hope he will not be too offended by what he sees. Perhaps he will seek to help these people if he finds them in need, and perhaps that will allow me time to learn more about this tropical land.

- Kati E.

In the long, strange drought we were having in place of last year's rainy season, soft dust had spread across our yard in broad white patches. It was pocked all over with little funnel-shaped snares, where ant lions lay buried at the bottom, waiting for some poor insect to stumble into the trap and get devoured. We had never actually seen the ant lions themselves, only their wicked handiwork. (223)


              Everything is so lush here in another side of God's creation. The trees are healthy; waxed, perfect emerald leaves eclipse strong gray branches with vigor, as if they intend to grow a mile out and a mile up. There's no shortage of green grass, which looks juicy enough to be edible (and with the food we get in Kilanga, I'd take it!). Flowers are blooming like crazy in every corner and the girls here like to wear them in their hair or behind their ears. That looks like something Mama Lo would do, decorate a hairstyle with fresh tropical buds. Father wouldn't like that, though. I'm pretty sure that he would say a woman shouldn't call attention to herself. I've heard Proverbs 31 so many times; Father tells Rachel that a good woman "clothed with strength and dignity" and "charm is I deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." I don't know about that one, though. I think Father accidentally-on-purpose forgot the verse that says "She is clothed in fine linen and purple." Rachel would certainly take that one to heart.
              The heat is almost unbearable, but the people don't dress in heavy cotton smocks, either. And the things the girls wear - they're about a hundred times worse than Rachel's coveted mohair sweater set, or as a matter of fact, worse than anything Rachel has ever worn! But they don't seem to catch the boys' eyes; in fact, one of the boys is staring at me! He reminds me of Anatole - kind almond eyes, dark chocolate skin, and shiny hair. His biceps bulge out of his tanktop, and I can't help noticing just how blessed with chiseled features he is. Oh, but these are horrible thoughts! Have mercy upon me, O God, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies. Please, God, accept my Repentance Psalm and help me not to think such lecherous thoughts any longer. This place is the Garden of Eden. It appears sweet and blossoming with all of the plants God intended it, but in it are sinners, both male and female. Oh, temptation and sin abound like kakakaka after a rain, and I would need God's divine help to stay on the straight and narrow if I lived here.

- Christina W.





Oh my God. I stood up in the plane thinking, "Ooh Hawaii! It's going to be nice and sunny, and the warm weather is going to feel so good!" Yeah right! The first thing I saw when I walked out of the plane was gray clouds billowing overhead. I was somewhat thankful that the sun wasn't shining to burn my skin, but gray clouds! What if it rained? My hair would have gotten soaked wet! And the clothes I was wearing was not made to get wet! We were very misinformed about the climate! We were told sunny skies, and to dress lightly.

Ugh! And the school we go to now, Punahou, is so nature girl. I can't go from one subject to another without having to go outside. I was going from English class to science and I had to go across the walkway! And while I was walking, I almost slipped on some blue tiles in the middle of the walkway! Some girl said it was a "star compass." What's a star compass? It looked more like a blue tile with the islands of Hawaii and a bird flying over it.

And the people at that school are so dirty! They walk through the middle of the field like grass is gravel. They play in the rain and go sliding in mud holes! Are these people not civilized? Boy if I did that, my hair would get muddy and I would spend hours trying to clean it. There was one cute boy though. He was clean cut and shaved often. I could tell every girl wanted him! I would have talked to him and introduced myself, but I had class.

Feeling as if I needed to make myself more irresistible to this boy T decided to malce an exit, hoping to leave the boy pining for me. I giggled and said, "Geez oh man, look at the time! I must be going now. Maybe we can surf together sometime soon." He smiled and nodded his head as I turned to walk away, however, as I did so, I thought to myself, "Why did you say that you could surf? You don't have the faintest clue as to what it is!" However, ~ reassured myself that it was probably easy, especially if the other girls could do it too.

- Jordan H.


Boy oh boy, I'd forgotten what a snore going to school is. At least this placeis clean and the weather is usually pretty okay, but geez oh man! I just want to be a normal kid! Is that too much to ask? It's like I've got a big sign embrazoned over my head: "Beware the minister's daughter," or something. All the girls think you're a prude, and the guys avoid you like the plague! Everyone else's parents are doctors and lawyers and whatevers, and just rolling in dough! I guess father's job wouldn't matter so much if he were rich, but Lordy! Everyone knows he's as poor as a church mouse. Some of the girls here, I've never seen them wear the same thing twice. Of course, I have to wear the same old outfits week in and week out, because I don't get an allowance. All I get is a long lecture from Father about the lilies of the field, charmed, I'm sure. Plus there's the business of accents. Everyone here are Yanks; I hate their little nasal voices, but it's awful embarrassing to sound so different from everybody. These snide little Oriental kids are polite to your face, but man oh man as soon as you've turned your back they say the nastiest things about you. I know they tease me something terrible. It's just my luck that of all the places I end up, everyone is so smart and rich and so … Asian -- basically, everything that I'm not. It seems like I'm doomed in life always to be a sort of outcast. I've never really fit in anywhere; not back home, not in Africa, or even in my own family, and definitely not here. Why can't I be just like everyone else for once???

- Lacey C.


Where am I? It looks like I'm in a school, but I can't be. I've never seen a school this big with so many kids. I see kids my age! It's been months since I've seen kids my age. Although my sisters are teens, they're not considered teens. One is a cripple and the other, a tomboy. I am normal, thank you very much. Don't judge me by my family because I am not like any of my family. My dad, the fanatic preacher, my mom,  the shy, dutiful wife, and my other sisters. My two sisters are far from normal but there is my youngest sister: Ruth May. There still is hope for her. She may become as pretty and charming as I am.

A crowd of girls pass by and just stare at me. I than realize what state of dress I'm in now: The worst state possible. You see, If you saw me now, you would think I was a girl who had lived in the jungle for a while. That's close to the truth. I want to go hide behind that enormous tree but no, there are more kids. I'm so embarrassed. My once-perfect blonde hair-- which would have been the envy of all the girls here-- is now dirty and tangled up. My white dress, the one I've cherished since I got it, is stained with red dirt and torn up into rags. I wish I was one of those girls. They're wearing cloths I would love to wear.Skimpy and tight. Cloths I know would catch the eye of any boy here.

Oh! I see the guys here. Correction, not just guys, cute guys. Oh. If only I looked like the old Rachel Price! Not the Rachel Price that just came out of the jungle in her rags and dirty hair. Is that I mall I see across this place? Thank God, I'm saved!

- Sun C.

Geez oh man! When can we leave? Wouldn't you know, the heat is horridous and the wind is blowing my hair all aflurry. I feel like I'm back in the Congo. Well, except for the people. I've only seen one black person in this whole place, but believe you me there are Asians everywhere. At least there are some normal white Americans here as well, but let me tell you none of them are as awesomely blonde as I am. Hopefully I can find some quality shampoo in this god-awful place, for my hair is beginning to lose some of its usual shine.

Good lord, the people here are so strange. I can't believe the ways the girls act. They are around my age, but they are playing games that suit Ruth May. And the way the dress - geez oh man they look like boys. They must be low class. Back in Georgia we had a few of those types of people. We always had to slave away in the kitchen during the holidays so they could eat at the church. Man I am not looking forward to doing that again. But even the people at home don't speak like these people do. For one thing, if Father ever heard them using the language they do, they'd all be doing the Verse for days. And they use so many mystifiacal words. I mean, what on earth is a musaby?

- Alison B.




It was hot enough to make me wish that God's good graces had made me entirely paralyzed. Slow, silent, sickly sister: flame, fester, fire. Sweltering sun, sizzling skin, fry! Ordered to have fun and commanded to enjoy the fresh air (humid, though it was), we four Price girls were set loose from our midday classes for a brief break. Leah, my "other-half" (for she seems to have very literally stolen half of me), strode ahead of us, inhaling deeply and stretching her arms towards the heavens. Ruth May was skipping off the path gaily, making loopy patterns in the damp grassy lawn and occasionally greeting the other children scattered around the campus. Sauntering rather haughtily after them came Rachel, her long silvery blond hair swishing at her waist. She was looking disdainfully at some nonexistent piece of dirt beneath her nails and seemed the only one besides myself that took notice of the oppressive heat. And lastly, here I hobbled with my left shoe weighted to the pavement walkway. Step. Draaag. Step. Draaag. De profundis clamavi. Perhaps I'll make it over to the shady haven of that palm tree before this recess ceases.

- Lauren T.

Stairs. Sriats. So hard to limp over. Green plant life. Animals locked in strife. Cat's tooth like a knife. Birds take flight.

My eyes, my life, my world. World my, life my, eyes my. Colors and shapes abundant, scintillatingly captivating me, bright spots, blots, tots, lots, for Adah the half-brainer. I see scattered whole-brainers in colorful clumps, tell-tale hearts beating nervously as I mosey over to them. They stare at me. Em ta erats yeth. They see me. Me see they.

Our Father trying to convert. He doesn't see that what he does is. worthless. His life is carnivorously being sucked away, as if some ethereal tunnel was thrust into his soul and extracting his very being. It is sucked away, into useless, decaying flesh. Religion. Bah! What the hell has it done for me? Me for done it has?

Oooooh! Look! I see the sparkling glass structure in midst of the five-legged star. The all-encompassing symphony of colors!

Teachers with black over their eyes, lies, flies, fries. Flee to their classrooms like bugs from the ant lion. I see the way they walk. The walk of the burdened, the fearful, the hunted. It is the way of Ada. But Ada is not fearful, but rather, unfearful...

- Jesse Z.

 And then there was one. One, there was. We have come here and arrived in a place so different that it seems to hold importance in my journeys. Nowhere except here has felt so familiar, so familiar it feels here. This place has trees that grow far too high for my reach, the ground is paved, the dirt unable to breathe. But this earth knows I am here, it recognizes me as another creature that has simply been overlooked. Looked over have I been for years upon end. Nobody ever gave me the time of day, but now this new place feels like a long lost cousin. Something that has so much makeup on that the true beauty has been lost. The children are just like Rachel and Leah, always complaining and talking, but what they don't realize is silence is far more powerful than noise sometimes. POWER REWOP. I have found a spot below a large tree with vines pulling, strangling its breath. So here I am once again, sitting, breathing, living, doing everything people think they know how to do. Mama once told me that you shouldn't have to try to live, you just should. This sky, so bright, not only in colors, but also in light. This concrete jungle has seem to be built with the intention of taking away the power of the land. Taking away its speech, its ears, its taste, but little do they know the land still speaks, still hears, still tastes, better than before. For now it has learned to deal with its handicap, its disadvantage, and it has turned its weaknesses into its strengths. And then there was one. One, there was.

- Spencer R.


With my sisters nowhere to be found, I decided to roam the hallways on my own. With my left side dragging behind me, I walked towards the stairs. With the left side of your body limp as a corpse, believe you me, walking up and down those stairs is the hardest task! I only saw white people around when I wandered the upstairs floor. They stared at me with piercing eyes just as those back home did. Poor, disabled, limp left-sided Adah.

As I took the last step to the bottom, I noticed many signs and fliers. I tried to read them backwards to find a palindrome, but nothing worked. I read the signs forward and backward, none of them said only one thing one way. How boring. How the girls are pretty here! They too must also be thinking how helpless and pathetic I look. I see it in their eyes when they stare. I sit on the stairs and curl into the smallest ball I can manage, as if my cue to be turned invisible.

No matter if people think I am a deaf mute, I retain my silence. Some people take silence for granted, but believe you me it reveals a lot about a person. I mean when I am silent, people have a tendency to assume I'm deaf and unable to comprehend anything that's going on. A teacher started walking towards me and smiled, and I just stared blankly back at him. He began to come closer as he walked up the stairs, ignoring me as everyone else does, and then he started talking to himself! I could hear him mumbling about something that he had forgotten as he turned around and left. The silence of one person, can bring out the voices in others.

As I was hobbling up the stairs, I noticed to paintings. When I first saw it, I saw the blank stare of a woman. The colors seemed to swirl into each other. Then I turned my eyes upside-down and looked at it again. Reward a drawer! When I looked at it the other way, I saw a boy whose eyes were filled with sorrow. His eyes seemed to droop as if they'd been that way for a long time. He reminded me of the little boys that used to run around our yard, scavenging for anything edible they could find. As I clog back up the stairs towards the door, I think about how Leah would be perfect in this perfect place. With her beauty, her smarts, her Leah-ness. And how she left me in the darkness.

- Jordyn T.

              Door squeaks, tweaks, creaks, Adah the freak hobbling into sunlight, warm, bright, the sight alight with pleasantry.

              This place is so pleasant to the senses that it seems unreal. As mother used to say in Georgia when we were young, "lt's too good to be true." The opportunity never arose to say that in Kilanga. Here, everything is exactly placed to create good feeling. Even the parts of nature are given only so much room, and placed and grown accordingly. This takes away from a feeling that I loved in Kilanga. The wild chaotic beauty of nature, of dying and living, everything being both new and old, there is nothing of that here. Nature is a side thought, something you walk on like the clipped green grass, or walk by as it grows quietly in a corner. There is nothing for my sisters to complain about, nothing for them to value or judge. The nothing gets on my nerves. My nerves get nothing and Adah the Quasimodo stands out even more against the perfectly tiled brick.

              I find a cement bench to sit on. It is halfway in and out of the sunlight which appeals to me. Everywhere else there are people of many different colors, but everyone seems drastically and sadly alike. I pity them. My Adah eyes quickly become bored having become used to the wild reckless patterns of Kilanga fashion sense. It is year round, always the same yet always surprising.

              The breeze stirs up cool and fresh. It balances out the sunnier spots, and I watch the pointy shadows from a tree's leaves play across me like black swords laying themselves on my sunlit bench. They are half distorted and break upon my body. Perhaps, they attract to some inner call of darkness within me, the call I know so well.

              As I shuffle awkwardly back to whence I came, I wonder wander about these paths of cement. There were many paths in Kilanga, in fact it was path in itself. Here, destinations are set. There are short succinct paths directly to set buildings. There are of course longer and short ways to travel, but it is very hard not to get where you are going. One would have to stray purposefully and work unduly hard to reach somewhere undiscovered and surprising. This saddens me deeply and I want to see my Adah legs limping and gimping into a wrong turn and into a wrong place. I am sure it wouldn't be wrong at all.

- Kara T.


              Grass green shire. That is what I see amongst these walls of wonder, so different from those of the Congo. Poor little Ada travels down these cold paths that do not record her kakakaka-lacking limb. Eyes follow — suspecting eyes watch my dragging leg, my silence my 'retardedness'. They whisper as I pass, their voices still audible over the "grump. . . grump" of my dragging limb. To them, I am just retarded — someone far from human. Oh but only if they knew of my hidden intelligence. Boy, would they be surprised at the wonders of a half-brained girl.

              As I walk down paths of rock and cement, I see a girl much like the Congolese pillars of wonder. She carries a load up stairs that I, Ada, would never be able to do. I stare at her — her pales skin, her dark hair, her short stature. Her height is like my own; close to the ground. Was she once my sister? Were we both the same until we were named? If she had also been named Ada? would she be like me? I watch her retreating form. She moves up the stairs with an ease and grace — how does that feel, I wonder.

              Alone am I. I am alone in this world. It is just me Ada.
I find a pillar white and I sit there on the ground, both limbs outstretched. Girls dressed like Congolese women pass by; their short skirts flutter in the air like butterflies desperate to flutter away. Yet these butterflies do not have wings like the Congolese butterflies, large as a human's—they are doomed to remain attached to these girls—they are chained down a path that they don't want to go down. Just like poor little Ada that must remain on the path that has a heavy imprint of a line and footprints that stretch on beyond the horizon.

              Little Ruth May—the youngest—the favorite. She runs around like a headless chicken, not paying attention to the pairs of bat eyes that follow her every move.
"Come play with me, Adah," she pleads to me, with that naive childish grin. I shake my head.
"Why not Adah? Huh? Huh? Why won't you come and play? I promise I won't run around!” she tries again. I just look off beyond her small body, concentrating on the flowing of these plants. Ruth May takes the hint and leaves me be.

              I look closer at these plants — I want to learn more about them. There are trees with thin grey branches stripped with white that stretch up into a bunch of leaves that shower out like fireworks of green and yellow. By these trees, there are smaller bushes that I find interesting. They are little plants with green and crimson leaves, smooth and large. As I stare, little drops of water begin to patter-patter against the leaves. I look up and come across the most beautiful rainfall. The sky—still blue with puffs of white is shedding tears so small that it feels like the mist that comes off a nearby waterfall as it hits the ground.            

              "Girls!" mother calls. I look towards the towering stone steps where mother stands waving her hand. There goes Ruth May, straight into mother's arms, then Rachel, then Leah. . . but Ada is nowhere to be found. Poor Ada walks alone in life—foot dragging towards the mountain that would take her years to climb. Yet she has to get up that mountain. One step at a time.

- Chantelle T.



Today I sit alone in my garden so many years after it all ended, but the Congo still haunts me in unfathomable ways. The vivacious colors of flowers opening, closing, lying limp and forlorn scattered on the grass beside me. The birds fly overhead as unconscious of any human existence. The red ripe richness of the dirt, in places cracked as if baked in the searing African sun. The faint stench of feces (which here I use as fertilizer, but invokes worse memories). Truly the Congo is everywhere. Watching me. With the eyes in the trees. On another day, I would run, shut my own eyes to these testaments to the Congo, forged with my own hands. Yet today, I revel in, take pleasure in the haunting, bitter, memories. I lie in my sanctuary bare-backed, the grass cutting delicate slices from my skin. As I indulge in the pain, I feel eyes, ever-present eyes, noting my every move. The surveillance never ceases. My slightest move is evidence of my guilt.

As I blankly stare into the slowly paling spring sky, a whirl of color catches my eye. Two yellow birds flit across the expanse between two trees, intricately dancing, intertwining paths, each soaring higher and higher as if their goal was to dance for God Himself. How I long to be as carefree as those butterflies, or were they birds? I am confused now, for they had a bird's ~,race and surety of flight, yet the playful abandon of butterflies. 1 have seen both yellow pixies here in my garden, playing among my plants like flowers touched by C)od and given the power of flight. I will never know bird or butterfly. Just as the Congo left me with questions unanswered, I will savor this, my own mystery.

The sky is empty once again, the deep blue now faded to the pale shade of too-still water. Rachel once told me that when we were in the Congo, my eyes lost their intensity and became pale, like shallow pans of water. 1 now see what she might have meant. The sky, such a spirited blue just a little while ago is now pale and lifeless. My attention shifts to the trees themselves, and again I feel watched. I gaze around, but of course there is no one. Who would be here? Sometimes I expect Nathan who, if he would track me back here to the states, would thrash me endlessly for utterly exposing my bare body to my garden. Sometimes, I feel as if God is lying alongside me in the grass, but unlike Nathan, he takes pity on me; pities me for being subject to one of his mercenaries gone astray. But most of the time, I feel you. Your reproachful eyes. My daughter and the Congo, now fused into one watchful, accusing being. I wish I could truly be free of the family that was my downfall, but you will never leave me.

- Shelley G.


There's a Happy Birthday sign over there, tattered and brittle, blowing in the wind. But its sweet goodness still shines forth. A group of girls giggle as they walk with each other, where was I when a joke was told? I did not laugh; I did not even crack a smile. There obviously is no escape for me, no one to laugh with, or be free with. No. Not for me, if I did escape, into this beautiful and remarkable Punahou jungle, Nathan would find me, and he knows I have to come back, but for my children. Those bright eyed little girls, pulling along their colorful, rolling, bags have no idea that they will someday have children; their personal restraint. Those little girls don't know of the restraint of children, those boys don't know of their housewives. In younger years, we were all innocent and unknowing as these. But the Congo has brutally informed my daughters, and myself and I don't think any of us will feel at ease in a huge concrete jungle such as Punahou. My children are not yet housewives, and don't have the restraint of their children yet, and so maybe the innocence and glory at this place will permeate into their hearts. And maybe free them of Nathan's clutches. For a moment or two.

- Arlen K.




The people here at this school, which reeks of money, take everything they have for granted. Don't they know that it was the Lord who created this earth, it was the Lord that gave them the opportunity to go to school, and it was the Lord that gives them the sunshine they bask in. They show no gratitude for the things they have. They should all spend a year, no, a day in the Congo, to see what real life is, and they would be begging to come back to this paradise. Everywhere I look, there are sinners. The girls, just abominations, wear hardly anything and flaunt the very bodies Our Father has given them as if they were whores. How dare they use the Lord's name in vain! Don't they know God is always watching, judging? Ignorant fools. It is my duty to save them and spread the word of God and to lead them out of the darkness of ignorance.

- Emilie B.


Despite the golden rays of sun streaming across this schoolyard they call Punahou, His light has yet to fall here. One of the finest schools in Hawaii, I am told, but there is too much laughter, too much freedom here for me to be impressed. As I wander around, it is indeed sad to see the useless waste of time and money for so many girls to be enrolled here. I dare not let my eyes wander to the naked midriffs and bare shoulders because their flesh is like my daughters' flesh. You can see it in their eyes, in the way they dress, and the way they act-- studying and learning are not serious pastimes. The youth here grow too fond of things they call "mobility phones" and "earphones" which blast music and warp their brains.

A stroll past the chapel made my blood boil more furiously. My church was but a mere mud and palm-thatched open building in Kilanga-- the Lord asked not for stained glass windows, pews of the finest koa wood, or a serene lily pond outside. He did not ask, but He did receive...

I know I was sent to light the fire in these young people. I just need the opportunity. I tried to join in their group discussion under a tree, but their words  --"North swell," "Counterstrike," and "The Matrix,"-- I could not comprehend. But I refuse to give up.

- Myles M.


              The buildings, the trees, and the paths! A bu! Beene was right! Everything is different here! It is the world of the white men, les hommes blancs, like Leopoldville, Stanleyville, and the other white cities in Congo, though in soil that suits the men, their lives, and their creations better. The buildings! They stand as tall as the trees, as tall as the jungle. They are school buildings, but oh, so much more magnifique than the little mud thatched schoolhouse we have in Kilanga. They are white, like other white men's buildings, though there is more glass on one of these buildings than probably all of Africa! I can see that they are made of stone, though what stone I cannot say. Some are made of stone bricks that are held together by light gray stone. I presume it to be cement, as forms the base of the Price's household in Kilanga, but to see it in such quantities! One building especially - the white one. That seems to be made almost entirely from the white stone that could be cement, though it has walls made from glass with shiny metal in many places. The buildings seem to follow no rules in their structures, they arch and lift, span and tower any way they like, like the giant trees in the jungle.

              The trees that grow here are especially interesting. They don't grow in the way of buildings - they seem to inhabit specific areas and line certain buildings. Could it be that les hommes blancs found out how to move the mighty trees any way they want? The ferns as well, they grow along the pathways, between the buildings and the roads. Have the white men also found out how to grow ferns to their will? Everywhere that isn't covered by roads is covered by bright green grass, grass that you don't see often in Africa, because the sun bakes whatever grass there is into the brown-yellow mess that it is. There is very little dirt visible anywhere, and it is moist, though not muddy, like mud after the rainy season as it has just started to dry up.

              The roads! You can't walk barefoot on these roads! Ayi, they are made of cement as well. They are free of dirt, and they look like they can last forever. Everyone has shoes here, to walk on them better with.
And yes, Beene was right once again! The cars are everywhere! I have never seen so many cars at once. Imagine the African people traveling to see Patrice Lumumba, this is how automobiles crowd the black roads. They are everywhere, traveling the same way and in different ways, like different colonies of ants after they've found food. Even on the walking roads, there are small cars to travel these. They are all open on the sides with a small cart on the back, unlike the covered ones on the roads. To see so many cars at once!
              The people here too are different. They are all white, or slightly darker, but I didn't see any hommes noirs anywhere. The people are blonde or black haired here. They are unlike the people that inhabit the cities in Africa, but they are white, nonetheless. They all have clothes here, despite their ages, though it seems that on the females, their clothes sometimes cover less than those here in Africa, no matter what Reverend Price may say. Their bags, too, are different. They have straps that go around their arms, with the sacks on their backs. It seems to suit them well, and it could probably hold more weight than a basket carried on the head!

- Chris D.


Tata Kuvudundu


              Today was strange. Stranger than any other day. I, Tata Kuvudundu, saw many things that are unholy. First, I saw huge boxes with triangle colored things on top of them. It was very odd. I threw a rock at one in hopes of destroying this evil. It didn't work. I then came upon these strange children holding strange objects in their hands. These objects were rectangular with evil patterns on the backs and fronts. I took no notice of anything else because I knew I had to get away quickly before the objects cursed me too. Those poor children will die soon for holding those objects with ghostly faces and strange symbols on them. I saw this vision and I spit on the ground and shook out some powder from my medicine horn to bless myself before these unholy children.

              I then ran to a group of new people. These people were unlike any other I'd seen before. Black hair, yellowish skin, and strange clothes. They looked nothing like the white man, but they did not look like people from my home either. Odd. I then saw these squares in the wall. They were gray. Each had some sort of colorful object hanging from them. I tried to take one because it was shiny and pretty, but it wouldn't come off. Angrily, I spit on it and placed a twig on the floor to cast a curse upon these squares and their shiny objects. The people talked quickly in the white man's tongue. I did not understand why they choose to wear all these clothes, but I said nothing to them. I went on to see some odd rectangles in walls. They were unlike anything I saw before. Suddenly, a ghost popped through the rectangular wall! I ran as fast as I could away from this unholy place. Today was not a good day. Many evils walk upon the land.

- Ronald Y.