"Don't be scared little one." Those words echoed in my ears when my father spoke them years ago, when I was a young boy. Don't be scared? I thought to myself, how can I not be scared. This was the first time away from our village, in the rain forest, near the Ivory Coast. Now there I was in a hospital in Johannesburg about to have surgery the doctors said would repair what was left of my face.
It took my Father and me 14 days to reach Johannesburg. We could've traveled by plane with the doctors after they came to our village to investigate why myself and other kids in our and neighboring villages kept getting large sores on our bodies. But I was much too young to travel alone and my father was away working in the coffee fields. When he returned, we set out for the city together.
Unsure really, how we were going to make it the nearly 2000 km. We walked a lot, at times some people gave us rides in their cars or truck's, closer to the larger cities there were public buses. Sometimes we had to cling to the outside of the bus while it was still moving like the young monkey's hold onto their mothers while she travels through the forest. That was still better than walking.
I was the first one in our village to be afflicted by this mystery illness. What started out as what seemed like a mosquito bite on my neck, opened up as a sore that quickly spread across my neck, onto my face, and down to my arm and chest. It wasn't painful but each day it grew like a plant in fertile soil. I felt as if death was coming to get me one piece...