ANOTHER UGLY DUCKLING
ANOTHER UGLY DUCKLING
I’m sure you all know about the little ugly duckling that grew to be a beautiful swan; well this is about a little girl all the other children thought was ugly:
Not very long ago, there was a little girl who lived in Africa. Well, she was quite a big girl really, as she was eleven years old. She lived in small village, near a large river. Her home was a hut made of mud and branches. All her friends lived in similar huts. She had no shoes, and only one dress made from an old potato sack.
She never went to school, because there was no school for her to go to. Like the other children there, she had to work hard to help her family stay alive.
It was extremely hot in that part of Africa, and when God made the people there, he gave them special dark skin to protect them from the hot sun. The girl was called Doraki Alkigwari. That is a hard name to say, so everyone called her Dora.
Unfortunately there are always lots of wars and fighting in Africa. One night the fighting came to Dora’s village. Soldiers rushed in and there was a lot of shooting. The soldiers shot many villagers, including Dora’s parents. Dora was very frightened and ran off alone into the jungle to hide.
She lived there all alone for many days. She stayed alive by eating berries and any wild fruit she could find. Each day she hurried on, letting her footsteps take her further away from the fighting.
After many days she came to another river, and heard voices. Peeping cautiously from the safety of the forest, she saw some soldiers camped by the water, eating dinner. To Dora, they were very strange soldiers. Those soldiers had white skin. She had never seen anyone with white skin before.
She was so surprised at that, and the smell of the food was so tempting, she forgot for a moment to be careful. One of the soldiers looked up and saw her. She stood very still, thinking he might shoot her if she moved. Instead, he watched her for a short while, and then held out some food to her.
At first she was very afraid, however, the soldier smiled and beckoned to her. Dora was so hungry, and the food smelled so good, that she slowly moved forwards. The soldier put the food on the ground for her and started chatting to the other soldiers. When Dora saw they were not going to hurt her, she moved nearer and took the food.
Dora did not know it, but the men were British soldiers who had been sent to help stop the fighting. They spoke in sign language to her, and she realised she was safe and could stay with them. That night she slept near one of the soldiers who were keeping guard.
It was the first proper sleep she had managed in many days. When she awoke, it was long past sunrise, and the soldiers were already up and packing their camp.
One of them got her some breakfast, and then explained they were leaving, and wanted her to go with them. Soon she heard a strange chugging noise and the largest boat she had ever seen came into sight round the bend in the river. It moved to the shore and stopped. The soldiers got on the boat and Dora joined them.
Dora stayed with the soldiers, and they were taken down river to a large Army Camp near the sea. There was some White ladies there. They looked after Dora until a large seaplane arrived, and took some of the soldiers and ladies to a big seaside city.
Everything was new and wondrous to Dora. She was not the least bit afraid, because everyone was so friendly, and took care of her. One lady brought her some shoes and a pretty dress and other clothes. After eating the largest meal she had ever had, she was taken aboard a huge aeroplane. It flew them all the way to England.
Once there, she had to see a doctor and some nurses, and was asked all sorts of questions she didn’t understand. Luckily, the soldier that had first seen her, stayed with Dora to help. When all the questions were over, the soldier’s wife joined them. She signed some papers, and then Dora was taken to their home in the countryside.
Dora was able to live with them, and after a while had to start school. She only knew a few words of English that the soldier’s wife had taught her, and she could not read, so had to be with the infant class.
As she was nearly black, and, because of her eyesight, had to wear spectacles, Dora was very different to the other children. Soon they all started calling her horrid names like Dumb Dora, and Nig Nog and Dirty Dora. Even the smaller children joined hands at playtime to sing over and over, ‘Dora’s an ugly duckling’.
You may think that it upset Dora, but it did not. She was very happy. She had shoes and nice clothes and nice food to eat. She knew the soldier and his wife loved her, and the teachers were kind. No soldiers came to shoot them, so she didn’t mind the other children laughing at her.
The nasty names and teasing continued. You see, Dora could not use a computer or calculator -or even a television control. She certainly couldn’t use a personal telephone. The other children thought Dora was very dim. She had not even heard of Jesus, and prayed to the Sun and Tree Spirits.
During that summer, the school arranged a trip on a sailing ship for some of the children. It was very expensive and many of the parents could not afford to pay for their children to go. Luckily for Dora, her guardians –the soldier and his wife – paid for her to go.
Some weeks later, the children and two teachers set sail from Southampton on a large old-fashioned sailing ship. It had been especially prepared for school trips.
Two weeks later they were sailing in the sea off Africa. That night a dreadful storm blew up. It raged all night and when morning came, the ship was in serious danger of sinking.
The wireless room had been damaged in the first few moments by a giant wave. That meant that no signal could be sent to tell of their danger and give any coastguards the ships’ position. They were soon out of control and about to sink.
Two of the lifeboats had been washed away. The Captain had to make a difficult decision. He packed as many children as he could in the one remaining lifeboat, together with some food and water –and cast them off.
It was done just in time. As the lifeboat moved away, another large wave swamped the ship, and it rolled over and slowly sank. The children were left alone to their fate.
The children drifted all day in the lifeboat. Some of the older children took charge of the food and water. The storm passed and the sea calmed, the sun shone and was very hot. None of the children knew where they were, or in which direction to try to steer.
Dora made a suggestion. The others told her to shut up. After all, she was just Dumb Dora. But by the end of the second day, all the children except Dora were suffering from bad sunburn. They were all thirsty, hungry, and frightened.
By the end of the third day, things were much worse. When Dora took hold of the tiller to steer the boat nobody complained. She looked at the sinking sun, said a little prayer, set the sail, and tied the tiller that steered the boat, then went to sleep.
The following morning, the very last of the water and food was dished out. Everyone ate hungrily except Dora. She hid her two biscuits in her dress. She watched the sun for a while and re-set the tiller, then worked her way among the other children, trying to protect them from the sun with what clothing they had. The other children were too weak and sore to protest.
On the fifth day, Dora was also very weak, but the rest were much worse and hardly moved. An occasional seagull flew overhead. Carefully, Dora got one of the two fishing lines that were in the survival pack. She delicately threaded a piece of a biscuit she had saved, on to the hook, then laid it on the back of the boat and crouched down.
Before long a seagull swooped down and flew over the boat a couple of times, then dived and took the biscuit. Dora pulled - and the seagull was hooked. Quickly pulling it to her hands she swiftly killed it.
That may sound very cruel, but Dora was trying to keep her, and the other children alive. She fastened the head of the bird on the hook and secured the end of the line to the boat, then threw the hook and rest of the line overboard. It trailed behind for a while and suddenly went tight. Dora pulled and landed a fish weighing about four pounds.
Using the survival knife, she cut off the fish head and tail. Getting an empty container, she cut the fish up as small as she could, and then squashed it all into a paste. The other children that were able had watched her every move. When each was offered a bit of paste, they ate it greedily.
Throughout the day, using fish heads and tails, Dora caught four more fish and five seagulls. She skinned the seagulls and squashed them in with the fish she had pulped. That, she shared among the children. It gave them badly needed food and moisture.
Next day there were lots of seagulls all around. Dora knew that was a good sign. Sure enough, by mid day she could see land in the distance. A few hours later she had managed to beach the lifeboat on the shore. Running to the nearest tree, she whispered a prayer and went to help the others ashore.
The children got out and dragged themselves up the beach. Dora pulled the small anchor and rope up the beach, hoping to keep the boat from floating away. She showed those that were able, what fruit and berries they could safely collect from the surrounding jungle, then went to look for fresh water.
She had hoped to find a stream. After searching for a while without finding water, she decided to return. On the way back she collected some leaves from a bush she recognised. She showed the leaves to two of the boys and told them to collect some more of the same type. Placing those leaves to one side, she encouraged the others to make a shelter from large leafy branches.
The children were sore and exhausted by the time they were finished. They lay huddled together, crying themselves to sleep. Dora mashed all the special leaves that had been collected, and mixed them with a little seawater. She went round the other children in turn, gently dabbing the mixture on the worst of their blisters. After that she joined them to sleep.
She was up first. Waking the other girls, she showed them what wild berries and roots were okay to eat. She encouraged the girls to gather as much as they could, the boys, she set to collecting driftwood to build a huge fire. The lifeboat was still anchored, so later; Dora got all the children to pull and push together and managed to get it well up the beach.
She got them to help remove the mast and sail, so it could be used as part of a more secure shelter. One of the boys helped her carry the survival box containing a signalling pistol and flares, an axe, matches, canvas water carriers and some medical supplies, to the safety of the shelter.
The children were still in a fairly sorry state. However, all were alive, and none were suffering serious injury. All were happy – even the older boys – to let Dumb Dora be in charge. Shortage of water was the main problem in the heat. Dora soon found an answer to that.
Taking two of the boys and the axe, she searched the nearby jungle until she found just the kind of tree she wanted. She put her arms round it and whispered a prayer. Using the axe, she made a long gash in the bark and hacked a slit at the bottom of the gash. She instructed the boys to hold a water-carrier tight against the slit. In a short while watery sap started to ooze down the gap into the canvas carrier.
They filled both carriers and then she sealed the slit and gash she had made, using mud from the jungle floor. They took the liquid back, and all the children drank some. It tasted rather woody, but was very refreshing. By the end of the first week the children had adapted to their plight quite well.
A small fire was kept burning day and night. A big pile of driftwood was kept in reserve, in case they saw a ship or airplane. Dora intended to light that and use the signalling flares if they saw any. She also had started a new project. With the aid of the boys she had found a fallen hollow tree that would serve her purpose
Using the axe and knife, they cut a six-foot section of the trunk and finished hollowing it out as best they could. It was rolled and dragged to the fire. Under Dora’s supervision, the log was moved back and forth and rolled in and out of the flames.
It was never let burn, but gradually it was completely dry and hard all over. Dora said it was time to try it. She got it rested across two logs, and using the axe handle, she banged on it. The hollow sound it produced pleased her.
Dora couldn’t use a portable phone, however she knew how to make a jungle drum. They carried the drum to the nearest high point and balanced it on a couple of logs. One of the boys had cut Dora a couple of wooden clubs. She took those and started swinging them rhythmically.
As she kept up a steady beat, the sound of the drum boomed out across the water and through the jungle. Dora was very pleased. For the next two days she beat out a signal for a few minutes every few hours. On the evening of the second day, as she finished, from far in the distance the children heard a drum replying.
They went almost crazy, jumping and screaming in delight. They hugged and kissed Dora. Dora was concentrating and yelled to them to hush. She beat the drum again. Once again came a reply.
Dora stood rooted to the spot all through the night, beating out the language of the jungle drums, and then pausing for a reply. Just before dawn the children –who had stayed up all night too –heard men calling in the distance. They shouted as loud as they could.
At last, a party of African soldiers appeared through the trees. Dora spoke to them in a language the other children could not understand. The soldiers gave the children food and drink. Using a portable radio set, one soldier called back to his base. Later that morning, two Army Landing Craft sailed into sight along the coast. The children were soon snugly aboard.
They sailed up the coast to a place called Bolondo. There, they were looked after in hospital for two days. They were showered with presents and had to give radio and television interviews from their beds. On the third day they were released from hospital. Followed by a huge cheering crowd, they were taken to the airport and boarded a plane for England.
The children were met at the airport by friends and parents, and mobbed by the newsmen and TV cameras. That evening the children stayed in a big London hotel with their parents. Her guardians, who were so happy and proud of their girl, had met Dora. She was just as happy to be back with them.
All the newspapers and TV programs next day carried pictures of the castaways. All had special close-up pictures of their hero Dora. When they returned to school, a special service was held to celebrate. No child called Dora any silly names. She was able to join in all the games.
When the full story of what had happened was made known, and the part Dora had played in saving her school-friends’ lives, she was summoned to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen and receive a special bravery award.
There were many things Dora did not know, and she had dark skin, and prayed to the Sun and Tree Spirits. But it was what she DID know, and BECAUSE her skin was dark, that she helped save twenty-three other children.
All the children had prayed when they were cast adrift. Most prayed to Jesus, a couple prayed to Allah and Dora prayed to the Sun and Tree Spirits. Nobody can know which of their Gods answered their prayers. I think ALL of them did.
It all goes to show children, that there are no such things as an Ugly Duckling. Whatever our shape or size, colour or religion, we should be friends with everybody and try to help them – because we never know when we may need their help.
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Copyright FANON 2004