In Sierra Leone, there was a civil war from 1991-2002. During that time, many children were forced into being soldiers for the sake of survival. Ishmael Beah was one of those children. This scene takes place in New York, USA. Ishmael and Bah are invited to be participants of the United Nations First International Children’s Parliament. Dr. Tamba accompanies them on this trip from Sierra Leone to the U.S. I selected this scene because I felt that it portrayed a very important moment in Ishmael’s life where he gets to explore the city where he will unknowingly be living in one day. This scene gives the reader insight on his perspective of a world (or city/country) that is different than the one that he is used to. It completely changes how he perceives that side of the world and leaves him thinking and hoping for better. Midway through chapter 20, Ishmael says “Sometimes Laura would talk to us about stories I had heard as a child. I was in awe of the fact that a white woman from across the Atlantic Ocean, who had never been to my country, knew stories so specific to my tribe and upbringing. When she became my mother years later, she and I would always talk about whether it was destined or coincidental that I came from a very storytelling-oriented culture to live with a mother in New York who is a storyteller.”
Why is it so cold outside, but hot inside?
Ismael Beah is on the plane as he imagines what New York is like. He is in for a rude awakening as it is not anything like he expected.
My name is Kristen. I am from Norway.
United Nations First International Children’s Parliament
For the first time in his life, Beah experiences a true winter. He is surprised because he has only seen snow in movies. It is unexpectedly cold so he waits inside the terminal to warm up while Dr. Tamba and Bah call the taxi.
I am from Sierra Leone, and the problem that is affecting us children is the war that forces us to run away from our homes, lose our families, and aimlessly roam the forests...
Ishmael Beah Sierra Leone
After a day of discovering the city, Ishmael goes to the Vanderbilt YMCA hotel and is excited that he finally gets his own room. He begins to realize that although it's extremely cold outside, it is extremely hot inside! However, that doesn't stop him from watching the TV all night.
The next morning, Ishmael heads to breakfast with all the other kids from different countries who are going to participate in the United Nations First International Children's Parliament. He is greeted by a Lady named Kristen from Norway who gave him a name tag.
On the last day of the conference, everyone shared information about their country and things that were going on there. Ishmael had a speech that was written for him beforehand but he decided to go off script and speak from the heart. He stated where he was from and began telling everyone the dangers that he had to go through in Sierra Leone.
That night, all the children went to Laura's house for their last chance to let loose and have fun before returning back to some unfortunate circumstances in their countries. First they told stories, then they danced into the night. The children especially enjoyed the fact that at least one thing in the house represented their country which made it a cultural haven.