Lessons from ironing

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This month Ina Mina, who is from Africa, shares an exciting childhood story with us.

ONE day when I was a grade six student, I almost burned our house down! It was Sunday and there would be school the next day.  I wanted to iron my school uniform for the week. 

     My brother was already using the iron in the laundry room. I did not want to wait for him to finish with the iron as it was already seven pm. I went to the storage room and took the traditional iron which had been left there. 

     I bought some charcoal in the store not far from our house. I filled the iron with the charcoal, took a jar in the kitchen containing some gasoline. I did not know it was gasoline, I thought it was something like barbecue lighter. I used to see my big brothers take this jar, but I didn’t really know what they used it for. 

     I poured some drops of this liquid on the charcoal in the traditional iron. The flames at the beginning were high. I thought they would come down. But no, the flames kept going up and up. I realized that there was something wrong going on.  As I tried to put out the fire, it was going on more and more. 

     My brothers and parents got alerted by the noise I was making and by the smoke and the flames. There was a general panic in the house. The whole house was filled with smoke and heat. The kitchen was on fire. Even now, I don’t know who brought us, my siblings and me, downstairs and out of the gate. 

     There were three big cousins living with us and together with my father, they succeeded to put out the fire. We did not call the fire department because nobody thought about it in all the confusion. It was not obvious if they could arrive on time.  After the fire nothing was destroyed. But the walls of the kitchen and the corridor and all stuff in the kitchen were really dark. The smell of smoke remained in the house for about a week. My father repainted the walls, my mother saved what she could from the kitchen. 

     I felt guilty for awhile, but I did not know it was gasoline in the jar. I couldn’t believe they would keep gasoline in the house. My dad threw out this iron. This was my first and last time to use a traditional iron!  —Ina Mina


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