March 26, 2005
The Ice Man
Iso Paelay is the thirtysomething host of a popular music entertainment show Thursday nights on Ghana's TV3. Stage-named "Ice Baby" or "Ice Man", Iso interviews local personalities, spins records and generally holds forth with great energy and charisma.
But it's an accident that Iso is here in Ghana at all.
With a Liberian mother and Sierra Leonean father, Iso ("ICE-oh") grew up in Liberia until civil war broke out, then fled to Sierra Leone. When that country dissolved into its own civil war, Iso bounced among refugee camps in the two countries. He eventually made his way to Ghana, where he was able to bootstrap a life.
As I hung out with him the other night, it struck me that he is just one of hundreds of thousands of young West Africans whose lives have been spent in chronic limbo, fleeing from one war only to have to flee another, losing contact with their families and making their way as best they can.
For men like Iso, fleeing war meant not only not being murdered, but not being abducted into one of the militaries and forced into killing. For women who escaped wars so gruesome they defy explanation, the best case scenarios have often been brutal. Rape was all too common. Prostitution and HIV are prevalent, and teenage motherhood is a not-so-bad outcome.
By all standards, Iso is a success here. But he told me he doesn't feel he's accomplished much until he gets a college degree. He had just begun university in Liberia when Charles Taylor's rebels invaded from Cote d'Ivoire in 1989. Iso's career is hot here, but he's hoping to go to Corvallis, Oregon to study at Oregon State University, of all places. Strange to be here talking to an African war refugee and hear he's dreaming about my faraway home state.
There are so many youth of war who are now heading toward middle age with lives derailed, dreams still deferred, and families scattered across thousands of miles, if still alive at all.
Posted by Cathryn Poff at March 26, 2005 10:38 PM
Wow, it is a small world indeed. Iso sounds like an interesting fella, hope everyting works out for him.
Thank you for the updates, they're great!
Posted by: Curt at March 27, 2005 5:28 PM