In a remote village in Sierra Leone, West Africa, I befriended Alpha, one of the local men on our building crew. Alpha was impressed with my tool set and was amazed to find a woman working in construction. He'd bring extra rice and greens for lunch and we'd sit and talk. He asked about my husband, and I told him I wasn't married. Alpha said he wanted sons and that he would marry soon. He wondered whether I'd stay in his country, and then surprised me by saying he had an important question for me. I was nervous about his impending marriage proposal, and the next day Alpha was solemn as he asked if I was ready to answer his question. I nodded. "When you go back to America," he said, "may I have your trowel ?"

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