eJournal #3. 2008

Last week, I learned that palm nuts are harvested for making oil to eat, to cook with or to burn.  Normally my ultra-paranoid toxin-conscious American self would run and hide from eating a fruit that was cooked in a substance that doubles as fuel, but somehow, in Liberia it seems right.

 What doesn’t seem right is that Bromley has hundreds of palm and rubber trees ready to harvest, as I was told by the grounds maintenance man who has worked there for 23 years as a teacher for most of the time.  This is instant revenue with little cost up front.  He also told me of his idea to have each class have a garden…brilliant.  I will continue to investigate what can be done.

I learned all of this walking the property grounds where the ruins of missionary houses and barns were dotted along the riverbanks.  I had a vision of a thriving, productive school community.  It is within grasp.

I delivered the white church dresses that Frank donated and the girls are so proud that when I photograph them, I notice they had not removed the piece of paper (used to identify the recipient) with their name written on it.  It was till pinned to their dress.  Since I arrived on a Saturday morning, their hair is not yet plaited, but they don’t care.  They wanted me to take the picture. 

Some of the girls’ shoes are in horrible condition.  Coral had on two mismatched ill-fitting broken flip-flops.  Michael told me that the rainy season ruins shoes, but I think the lack of supplies is the problem at Bromley.

When I drove through the gates of Bromley that morning, it was laundry day and the entire front lawn was covered in drying laundry.  I looked like a party and the aftermath of a hurricane all at once. The spiky grass propping the clothes off the dirt and the scorching sun made quick drying time, I’m certain, and people have been drying laundry outside all over the world for much longer than inside- but today it seemed so symbolic of the flung-out-to-dry feeling some of these girls hold inside.

One of the Bromley girls, Charlesetta, asked me to come live with them forever and another, Hawa, wrote me a note saying she cries for me every night and she dreams of me and my daughter, Gabrielle, when she sleeps.  Where does one put all of this?  I wonder.


A few random images:

Sunday football (soccer) game outside the compound walls.  The goalie is wearing ripped yellow flip-flops but still manages to defend the goal magnificently, the grass is knee high in places, the palm trees sway in the background.  I have come to watch Billie and Bor Bor play and am not only the only white person among the spectators but also the only girl.  I make loads of friends, just the same. Walking to the field, Billie showed me a shortcut and I was mortified when we emerged in someone’s back yard and two people were covered in soap, in mid-bath.  They didn’t seem to even notice me as I averted my eyes and walked quickly past.

Driving home from dinner at night the streets are crowded with people walking across the bridges and through Duala Market and dark except for vendors in shacks still open for business burning candles in gallon sized glass jars or wedged in among a pile of garlic on a wooden table.  The soft glow is mesmerizing and inviting and I wish I could stop.

Remember the plantains from my friend?  Well, Juanita’s cook, Joe, asked me if I would like him to fry some and when I said YES! He served me an impossibly large platter full. “Now what?” I thought, but they were still warm and caramelized crispy on the outside, soft and sweet inside…I ate every single morsel.

A storm approaches as I am working in my room.  The palm trees are impossibly chartreuse against the charcoal sky.  After the clouds unload, I walk to the gazebo in a world that is fresh and dripping, where rose petals are scattered along the walkway as if waiting for a wedding.

On the streets of Monrovia, a beggar approaches the cars and bangs on windows with his arms, both of which were amputated at the elbows, a common practice during village raids during the war.  He stands in the middle of the street shaking his head so that it is obvious he has an itch.  He throws his arm up over and over to no avail.

I am sitting outside the gazebo in the compound where I am staying listening to the rising tide lap at the cement barrier looped with razor wire in front of the house. I am concurrently thankful for the reprieve and guilt-ridden because of it. Dark, pregnant storm clouds hover above the horizon and I am so grateful for the strip of fading blue sky below them that allows me to witness a tangerine sunset.  I watch two men in an ancient dugout canoe glide with stealth through the water, trolling their lines for fish- a fascinating art to witness.  When I look up again, they are gone and I know they are near but they have slipped into the shadows now.  I am disappointed I can no longer be a spectator but reassured somehow of their presence.  I suppose this is not unlike how I will feel when I leave Liberia.

Day gives way to night.  Tree frogs screech like whistle-blowing cops on a power trip. The strobe light of  heat lightening flashes behind the sliver of a crescent moon with Venus just below it, dropped like a tear.

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