eJournal

eJournal

Liberia

Kimmie's eJournal #11 (archived)

eJournal #11

April 2, 2009, Bushrod Island, Liberia

After a few weeks of working in Liberia, I find myself more and more at home.  Sure, when I’m exhausted and the ten mile trip to Monrovia takes over an hour in the traffic, when I have been sufficiently launched through the spine cracking craters in the streets, when I am pained to numbness from people with missing limbs pounding on my car window-and my heart- when my clothes,upon removal need tongs to lift into a bucket of soap and my hair is a perfect likeness of Medusa’s, or when I finally splurge and buy a small carton of milk that ends up tasting like Bob Evans sausage….I do wish for home.

However, people here welcome me into their families and their lives- which comes with the added luxury of their Liberian meals of pepper soup, palava sauce and cassava- all with the signature Liberian spice- and I always find that I want to stay.

Two weeks ago, I was invited to attend the inauguration of the University of Liberia’s new president.  This was a steamy, outdoor event full of regalia and fanfare.  Liberia’s president Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, was also in attendance. Most intriguing was a traditional wooden horn blown at certain points during the ceremony, sounding a long, deep moan. One man told me this horn has a long tradition and was used for chiefs and kings and now for presidents.  Though I melted in my suit and we were there for a total of eight hours, including a dinner reception afterwards, I enjoyed myself immensely, moving a little deeper into this cultural immersion.

I also had an invitation to visit the schools on the Firestone Compound that are open to employees and children in neighboring communities.  These schools actually had computers, gymnasiums, libraries, physics and chemistry labs. They offered a little hope that not only Bromley, but also all of the Liberian schools, can be restored to this level someday.  I also discovered that they award college scholarships and that Bromley students (or any student in Liberia) can apply.

Driving past the perfect rows of rubber trees, curved from the ocean wind, looking like a regiment of old men laboring across the hills, the weight of their burdens bending them towards the earth, I saw Liberia, a sad yet resilient image of life in spite of everything.

But, for the majority of my days, I have been teaching at Bromley and loving every second.  They have confided much to me, and just being with them and seeing their almost feisty hope, gives me hope.

Vestergaard-Frandsen, a Danish company I contacted while in the States, came to Bromley to donate insecticide-treated mosquito screens for the window and also water filtration devices that purify any water into safe drinking water.  Their speaker engaged the students during his presentation and was met with loud applause.  He promised to remember Bromley for future donations.

In addition, a Lt. Colonel from the US Marines donated boxes of toys and sweets that his mother had sent for distribution to children in Liberia.  These will be used as the girls’ Easter treats and everyone was thrilled to receive such a gift.

The next phase of agricultural development is going well, with a new field cleared for planting cassava and a business plan in development for the palm oil project.  Thanks to the generosity of St. Philip’s in Durham, North Carolina and also leftover Mustard Seed grant money from St. James’, Leesburg, the palm processing equipment is being ordered.  Great enthusiasm surrounds the agriculture, as it is a means of sustainable food and revenue for Bromley.

So now comes the part where, having been back for three weeks, I must start looking for a way to return.  My job may be concluded, but I will never be able to get these girls, or this place, very far from my heart. In fact, if I could design a fantasy job, it would involve returning to Liberia to live and write, not so much as a sociological study, but more as an adopted family journal. I would also love to teach more at Bromley.

Just as the earthy smells, the salty aroma of the sea, the deafening rains, the vibrant colors and even the city sounds are stitched into my soul, I can’t help but wonder what Liberia will remember of me?  Will the children play a game I taught them, write a story in a journal I gave them? Will I live in the memory of a friend or in the rains that I loved?

For now, I leave with the knowledge that I must return someday, against all odds…

From Kebbeh, 20, a senior at Bromley:

What Makes Me Happy

When ever I’m in need of money

People look at me and give

Me money, but I am not happy.

 

When ever I speak, people sit

And listen to what I have

To say, but I am not happy.

 

It is God’s grace that

Makes me happy and the

Future he has for me.

 

People will like to see me

Going down tomorrow at the

Point of death and sit to

Laugh at me, but God

Will never laugh at me

Because he loves me.

I am down of the idea

Of being happy.  Only as

Far as God’s grace, I go

In life.  Let the Lord make

My dream brighter. 

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