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New Clothes, a Revival, and Hugs from Home

July 29, 2011

Week one of model school is done and packages have arrived for the first time in over a month! I hadn’t gotten any yet and there was a rumor I had one. I collected mine from Prince. Three! Two from my mom (plus a letter) and one from Laura who went home in June. Jackpot! Christmas in July! People sat on the porch unpacking boxes and I wanted to stay and look at mine, but I had a lot to do at home. I needed to get my lapa suits, shop for coconuts with Princess, pump water, get to the revival and pack for Monrovia.

I got a ride home from Doe Palace and raced inside, dumped my loot on the floor and had dinner: fried chicken, a hot dog, potatoes with onions, and bread with cheese and jelly. Esther and Luke took me to the pump and the women shrieked to see me pump my own water—and some of theirs. I stopped to speak small Kpelle and Mano with them and they loved it. Sharon, who lives by the pump, gave us some popcorn and I carried our bucket home.

Princess and I raced to get my lapas and our coconuts. My clothes are fine, but not quite as fine-o as I’d hoped. The dress has no special adornment (I’d imagined orange ribbon?) and he forgot my pockets. The dress also features the letters more prominently than the numbers, but oh well. Liberians still love it. It’s just…. plain. The suit isn’t quite what I imagined either, but I haven’t tried it on. I really want to shop for fabric and I’m really annoyed I have to go to town this weekend, even if it means electricity and internet and food. Swearing in is coming up and I want something very special to meet President Ellen. My tailor, Prince, took two weeks to make these so I don’t want to wait too much longer.

Around 8:00 we finally left for the revival. I’ve only been out that late once before and it was in the car. It’s dark! It was surreal though to hear no one say “white woman!” until we were far down a lighted portion of the street (15 minutes?). A man started yelling that he loved me and grew upset when I said, “Thank you,” and kept walking. I beamed in the dark to hear Princess put him in his place. “She not want you, man. Don’t embarrass yourself, eh?” She was protecting me!

A few dozen people assembled at church and Princess motioned I should sit with her and the other children. Usually they put me in the first or second row with the adults. We watched a huge praying mantis scale the wall, they let me (try to) play the sasa, my dad anointed people with oil and two women fell to the floor shouting. Successful revival. Oh, and I made a small boy cry on the way out.

We got home around 10:30 and I decided to open my packages. I opened the oldest one first: running tights, skittles, ipod charger. My mom packed everything in ziploc bags and when I opened the tights a big whiff of home filled my nostrils. I lost it. It was the closest feeling I’ll get to a hug from home. It was my apartment, my mom, my familiar life, all wrapped in a smell. I carefully folded them and put them back in the bag. I wanted to save that as long as possible!

The next box went on and on and I was so flooded with memories from home I couldn’t see through the tears. I was so washed over with love I couldn’t process, gratitude I couldn’t voice. This box was huge. And I don’t mean in size. Huge in the tools it contained. Books! A Dr. Seuss collection! The copy of The Wizard of Oz my mom had as a child with gorgeous pictures that always makes me think of my grandma’s house. This is probably my new most-treasured possession. I hugged it to my chest and cried, unable to believe it was in Africa! Everything smelled like home. Everything felt like home.

There was the Uno deck, the same one my family has used since before I knew colors and numbers, and Ninja Turtle cards. Flash cards. Decks and decks of flash cards! Activity books, crayons, notebooks, math books, Missouri wildlife pamphlets and magazines. Luke will FREAK OUT when I show him the one about ducks. Frisbees, tote bags… the tote bag I packed my lunch in every day before walking to the Missouri Theatre. I’m sure my mom had no idea, but it was so eerie. Holding it in my hands tonight, in Africa, I thought of how bad I wanted this experience each day I locked my front door and went to sit (and eat lunch at) that desk.

More than making me homesick, the boxes brought a bit of home to me, to my Liberian family, to my kids. I am so excited to share some of this with them! It will really mean the world. And all of this is in addition to Laura’s box which had a jump rope, crayons, activity books, balloons, inflatable balls, candy, stickers…. it went on and on. I am so grateful! I even forgot until just now that all I was hoping for was a gray t-shirt and none came. (I’m out of clean clothes and it just keeps raining.) So little of this is for me, but it all feels like it is in a way. Because I get to share it, teach with it, laugh about it. And those laughs and smiles could power me through a lifetime of this.

I feel so loved, so blessed, so grateful.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 18, 2011 1:09 pm

    Wonder entry B! I love the descriptions and intimate details you’ve been sharing with all of us! Your liberian family sounds wonderful and sounds like you’re all sharing things with eachother not only of your countries but yourselves. Truly priceless!

    • August 18, 2011 10:19 pm

      So glad you’re reading, B! My host family is amazing. They’ve really taken me in as their own and made me smal smal Liberian. I’m glad to be able to share them with everyone here.

  2. Anna Merkle permalink
    August 18, 2011 5:51 pm

    I love reading what you have been up to. It sounds like you are having a blast. I know that you are busy but could you put a list of things up that you would like sent to you so that we can send you care packages with things that you need? I was going to see about sending you a package with things in them so that you have a little more stuff for you and your students!!

    • August 18, 2011 10:28 pm

      You’re always thinking of sweet things to do for people, Miss Merkle! I was just thinking about adding a ‘wish list’ page so you read my mind. Until I get time to do that, though, my short list would include pens (any kind–the ones here just suck!), books or magazines with pictures kids would like, deodorant, small stickers for tests/homework, and AA batteries.

      So glad you’re reading!

  3. Andrea Penn permalink
    August 25, 2011 12:41 pm

    I laughed quite loudly at work when I read, “Oh, and I made a small boy cry on the way out.”;)
    Nice work, Miss Bekka.
    Hope you are well and it’s always wonderful to read your adventures…much love to you 🙂

    • August 30, 2011 7:53 am

      Oh, Andrea, you would not believe how many small kids point, scream, and run away when they see me!

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