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Sisterhood

August 18, 2011

Princess, Sattah, and Esther fend ground peas on the porch while the ol' ma watches from her usual chair.

Swearing in is tomorrow. It hardly seems possible. I remember back in June when I would come home every night and, with a heavy sigh, cross another day off the calendar. Then suddenly July was over and here was are halfway through August, less than a week from moving to site. I’m really doing this!

I went to the tailor to get my suit after session and Price wasn’t there. “He’s at church,” Madison said. “Come back tomorrow.” I gave him a stern look and said simply, “No.” I explained the situation again and once I “begged” he smiled wide and assured me it would be ready by 8:00pm.

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

I went home and danced with the kids until it was dark then ate my dry rice and fish. Princess walked me back to the tailor and it was ready! I was elated! Until I got home, put it on, and saw the sleeves were not what I asked for. They are hideous! I asked him not to put elastic in them and he said, “Oh, there’s no elastic in those sleeves.” Hmm. Miscommunication. Apparently he meant, “I will make entirely different ones without elastic.” I look like a grandma… with giant fish fins on her shoulders. Yikes. I wanted to look fine-o… not fin-o. Oh well. I have a third lapa left over so when I get to site maybe my new tailor can make me a new top (the skirt is bootylicious but fine).

It could be worse: Krista was still at her tailor at 10:30pm and had just tried on the skirt! They were going to take the embroidery out of the collar since the machine was broken and try to finish it. Oh my. We’ll match in our pure ridiculousness. That’s for sure. There are tons of gorgeous clothes walking around the streets here—I just haven’t figured out how to ask my tailor for them. So I’m crossing my fingers about the three things I’m still expecting from him before Wednesday. I keep changing my mind on the poor guy so who knows what I’ll end up with. I’m sure he and Madison think I’m ridiculous, but I don’t mind. That’s pretty much par for the course here. I am what I am and that’s what I am and that’s ok.

Walking home I asked Princess who would get their room back when I left. She was quiet then said, “Me.” I was shocked. For some reason I thought it would be my brother who sleeps on the floor by the door. “And Sattah,” she continued. I was even more surprised. Isn’t Sattah our neighbor…? I let all this sink in a second. “Sattah lives with us?” I asked. “Sattah is my good friend,” Princess said, “and I was alone in my room so I invited her to sleep with me. Her family’s home is one room and not everyone fits inside.” I’d wondered. I walk past it every day and it’s about the size on my room with no windows and a thatch roof. Everyone is in the yard, even in the rain, under a small cane gazebo with a coal pot and a low table.

“Princess!” I said, “You are so nice!” She shrugged in the dark. I feel like we have a special friendship but this added a whole new dimension. When she has said, “Oh, Auntie Leela, we will miss you!” I’d never imaged that I’d kicked her out of her own room and literally put her friend back out in the rain. I felt guilty for sometimes being annoyed with Sattah for always hanging around. I thought she just wanted me to give her candy and crayons. I mean, maybe she did, but she is more of a sister than I realized. I want to do something special for her and Princess before I leave. I could buy them lappas, but that doesn’t seem like enough. Take them to get a new dress made? Pay their school fees? They have given me a special gift that cannot be quantified and given a value. I hope in some small way I’ve given back to them. I think I have, but only time will tell and I may well never know.

Today we had a closing ceremony for PST. I was labeled, “Most likely to adopt the Liberian lifestyle.” I was a little annoyed and insulted at first (some of the volunteers poke fun at people they say are ‘too integrated’) but the more I think about it, I own it. There is a beauty to life here, a kindness and generosity that makes fourteen years of bloody conflict seem unlikely rather than raw and fresh. If adopting the lifestyle means knowing my neighbors, cooking, and doing my own chores then, yes, I already have. Isn’t that half of what I signed up for?

We cannot direct the wind—but we can adjust the sails.

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