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Making it official

August 22, 2011

It has been an amazing few days.  We swore in Friday and President Ellen was there.  Krista and I met a couple in their late 50s or 60s who served in Sanniquellie in the 1970s and now live in Monrovia.  They even taught at Central High!

Latricia and Fable went with me and we didn’t talk much on the bus ride.  As we approached the Foreign Affairs Building, however, she leaned over.  Everyone else on the bus erupted in laughter and pointed at a zebra statue.  She looked past it at a large church.  “During the war many people gathered here because they thought they’d be safe,” she said in a low voice.  “But they were killed.  The rebels came and killed them all.”  She shook her head and I fought back tears.  I remembered Vince’s speech the day before when he cautioned us not to forget that we’re in a post-conflict, healing, country.

It’s easy to focus on the small daily inconveniences, or alternately triumphs, and forget what really brought all of us here.  Our being here at all is a sign of a return to normalcy.  I am so honored to play a role, even such a small one, in the rebuilding of Liberia.  All these wonderful people deserve so much more.  After twelve weeks I can, without hesitation, call them my brothers and sisters.

When we got home I walked to town to see if Cecelia would teach me to bake.  She was asleep so I walked to my family’s shop and bought things for popcorn balls and ginger cookies.  Half an hour later I came back and she was gone!  “I will wait,” I told her sister.  And I did.  For an hour.  A group of teenage boys gathered around me and one of them remembered me from Model School.  He came to 11th grade just two days.  “Do you remember anything from my class?I asked.  He smiled and started doing my “angle arms” and naming “acute! obtuse! right!”  I was so surprised!  (Note to self: incorporate physical stuff as much as possible.)   I pried him and his friends for information about Liberian students and schools.  All in all it was a very pleasant afternoon.  (I had no idea everyone else was at Doe Palace celebrating!)

I came home and ate dinner… but I could hear my host parents arguing in their room.  I’m surprised this was the first time it happened since I arrived.  It unnerved me small, though, when I over heard snatches that sounded like they could be about me.  So I was relieved when Princess said we needed to go back to the market.  My mom came out when she heard us come back.  “Where are you going, Leela?” she demanded.  I have always come and gone freely so I was taken aback.  “Nowhere.  We come from market.”  She replied “Come.  You need to carry me somewhere.”  I said, “Of course,” and we left.

We walked down the road to the small football field and she stopped in the half darkness.  “I’m sorry you heard me and my husband fighting.”  I assured her it wasn’t a problem but she continued.  Princess failed 7th grade and rather than make her learn her lesson my dad is just letting her switch schools.  My mom is furious.  They paid plenty money to send her to the Catholic school.  My mom walked while pregnant to help pay for it.  Princess has only lived with them a year, she explained, and before that her grades were bought for her.

I was so relieved she hadn’t been fighting about me… and so mad at Princess.  Apparently she has a boyfriend and she and Sattah sneak out at night.  My mom is mad my dad won’t come down on her about it.  Oh, human problems are the same across languages and cultures!  I was, and continue to be, very disappointed in both girls.  But is it their fault?  Probably not.  Until recently has anyone been a good role model?  Latricia is amazing, but Princess has only been here a year.  Before that she was passed to relatives around the interior.

Oh, cruel fate!  Life can be a roll of the dice.  Hopefully she can still win…

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