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Hard Knock Life

October 26, 2011

Oh man, I need a break… of multiple kinds. Saturday’s trip to Gbarnga was long and exhausting… the opposite of what I needed. My leg didn’t give me as much trouble in the taxi and I thought it would, but a few of our drivers were crazy. Heading out of Sanni we stopped and put someone in the broken trunk. He lay on the floor and held it closed as we tore down the road. Then, not five minutes later, we nearly hit a motorbike stopped in the middle of the road, veering violently at the last minute. The ol’ ma next to us shrieked and Krista and I took a collective deep breath.

We headed toward the lush mountains and Krista smiled, “I missed this.” I had to agree. I never feel like I’m in Africa quite as much as when I’m squeezed into a bush taxi, wind and red dust blasting my face and twisting through my hair.

What should have been a 45 minute trip to Ganta took closer to an hour and a half as the driver stopped for everyone on the road and had to “release water” count it, three times. Less than five minutes from central Ganta the car stopped and rolled to a halt. Krista and I shared an eye roll and I was reminded of Matt’s principal when we all traveled for site visit in July. “If you break down we’ll break you down for wasting our time.” Just as we were contemplating walking to town, he started the car back up and we sputtered into Ganta.

We were already running late, but I had to bank. Krista met someone at the bank last month so we thought he would help us. Not today. She never called him and chances are he’s holding a grudge. We went back downstairs and I begged the guard to help me. He let me cut the entire line, which included some of my students. I felt like such a jerk, but it was one of those days you have to do what you have to do. I dug in my bag and gave them some plantain chips as I left. “See you Monday,” I said sheepishly as we rushed out and down the street to the taxi stand.

And there we waited. For almost an hour. Flies buzzed around my foot and tried to squeeze under the bandages. I watched an adorable little girl eat a giant piece of yellow coconut candy while making small talk with the union man. When we finally loaded into the car I was delighted to be sitting next to the same little cutie… until 20 minutes out of town she gurgled and that yellow coconut candy came right back up. “Oh, Ruth! You vomit-o!” her mom laughed. The car kept flying down the pockmarked road as they cleaned her up just in time for it to happen again. Oh, this is going to be a good trip.

We swerved back and forth between patches of pavement and got into a Mario Cart style race with two other drivers. Tearing down the road three taxis wide, all we needed were some banana peels (something I should mention Krista and I usually like to chunk out taxi windows, but were oddly missing today).

Gbarnga was fine, but it made me grateful to be in Sanni. It’s big, busy, and sprawling. Men went crazy shouting at us on the street and motorbikes zipped by, too close for comfort. No one wanted to speak Mano with me and I struggled to remember the small Kpelle I leanred in Kakata. This was definitely not ‘my area‘.

After the meeting we went to a bar for some cold drinks and ended up staying to dance, even though my leg was a mess I couldn’t resist as “African Man”  and “Teaching you the Thing” blared from the corner. Paula’s isn’t really a place for dancing (there are no mirrors, a mainstay in Liberian clubs) but Krista and I took over the corner and got Dani and Anjulie to join us for a few songs. Within a few minutes I was drenched, the sweat mingling with the layers of dust remaining from the taxi. Thankfully we called it an early night and by 11:00 we had parked the mattresses in the living room and were drifting off.

Krista had to get right back in a taxi Monday and go to Monrovia so I’ve been home alone most of the week. The kids had been bad at school and I’m fighting a cold or something. Right as I left for school yesterday I started crashing and by the time I got to my last class in 11A I felt like a motorbike really had hit me. My whole body hurt and I felt feverish. I was actually tempted to write some problems up and go sit down in the back, but I made it and they were the best class of the day, probably because they could tell something was wrong with me.

Recess was pandemonium. I’ve confiscated more this week than ever before and, for the first time, thrown people out of both 12th grade and 11B. I hate doing it, but being a bitch is part of my job. I have to teach the math, but also how to be respectful members of a class. I keep collecting calculators and books from other classes, one girl both Monday and Tuesday. They have to do math problems to get anything back from me, but the one it really punishes is me. The rationale is that if they aren’t going to do math during class I’ll make them do it on their own time.

I probably had fifteen kids vying for my attention at recess and all I wanted to do was lay down. When I finally reached the end of the line I stumbled to a friend’s house and laid on his couch for about five hours. When I got home I took my temperature: 102°. Nice. I crashed in bed and am feeling much better today. My leg still hurts, but one thing at a time. My fever is also down to 99.5° which is hardly anything. All things considered I’d think about staying home from school today, but Krista still isn’t back. Our principal is freaked out enough that she might be sick (we didn’t even tell him) that it would be too much for him if I was sick too. I’ll just try to take it easy. Hopefully the kids will cooperate today… even though I don’t know why they’d start now when the rest of the week has been so rough.

Just keep morning forward. One day at a time.

“Kites rise highest against the wind—not with it.” Winston Churchill

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