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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 12, 2011 Under the weather

It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog entry.  In some ways, I think that’s a good thing.  Why?  Well, first, it feels like I’m settling comfortably into my new routine of work and rest.  Second, the busyness of life has been less time for writing.  Third, it felt, for a while, like I was living life behind the camera instead of just living.   By that I mean that I was always on the look out for the next blog entry.  What can I write about?  What would surprise other people the most? 

I’ve got a few things to write about today, but it’s with a gracious heart that I document them – not out of greed for people to read my “newsworthy” adventures…

In the past few days, I’ve really begun to experience the meaning of community here in Monrovia.  On Thursday, Adisa, Linda, and I bummed ride from the US Embassy bus that shuttles kids back and forth between the school’s compound and the embassy compound.  From the Expat Listserv, Adisa had found out about a consignment sale.  The sale was held at Coconut Plantation, a compound not far from the embassy. 

I don’t know what I expected of the outing.  The most I had hoped for was to buy a few kitchen things and a few items to adorn the walls of my spartanly apartment.  What I got out of it was a glimpse into the female expat community.   As we introduced ourselves as teachers at the American International School, one of the hostesses recognized my name; she had gotten an email about my blog for students!

There were a gaggle of ladies there, including several moms of students at my school.  Some people browsed and exited quickly, but most people sat down and enjoyed the company of the fellow females.  It seemed like not many people were in a hurry to head home.  The comfy seats and the delectable finger foods (I must inquire abut the recipe of the puff pastry with the goat cheese inside!) invited guests to stay and mingle.  I saw Sandra, the beautiful Italian/Swiss hairdresser who just trimmed my hair on Tuesday and met Christina, the founder of Resurrection bags.  She helps a group of seamstresses turn the local fabric, lappa, into wonderful totes.  I met Jenny, a former British head of school who’s here now volunteering her time at a mission with her husband.  The ladies hosting the event also had tales of volunteering their time to teach English at Francis Gaskin, a local school/ orphanage in Payneville. 

These are the women, I realized, who understand that I am going though. 

I think when people back home here about what I’m doing they think Yikes!  Africa. but they say That’ll be a wonderful adventure adding the cautionary Be careful

These ladies know that life is different here, but somehow it’s still the same.  We still work and cook and clean and raise kids and eat and play.  (We just have work harder at finding the fun things to play at.)  We live in a country plagued by poverty, not by depression.  We live in a place that has been riddled by violence and war but is in a growth spurt of positivity and peace.  No, it’s not what we grew up with.  No, Liberia is not a place of convenience and affordable luxury.  But, yes, it is a place where you can exist and live happily.

I looked around the room and not one of the women looked at me with pity or concern in her eyes.  They looked at me like, Yeah, well, this is what normal looks like here

In the end, I came home with a pair of earrings, a Resurrection handbag, a Pyrex dish, a dress made out of lappa, a pair of “sailor” pants, and an excitement to hang out with the girls again.

Another feeling of community has extended on the school compound.  I got sick on Saturday and thought I had beat it by this morning.  Not so.  My gracious assistant Theresa took over the classroom while I tried to sleep off whatever bug it is that I have.

I have never had more visitors to my room than today.  Klubo, the school nurse, came to look me over; Ed brought me crackers; Adisa brought me tea; and Weata, Suba, and Linda checked in on me after school.  Gertrude and Theresa scoffed when they saw that I had soup past its expiration date in my pantry; they ventured to the grocery story and returned with chicken noodle soup and juices.  Sure, they mocked my constant denials of needing anything while the soup heated, but they did it out of love.  Gertrude said that we have to watch out for our fellow Lower School Teachers.  And, she didn’t hesitate to add that the soup she’d just brought had an expiration date of 2013!

Note: As of yesterday, the student blog I’m working on has already had over 500 visits!

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