Monday, July 21, 2008

Three Years After

Weather: The week began with a deluge. From 4:00am until 3:00pm Sunday, it rained hard and steady. I measured 14 inches in my trusty rain gauge. The rain returned for another couple inches last night, giving us a whopping 16 inches over the 24 hours. Some of our neighbors, including Vera, were flooded out of their homes. Winds from the SSW at 15 mph. Temps in the mid 70sF (mid 20sC) with very heavy overcast.

Thursday the 24th marks our third year in Liberia. Three years ago, we wondered if we’d made a colossal mistake coming here. The rain, the bugs, the lizards, the spiders—and that was just in our house. Outside we contended with rogues and corrupt cops competing for a piece of us. Everything was new and very different. And in this war ravage nation, much of it seemed ugly and repulsive to our overwhelmed eyes. Even the food was bad. We felt alone and isolated. I remember one day in September, 2005. Renita and I had let the tension and stress drive us into a quarrel. I had had it. After weeks that included rogues stealing our generator, police pulling us over to humiliate and extort money every week, incessant rain, mildew, oppressive humidity, being stared at, lied to, Renita enduring malaria and I dysentery, I remember breaking down. I sat on the bed and began sobbing. Through angry tears I blurted it out, “I hate Liberia! I hate this place!” Of course, that observation never made it to the blog. That inner struggle was reserved for Renita, God and me to share. So we carried on.

It took me ten months to turn that corner. Everyone else in the family was doing fine. They had adjusted months earlier. Gradually, I began to relax too. In time I opened my eyes and began to appreciate the simplicity within the complexity that is Liberia. I learned the rules of the game. I learned “Liberian Normal.” I killed the bugs and fed them to the lizards. I made friends with the beggars, the cops and others who saw me as only an object of money. I stopped seeing them as only objects of need. I figured the food out. I learned to enjoy the humidity when it dropped a few points, the temperatures when they eased off a few degrees. I felt the wind whenever it blew and reveled in it.

Three years after those first most miserable weeks, I have learned how to love Liberia. I don’t always like it; I get angry with how people can be here, and how far this country has to go, but that is no different from anyplace I have lived or will live. I have learned about the resilience and determination of the people here who have a task to do and are going about getting it done. There is a Beauty here. There is a Wisdom here. There is a Goodness here. Maybe not always on the surface, maybe hard to see amidst the mess. But, as my friends here say, “take time.” It will come.

Of course there are still inner struggles that only Renita, God and I share. But give me some time. I’ll let you know how they turn out too.

Just another rainy day in Liberia...
Meanwhile, back in the US, the kids enjoy pie with Grandma.

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