28 September 2006
A few weeks ago I went to a house (okay, apartment) warming party for a friend and realized that the urge to plug in my phone while there was power was very strong. I had to remind myself and actually verbally be reminded that there would be power back in my apartment when I got there. We have electricity here, you see.
Old habits die hard.
25 September 2006
On Saturday I took my little break and rode NJ Transit (free for students last week) to Princeton, where I no longer know anyone but I do know two things: the Bent Spoon (best ice cream in the world; I got coconut sorbet twice in one afternoon) and Small World Coffee (best almond capuccino and ginger molasses cookies in the world; I savored the capuccino and saved the cookies for later). So I walked around on the pretty campus and enjoyed the trees and the grass and being anywhere but the concrete city. On the way down, my enjoyment of the train and my music was hampered by a guy, surely a 2006 college grad, who insisted on 1. sitting next to me, 2. talking loudly on a cell phone about his new job in the city, so loudly that I kept turning up my music to deafening volumes in the sound-reducing headphones and still heard every word he said, and 3. not being quiet when I glared at him repeatedly, so that I had to finally say something to him and then he got up acting all annoyed and moved to the space between the cars. I felt like I had been mean and like one of those older people who yells at young people enjoying themselves, but really. He was the only one doing this annoying talking in the entire car. It had to have been bothering everyone and it was definitelybothering me.
But, lest you should think I encounter only people like this in my city life, here are two examples of really nice people:
- When a friend of a friend found out that I have a locker way down in an inconvenient spot (particularly since the golf elbow doesn't let me carry much in my arms or even on my back because it pinches the nerve), she offered me hers, completely unsolicited. It was so nice that I hardly even know if I dare take her up on the offer.
- I stopped to buy juice this morning at a place that squeezes it fresh in front of you. I ordered a small and got approximately the biggest cup of orange juice I have ever seen. I think it was twice as big as the size I ordered and paid for. It took me all day to drink it, but I think I've had my vitamin C for the day/week/month, now.
22 September 2006
21 September 2006
21 September 2006
Also the internet is not working.
I am consciously trying to relax. No schoolwork tonight, even though I have a long list of things to do tomorrow. I got many emails today about my work this summer and I miss it. I turn out to still be the contact person for several projects. For many reasons, it would be hard to turn them over to anyone else. I’ve got to see if there is anyone who will fund me to continue my internship, because as I’ve mentioned, I need cash. Law school is insanely expensive.
While here, though, I have a few things to say. I still haven’t gotten over the beauty of hot water. I am taking far too many showers because it is so very nice to stand under the hot. I don’t care what they say about how hot
Also, there are far too many things to buy in this city. I would like to decrease by 4/5ths the number of stores with temptingly-placed merchandise that I pass every day. And I don’t even walk past the store areas that often. It’s just on principle. The less there is looking all appealing in store windows the less I will need to spend and the happier I will be. It’s actually a good thing that it is getting cold, because I can’t afford to replace all the summer clothes I had to abandon in
- My realization that I never wore them, even in
where I had few other clothes. Liberia
- My realization that the rainy season had destroyed them with rust stains.
- My realization that Joseph had destroyed them by washing them with a red shoelace.
- My realization that they had become all stretched out and unwearable by being washed by hand.
So no short sleeves left for me. Although I also realized that I have too many clothes, they are just not clothes I can wear to work. Not in the
19 September 2006
Jesus, grant us peace
Move our hearts to hear a single beat
between alibis and enemies tonight
Or maybe not
Peace might be another world away
And if that's the case
We'll give thanks to you
For lessons learned in how to trust in you
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
Or in need
And if you never grant us peace
But Jesus... would you please?
(oh, it is nichole nordeman; gratitude)
18 September 2006
Liberia doesn't have a lot of money. Neither does a lot of the world. Things could be better. We are working on that (some of us).
In the meantime, I miss Liberia more than I can say. Things were fairly unstable there right before I left and continue so, but I had a very hard time feeling unsafe. I stood at the balcony of our office one day with a colleague and we looked down at the street and a group of five or six little girls came by, carrying buckets of water and various other things and laughing and dancing the way kids do. I tried to explain that overused expression, "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on." I've never liked that expression, but somehow it felt more true, watching these kids in a country barely free - tentatively free - precariously free of war. If they can laugh and play, maybe there is hope for the rest of us.
There is hope for the rest of us.
13 September 2006
(And how am I going to make money this semester? Because I need some, fast.)
While I was waiting for an available computer from which to download the antivirus, five annoying people were playing on the computers in the "communications center" doing things like reading about Football 2006 and printing five separate Mapquest pages (how many trips can you go on? Before the next time you access a computer?) and I started feeling borderline irrate, because I needed to do IMPORTANT THINGS like get antivirus software for my laptop so that I wouldn't need those computers anymore. I tried to remind myself of how long I waited patiently for things to happen in Liberia, but it turns out that this is not, after all, Liberia, and my patience level is completely different. In Liberia (Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and so on) I can wait indefinitely, just sitting and watching the world go by. In the law school in New York, it makes me crazy, because I know that those web pages are loading instantaneously. How can it take them so long? One girl was writing a paper in the communications center. The very height of these computers (standing height) should tell you that they are not intended for such purposes. Go to the library! Plus, I have important things to do, and no one is going to take, "I was waiting for a computer" as a good excuse in this land of multiple computers per person when I have a computer.
I was waiting for a computer.
12 September 2006
11 September 2006
I do, by some miraculous change of events, approve of both my classes and my class schedule. Here's the beautiful thing: I have class mostly only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they never start before 11 a.m., and I like all of them. Really. I do. I have actually started doing the reading, for the sole reason that I'm interested in it. I don't have to set an alarm clock except maybe on Tuesdays and Thursdays depending on when I go to bed. Can you imagine? I am living this semester virtually alarm-free. This hasn't happened since I was in Rwanda and set my own work schedule (which started at nine, thank you very much. I don't care what time government offices open). The beauty is that I'm not tired. I spend a lot of time being tired, so the concept of getting enough sleep on a regular basis is changing my whole outlook on everything. New York. Law school. Winter. I mean, everything. I can even handle the cold if I'm not tired.
Still miss Liberia, though, and my work. I keep trying to do work for my work there, but time is short and I'm already out of the loop. I've been gone for a week and things have moved on without me. I'm very sad about it, but sort of resigned. As happened when I first came to last school, I left Liberia for one reason alone: so many people in Africa want to go to school, and I CAN. Not to finish would be a slap in the face to all my friends who wish that they could. It may not be the best of reasons. Some people may not like it. But it got me here and I am learning.
I still have some Liberia posts in my head. They are coming. Slowly.
10 September 2006
- You actually can live on cream crackers and spreadable cheese (Laughing Cow is the best).
- Lebanese bread molds after a day or two. Also cheese molds, even if it is in the fridge.
- Il Gelato has amazing gelato and amazing pasta (although the pasta is only good when warm).
- Both the Royal and Plaza Pizzeria have great pizza.
- The fridge and freezer take on a funny smell when they are only on for half the hours in the day.
- Diana's has the best falafel, but other places will do when you are so hungry that you are about to eat the table.
- You can only eat oatmeal so many mornings in a row before it makes you gag.
- The eggs are funny (something to do with being imported - old - from India because all the Liberian commercial egg-laying chickens were killed off when avian flu arrived). Don't bother with omelettes or pancakes unless you are willing to deal with them tasting like old metal about half the time.
- Liberian food is very tasty, but if you don't eat meat, you will get hungry again in two hours.
But anyway. Now I am in New York and overwhelmed with the options. I want to have cupcakes and ice cream and hummus and naan and crepes and frozen coffee drinks and bagels and everything all at once. I'm trying to go slowly. I'm still overly excited right now about baby carrots and Sabra hummus. I'm also overly excited about breakfast cereal with good milk. Like I'm eating the hummus and the cereal three meals a day. I'm sure that will, erm, settle itself soon.
04 September 2006
So it is a bit shocking to be in Brussels and walk into a store, look at the wall marked, "Souvenirs" and see a red t-shirt that depicts a cartoon character man peeing, with the word Belgium underneath it. THIS is Belgium?
I'm not sure I like this place. It's too shiny and they apparently pee all over. And hot chocolate with a waffle-thing that is too sweet to eat cost $8. Oh, and they give you your change in euros, which means that I will be arriving in the US with 9 euros and about 150 Liberian dollars. And not one US dollar.
03 September 2006
Really, it’s not just amazing that I rarely get sick in Africa. It’s amazing that I don’t have cholera daily (just for saying that, I’m sure I’m coming down with it now). I do virtually everything you are told not to do. I use the water to brush my teeth – and I’m not careful not to drink it, either. I eat ice cream out of the push carts. I eat salads and sliced fruit. I neglect to wash my hands. I pick my pen up off the floor and put in back in my mouth. I am a tropical diseases handbook in waiting. Yet here I sit, stomach perfectly content, except that it hasn’t been fed all day. Speaking of which, I feel kind of dizzy.
This is my last official day in the office. Tomorrow is Saturday, so I’ll work, but I won’t work so much, really. I’ll just organize papers and documents so that people can later find them.
I think I’m getting meningitis. This is what I get for not getting stomach problems and refusing to pay $90 for the vaccine. Never mind that it is supposed to be prevalent only in the Sahel and Sahara during dry season. I have it. I know I do.
Or possibly this feverishness is malaria. I stopped taking the Larium because I was too lazy to stop at the pharmacy and buy the medication.
(Or possibly I did not sleep enough last night and there is no breeze through this room. And I haven’t eaten today at all. That might work, too.)
2 September 2006
As I anticipated, I’m not working. I’m listening to 16 Years, a very interesting song involving a girl telling a man that she’s sixteen and if he touches her “thing-o,” she will tell Mami or Papi, depending on which line of the chorus it’s on. I’m also playing with the son of one of my coworkers, whose car I took (where mine is – well, it’s an open question – one of the drivers took it last night and I haven’t seen it since) to take the little boy to get ice cream. Outside of the supermarket, some one asked is he was mine, which if I were to have a child with a very dark-skinned man might be possible. This morning little J was complaining that his shirt, a bright yellow California jersey, was scratching him. His father asked why he was not wearing an undershirt and the boy said, “They can’t wear any underwear playing basketball,” with clear scorn for anyone who wouldn’t know such a thing. I love kids.
I need to work and simultaneously I can’t bear to do it. Everything is ending. I sit in Il Gelato with little J and wonder if I will eat gelato there again. I tell the beggars outside the supermarket, “Next time,” and realize that it is very possibly a lie. I said goodbye to the woman who cleans the guesthouse this morning and tomorrow will say goodbye to the man who cleaned our old building. (Speaking of which, tiny rant, I have spent the last three weeks in a house whose hotplate was electric and therefore only worked when the power was on, plus it doesn’t get hot enough to actually boil water. So I can’t eat there. Also they turned the water off completely for several days and did not supply enough water in a barrel to last. It was not pretty. Everyone smelled bad.)
When I came to Liberia this summer, I was most afraid of two things: varmints (cockroaches and snakes, particularly) and insecurity. Insecurity I got. Things deteriorated while I was here. I don’t walk the back road alone anymore. I don’t walk the back road, actually. The cockroaches I managed to survive. Snakes I didn’t see (thank you population density). In general, though, this summer has been better than I could have imagined. I didn’t sleep enough. I worked way too much. I was really scared a couple of times. I was really happy much of the time. I can’t bear the thought of getting on the plane.
Sixteen and half years ago, it was raining as we sat on the plane in the dark, ready to leave Robertsfield. I remember the yellow glow of the airport lights through the water on the window. Six years ago, my dad and I looked at each other as the plane took off into the thick July clouds and we both blinked away tears to be leaving Liberia. Tomorrow, I will be alone as my flight as it departs RIA for Brussels. (I’m still not used to this RIA thing, by the way. When did things get so complicated? Robertsfield.) I will probably cry. I cried when my plane rose above the patchwork green hills of Rwanda two years ago. Or maybe I will be done crying, will have finished it after leaving my colleagues and friends scattered all around Monrovia and at the airport. Either way, I will strain to look back out the window at the last of Liberia.
4 September 2006
0425 hrs in Liberia, 0625 hrs in Brussels
I didn't cry. And my pride about not getting sick is completely gone as well. Wrong on all fronts. I spent the night before leaving Liberia making periodic races to the bathroom but not actually being able to throw up and get things cleaned out in my stomach until right before I left for the airport. So people probably thought I was dying as I got on the plane. I thought I was dying for a while. I was, for an hour or two, really unsure that I was going to make the flight, but then I remembered that the next one isn't until Wednesday and if I get back on Thursday I will have missed more than a week of classes, and that would be bad. So I hauled myself to the airport and felt better and better until I actually ate food on the plane.
I was depressed to find out that I had a middle seat and no windows were available. When I got to my seat, the woman already there had a baby and wanted the aisle, so I got a window. And then a flight attendant came and moved her for most of the flight so that the baby could have a bed. In the end, I was one of the few people who got two seats to themselves and I was so tired from all the bathroom runs and barfing that despite having “slept” until 2 p.m., I fell right back to sleep, 40,000 feet in the air notwithstanding. Probably the best night of sleep I've gotten on a plane since I started traveling alone.
01 September 2006
When I was packing to come to Liberia, my parents told me that there was no way I would need a sweatshirt. I brought one anyway. And a long-sleeved shirt. Not only do I need the sweatshirt, I need it every day. The airconditioner in my new room is stuck on and stuck on cold. Frigid, really. I sleep in socks. In Liberia.
I get cold easily. I'm cold here every day, because no matter how warm it is during the day, it is cool in the mornings and there is no hot water. None at all. Even in a warm climate, cold water in the morning is really cold. And in the evenings, sitting near the beach, I wear the sweatshirt. Sometimes I even wear the long-sleeved shirt and the sweatshirt, which is a whole new level for Liberia for a non-Liberian, although Liberians wear winter jackets and beanies on these nights, so I feel justified.
I'm flying out in two days. Two measly days. A summer in Liberia is far from enough.