1 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.