29 December 2007

what we lose

In the summer of 2006, when I was in Liberia, some friends and I went down to Buchanan for a weekend. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and visited one of my father's friends, settled into a little guesthouse, and toured the town. We went to the house I grew up in, and we walked down to the Fanti Town on the ocean.

I woke up early the next morning and went for a walk. I didn't go back to our house. I didn't need to see it again. I just needed to be in the town, alone, without other foreigners to whom the town had no real meaning. I walked down an unfamiliar road and, when it ended, I kept going along single-file paths through yards and next to houses. I greeted people when I saw them, in English or in Bassa, and they all smiled and greeted me in return. I came to a house for the blind, and a young blind man, hearing that the kwi-poo was coming, stood in front of it, beaming, hand stretched out to shake mine.

I met the Liberia Christian High road and turned west. I walked past the house where the grandparent-like missionaries lived. I walked past the house where the two good friends my own age lived with their Liberian father and Jamaican (? - er, something Caribbean) mother. I walked to the river and along it, and then I turned back. I took a few pictures. I took a picture, at his request, of a twelve-year old whose legs didn't work, who pulled himself by his arms up onto a little stool to pose proudly for the photo. I stopped to chat to a man who wanted to talk about the hope he had for the future of the country. I walked alone, but I had scarcely a chance to be alone. I felt like I had come home.

This morning, waiting for the phone call telling me I am approved for my first real, independent, adult apartment in a U.S. city (it came; I am approved), I keep thinking of that walk, that morning in Buchanan. That is what I'm giving up to be here, to live here. I want this. I want to be a member of a bar and practice as a lawyer. But I also want morning walks in Liberia, and the two don't fit together very well. For the first time in a while, probably for the first time since I went back to live in Africa in 2002, I'm having trouble being both of my selves at once.

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