Leaving Gbarnga

Last Friday, at 11:53am, B was talking with the Frenchmen about going to Lofa. My ears perked up. Lofa? I have heard talk of this heavenly place. The people who have come before me, Matt and one of my many on again off again AIUSA supervisors recommended it. After the Frenchmen declined, I chimed in, “Can I go?” B looked hesitant. I’ll ask J.J.?* Short sentences, to the point, Liberian style.

About 2 minutes later it was decided that yes, I could go, and that I needed to get ready by noon. 5 minutes to pack for two days, including but not limited to: trip to the bush, most likely contaminated water, no idea where I’d be sleeping, can I eat the food?, etc. I threw everything I could think of into a bag, ran out, ran back, got my phone, ran out, forgot: toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, shampoo, you know, that unnecessary stuff.

But then I was off on the road with two DEN-L staff that I had never met, one driver and one organizer. Both were told to take good care of me and before my departure, B called her contact in Goyala and made sure they were prepared for a white woman. Yes, that’s right. So my usual standard of causing the least amount of inconvenience has been completely destroyed by Liberian etiquette.

I piled in the back of the truck, (bench seats on both sides, covered, fyi) making my many brothers nervous for my safety on the bumpy roads. The driver said something to the extent of “sit up by the front” so I slid up next to the leaky gas cans. “You’ll be safer” he said. Hm. There are many different definitions here. We made a stop at the organizer’s house, I met his beautiful family (pictures included) and then we rolled the Gbarnga, looking for frozen fish, rice and extra bottled water. Our driver dropped us in the center of town and took off to his place to get a few things. No problem. The organizer and I went into a little shop, more like I ran after him into a little shop so I didn’t get lost, where I bought water and he purchased…something…I think it was a huge amount of rice because after giving the employee money and leaving he said something about coming back. I don’t know, it was loud. Gbarnga is not a quiet or clean city. It’s full of children selling water and corn on the cob. I was tempted by the corn but thought that while I was in the bush, I’d better keep my stomach as clear as possible of bacteria. The water is also sketch, mostly because it’s sold in plastic bags, tied off so it looks like a teet of water, then drank out of a small hole in the corner of the bag. It never ceases to amaze me how ingenious humans are. They also reuse plastic water bottles here, just poor a little chlorine or some other cleaning chemical into your water bottle and you’ve got clean fresh water again, with a hint of chemical goodness. Who knows, it might build strong bones, or cancerous cells. But I digress.

*J.J. the organizations director. I’m still changing names since I’m also interviewing many of the DEN-L staff and don’t want to have a conflict of confidentiality in the interviews vs. the blog (which is completely informal).

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