Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Journey Begins

Today was busy, in that last-minute-preparations kind of a way. I finally managed to confirm that I can get a ride to Monrovia with an NGO, which makes me feel much better about the journey – it will still be a long ride on a very bad road, but at least it will be in a functioning vehicle, which will not be overstuffed with people, luggage, and/or livestock.

At this moment, I'm actually sad to be leaving, which is silly, because I'll be coming back very soon. And for the most part, I've been itching to get out of town recently. I haven't left my site at all since I got here at the end of August, and I've been pretty bored these past few weeks with no school to fill the days. In addition, one of my neighbor's relatives died recently, and there have been mourners coming at all hours for the past week. I haven't slept the whole night through in six days or so, as 2-5 AM seems to be peak wailing time. So, in light of all of these things, I've very much been looking forward to going home.

Still, the process of packing up now just reminds me that I'll be packing up to leave for good in a few short months. And even though the work here can at times be frustrating, tedious, and lonely, there is still something about living here that is . . . very satisfying, I guess. I can't quite put my finger on it. It's something that is difficult to explain to people in the US and impossible to explain to people here. In fact, when I try to explain to Liberians that, no, really, I'm much happier here than I was in the US . . . that I feel incredibly lucky to have been born an American but that America is far from perfect . . . that when you have everything you could need (really need, not want) that it is not only easy but natural to forget how fortunate you are to have it . . . that wealth is by no means an ultimate protection against unhappiness . . . that we Americans do have very real problems but also have a neurotic tendency create problems in their absence . . . when I try to explain these things, Liberians look at me as though I am crazy.

And I guess it is crazy. It's easy for me to romanticize life in Africa, because I have the ultimate safety net – when I want to, I can always leave. Inevitably, my conversations with Liberians about how America is not the perfect haven they imagine it to be end with me feeling guilty and spoiled. Sure, I like living here, but I like living here under the condition that I stay in my little bubble – with free, quality medical care only a phone call away, with the assumption that, in the case of any danger, someone will come to rescue me, and with the knowledge that my time here is limited. As much as I pretend to be living the real Liberian life, I'm not, nor would I want to be.

Anyway. I'd better get back to packing. My car leaves at 6:30 AM tomorrow morning, and I certainly don't want to miss it.