REFLECTING ABOUT LIFE IN LIBERIA
As I think about what to write in this blog, I reflect back on the time I have spent in Liberia. This is my last time at ABCU. I am at the end of my commitment that I made to the university, and God has made it clear to me that my time has ended here.
I think of all the people I have had the privilege of meeting in the community, some I know their names and others I do not. However, we recognize one another after my coming and going from Yekepa over the last five years. Even though I don’t know everyone’s name, when I am out walking we nod to one another making a human connection.
My Alaskan friend, Sylvia, is at ABCU teaching this semester. We went out for a walk the other day and she took her camera. I thought I would share with you some of the pictures that we captured. However, before I do let me tell you something a student said to me after I asked him, “Are you happy living in Liberia?
IT TAKES LITTLE TO MAKE ME HAPPY
“Oh yes, I am happy in Liberia. When you grow up in Liberia you learn to be happy with little. For example if you have to burn wood for fuel, you are very happy when you get enough money to use charcoal. And then if you are ever able to use gas instead of charcoal to cook, you feel as if you are a very wealthy man. ”
I needed you to read what he had to say before I show you the pictures, because you will see pictures of poverty – of people just trying to survive. I don’t know if they are like my student and happy with so little. I do know that this is how most people live in Liberia, with little hope of changing their lives. When you live in a third world country it is hard to pull yourself out of poverty because there are so few resources. Liberia receives aid from many countries, but the corruption is overwhelming and often the aid does not trickle down to the common person.
I know that I sound discouraged and I find myself feeling that way many times. However the other day one of my seniors was at my duplex talking to me, he along with other education students give me hope. He has a passion for education and doing the right thing, as do many of my students. I believe that one of the hopes for the common person to better himself is by receiving a good education.
Right now for those who can afford to go to school, most do not have access to a quality education system. Many public classrooms have 60+ students – even in elementary. Teachers often do not show up on time to teach their students and have minimum knowledge in their content area. Few teachers have their bachelor degree and in the interior may not even have graduated from high school. Teachers accept bribes (money or sexual) to give good grades. They receive such a low wage that they believe accepting bribes is the only way they can survive. Either that or they work two jobs with little or no time to prepare for teaching. Those same teachers who take bribes also may have had to give bribes to the Ministry of Education’s District Education Officer to get or keep a job.
Everyday survival becomes not merely finding enough work, but also running the gauntlet of corruption and deciding where you will draw the line, if you decide to at all. But I digress – here are the pictures.
THE HAPPENINGS OF THE DAY
On the way to the P market, the commerce area of Yekepa, we happened to meet Edward. Edward use to work at ABCU, but was let go as most workers were when construction stopped. Sylvia met Edward the last time she was here through mutual friends, and her Rotary Club raised money to buy Edward a pig.
Edward was celebrating a big day because his wife had just had their fourth child (four girls) that morning at 5 am. It was now around 10:00 am and Edward wanted us to come to the clinic to see his wife and the baby. I am thinking to myself if I was his wife and I had just had a baby, the last thing I would want is for strangers to come see me and the baby. But off we went because there was no polite way to turn him down, and indeed having a child is a special day.
The clinic was only about a quarter of a mile from his house. So first we went to see the adorable newborn and mother and then we headed to his house.
When we walked up to his house, Edward’s girls were doing the chores. As soon as they saw us one of the girls went into the house and brought out a chair for us to be seated. Liberians treat guests well.
Edward took us around to the back of the house to see his prize pregnant sow and another little pig he had just bought. We found out later that the sow had the babies, but she killed all of them by lying on them and crushing them. Her lack of motherly instinct did not serve her well, because Edward killed her and sold the meat. It also was disappointing for him because the death of those pigs meant the loss of future income.
As we talked to Edward a parade of singing women came toward us. They were bringing the baby and mother home from the clinic to introduce to the neighbors. The tired mother slipped into the house without a word, the other women stayed outside with the baby. Neighbors came over to see the newborn. A sense of community is one of the greatest gifts the neighbors can give to the child.
After visiting for a while we said our goodbyes and went home. We received some good news; Edward found a job working for the iron-ore company. The company is refurbishing some buildings destroyed by the war and making them into a business office. After losing the pigs, this is indeed good news. It means there will be food on the table even if it is mainly rice.
So this is life for many in Yekepa and Liberia. One precious gift that you cannot take away from Liberians is their sense of community and helping one another. Perhaps another gift is their ability to appreciate the little that they may have.
What is a Think Through? it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.
Today’s Think Through: What do you think? Do you think Westerners have unreasonable desires? Is it hard for us to be happy with the small comforts of life?