This week started out with my birthday. I was also “adopted” into my new Liberian family on this day. It felt different and strange. The ceremony itself was long and these women walked up to receive their child as if they were giving birth. These are a funny bunch of women. My “ma” is more dignified and older, I suspect she placed me with her due to my age, I am the oldest in the group.
We basically came home after the ceremony and I set up my bed, ate dinner and went to bed. Funny thing was the Peace Corps said we all had to carry our stuff and walk back, but due to a very heavy rain, they changed their minds. We were the last ones delivered home. In Liberian culture a home that is painted with concrete over the mud bricks is “rich”. The fact that we also have this strange vinyl covering on all the floors elevates the family another notch. Add to this a shared generator, and we are the queen bee here.
My room is fairly large. The bed is adequate but the mattress sinks where you lay on it. The Peace Corps provided them, but the families get to keep them when we leave. This year they have implemented a home stay language aspect to the curriculum. Unfortunately I missed an assignment. My “ma” went to Monrovia Monday afternoon and did not return until late Tuesday/early Wednesday. I have been home with Madalin, who is 15 I think. She is a nice girl and a great cook, but we do not understand each other at all. I sent here for two coca colas and got two large water bottles instead. I came home late on Tuesday since I went for a beer after school with a large group of classmates. I was actually relieved my “ma” was late getting home. I did not have her number and it would be rude to have her worry about me.
Wednesday my language and cultural instructor walked me home to see where I live and meet my “ma”. She was in a church meeting until late, and this added to my frustration in the language part of the curriculum. It does not help that I was dehydrated and am still suffering from jetlag. I am so tired.
Thursday I came home early, I skipped watching the World Cup game due to not feeling well. I seem to be coming down with a cold, maybe even a sinus infection. When I arrived home “ma” was surprised to see me. Dinner was just starting and it has usually been done before I arrive home. She informed me that she had a meeting later that night, so I grabbed my notebook to ask her some of my gender studies questions. I was both surprised and delighted to know that her job with the police is with a domestic violence program. So violence against women and rape are being slowly addressed. We talked for quite awhile about this.
Later that night, her small sister came over. I decided it was time to share some chocolate with them. The picture on the front of the chocolate package was of great interest. It was a picture of a ferry in Seattle with the mountains in the background. I explained that the boat carries cars across the water to the island. This was a strange concept to them. I felt like I brought a little piece of my home to them. Just explaining that small thing made me feel so much more at ease.
I have experienced staring daily as I walk to and from school. Men on motorbikes or in cars rubberneck daily. I asked my “ma” about this. She said it could be my skin color, or even more likely it is my tattoos. They have not seen such colorful ones here before, or not much. She suspects they are really trying to see what they are. This makes me more proud of my ink than ever. Imagine explaining tattoos to an entire country! Oh and my lip rings the kids are really fascinated by. They want to reach up and touch them, I have had to put this to a stop quickly. I do not know where their grubby little hands have been. This is the same for children anywhere though!
My “ma” asked me Sunday night if I was a Christian, I told her I was Buddhist. It is not far from the truth. She simply stated that she had no idea what I would do while they were at church on Sunday! I informed her that I would sit under trees and think. She later asked me about my chest tattoo. I informed her that it reminded me daily when I see it that I am lucky to be alive. I told her about my collision and she simply asked who was at fault. I guess I understand more when the conversation is directed to me. I however cannot understand the children. They kept asking me if I was going to meriqua. I had no idea what they were saying, and I finally asked if they were asking me if I was going to America? Apparently that is how the children say it.
All in all this is a nice place and I am not disappointed by the life here, although being left handed and vegetarian is proving to be a challenge. I am not a fan of the fish they have here, it has bones in it and they cook it whole. Other than that the food is grand. Spaghetti is fabulous, yes I said spaghetti! Although spaghetti for breakfast was a new one on me. I am disappointed by the lack of fruit served in the home. I hope to get some mangoes (plums) bananas and pineapple at the market this weekend. I also hope to find tape a mirror and coca cola to share with Madelin. Saturday will be a big day. I will do laundry, go to the market and hope to start learning to cook. I simply need to learn new techniques as I already do know how to cook. Dishes will be similar to hand washing back home. Laundry well it will likely be a paid out chore, just to avoid the tediousness of it.