“The lines of latitude extend…
Towards some great triumphant end”
“We want to get out of here before the storm hits,” a fear mongering flight attendant echoes over the intercom. A man brashly slams his overhead bin and we are officially the last flight out of New York before Hurricane Irene.
Perhaps it was the Malaria Medication or the airborne anticipation of a new place, that induced hazy pictures of our destination, Monrovia, Liberia. How nice it will be to watch the women carry bananas on their heads, children playing and the famous textiles hung up to dry. Of course there would be a CVS equivalent hiding in the bush as a refuge for Western culture shock.
A day and a half later we arrive. The only unequipped Americans in a Monrovian airport filled with travelers backed by experience and protected by government organizations. The customs line discussed their varied missions—”Peace Corps,” “military,” “USAID,” “doctor”—as our reality set in. We had no previous contact with Second Chance Africa before our arrival, we had no proof our hotel existed, and we had no means of direct contact with anyone. There was nothing to keep the overzealous custom guards accountable from detaining us indefinitely.
We struggle to articulate our purpose of travel, and fortunately the guards recognize Second Chance Africa. We march forward into the pouring rain. Four men hold up signs with our names on them and plastic-wrapped umbrellas.
We are welcome in Liberia.
My first impressions of Monrovia? The noise. Honking seems to be a form of letting the world know you exist. every10 seconds. The waves are bitter and unforgiving, the kissing sounds of men selling their wares, the sandals dragging across half-paved roads.
The smells. Chicken feed and dried fish, soiled children, diesel fuel and rubber.
The men who comprise the Monrovia chapter of Second Chance Africa are as follows: Gus, the soft-spoken supporter; Kaba, the bushman with a trick up his sleeve; William, the teacher, and Kupe, the stern and stable chief.
They lead us into a boardroom of sorts and hand out carefully coordinated schedules for the week.
Click here to read Arielle’s first installment.