10 February 2008

A foray into Monrovia

The Africa Mercy is an incongruity. In truth, we're not roughing it here. The ship is new, the cabins are nice, the people are great, and there's even a Starbucks on board (the coffee mavens graciously donate their bean to the ship to keep us happy). Sure, the ship persistently rocks, ever so slightly, wreaking havoc on your semicircular canals and making you seasick even in your dreams. Sure, the food is—um—cafeteria-style. And windows are few and far-between on the floor we're bunking in. But life on this ship is not bad at all. (In fact, here are a few pictures of life on board. More—as well as pictures of the hospital—coming with the next post).

And it's nothing compared with the world outside. The ravages of war are evident everywhere.

A late-night arrival on Friday (after a turbulence-ridden plane ride from Abidjan, straight through a thunderstorm, with cliff-hanging hundred-foot plummets. I'm not making that up) didn't deter us from venturing off the ship on Saturday afternoon in an attempt to make it into the city.

We failed.

See, the city is a 4km walk away from the ship, and, on the advice of two other Mercy Ships veterans whom we ran into, we decided to take a cab. I use that word loosely. The cars are painted yellow, but that's where their resemblance to anything cab-like ends. They little more than pieces of metal, held together by a few well-placed prayers, crammed with more people than even India would find normal, and driven with reckless abandon. And they will not, by any means, pick up foreigners. At least, not for any sort of reasonable price.

So, we stood, flagged down hundreds of cabs, walked about halfway into town, and gave up. On our way back, though, it hit us where we were, what we were doing. This isn't usual travel; this is nothing like any other place we've been to this year. Or this life.

The ravages of war are evident everywhere.

On our way back, we were almost run over (purposely?) by a man driving way too fast, in the gravel gutter off the side of the road. Though, given the state of his car, I'm not sure which one of us would have suffered more from the encounter.

On our way back, it became real. You know those baby-blue helmets you see the UN forces wearing on the news? They're not made up.

And for some reason, it was seeing those baby-blue helmets that made it all sink in. We're in Liberia, a country that's so poor, it doesn't even make the UN's Human Development Index. We're in a country where the UN is more than a cement-and-steel swoop of a high-rise a few blocks away from us, where NGOs are realities of life, where people still carry automatic weapons. We're in a country whose bombed-out shells of buildings far surpass anything I ever saw in Lebanon. And we're here until June.

Today, though, was different. Today, we made it into town for church.

The ravages of war may be evident everywhere, but so is resilience.

1 comment:

SalseraLibanesa said...

wow! your post is incredible. i can't imagine what you guys must be feeling. what a wonderful experience
i love u both :)