Monrovia vs. the comfort zone

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm so far out of  my comfort zone I'm wondering if I left it in the overhead luggage compartment back at Roberts Airfield. It's been an hour-long ride from there to here, the capital of Not Kansas. The sensory overload hits everywhere you look. The heat, the immense depth of the poverty, rushing past in the dirt road blink of an eye. Piercing eyes, watching wearily as you pass, yet another busload of well-meaning but useless foreigners going somewhere.

I suppose you can learn to look past that poverty. And there's so much to see when you do. Kids playing tag around an overturned wheelbarrow, squealing in glee. A heated soccer game where – it takes me a moment to notice this – all the players are on maneuvering, spinning, kicking on crutches; they're all missing a leg. The billboards, the wishfully-named little shops: that tin-roof stack of cinderblocks with a hand-painted sign: "Praise Be To God International Business Center". Backyard brushfires everywhere – my memory of Monrovia will forever be hickory smoked. There are so many stories you could tell here. If you could just get your comfort zone back on the bike.

We read the briefing papers as the bus bounced along – they're filled with contingencies, emergency evacuation protocols, and "what to do in case of"s that I don't even want to contemplate. But the others here have done this before. They nodded appreciatively at my trepidation and reminded me about the "Warning: improper use of this device may lead to serious injury or death" notices you see on screwdrivers and cans of baby food. It's going to be fine.

And it is fine, really. I'm in Monrovia, surrounded by some amazing, dedicated people. The Liberians are glad as all hell to have us here. As one of the Carter Center staff was wrestling with a piece of luggage at the airport, a man walked up and lifted it into place over her head. She thanked him, but he waved it off as nothing: "Hey, I work hard for you today – I know you'll be working hard for us next week." Right? Right.

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