(Quick update: thank you to all who are participating in my Patreon campaign to help me pay my internet bills here so I can continue this blog! You make image-heavy posts like this possible!)
Early last month I paid a visit to Marshall, my old Peace Corps site.
The last time I had visited I was working for Samaritan’s Purse, and had taken one of their cars. This time I was back in a Liberian taxi, just like old times. It felt good to be a “small man” again. (Having access to a private car is a big sign of status – especially the kinds of cars that NGOs use)
I went straight to my old principal’s house, stopping to greet people on the way.
I found my mother at the house, and it looked like she had been crying. Another woman was with her, and wailing. She stood up, quickly pulling herself together and told me her father had just died. She had just come back in town from arranging the burial.
I offered my sympathy, and sat with her and other people there. It was nice to just sit. Liberians understand presence and silence in a way that is hard to find in American culture.
After a while we began catching up on each other’s lives — and then the principal joined us (he had been on some errands) and I got to get an update on the school. He told me they were doing great, and that their new Peace Corps volunteer was still getting adjusted and was going to start teaching the next week, at the start of the next grading period.
(The Peace Corps has slowly been resuming their program in Liberia — they’ve started with a few returning (response) volunteers, and will hopefully be training a full new group of more than sixty come June)
I asked if they had given him a name yet, and they told me it was “Blojay” or “because of the nation”, meaning that they were in crisis and he was sent to help them. I was so happy to hear everything was going alright. I knew him well — he was originally a part of my volunteer group in Liberia. I went through training with him, was evacuated during Ebola with him, and I couldn’t ask for a better person to come after me in Marshall.
I was just about to ask how he was integrating with the community, when I got a call from him. “KYLE, you need to get over here right now, we’re trying to kill a snake!”. From the sound of it, he was integrating quite well. I excused myself from my family and jogged in his direction.
I found him in the middle of a huge crowd of people surrounding a huge fallen branch that one man was hacking into pieces and slowly clearing. Blojay was there in the thick of it, filming on his phone. I took my phone out, and started filming too:
Apparently, the snake had been in the tree, so they cut the tree down to get at it. I was told they had been at it for over an hour. It was some kind of tree snake, very poisonous, and capable of jumping from limb to limb. Liberians hate snakes.
Finally, the snake appeared… all the children screamed and ran, and all the men rushed in with sticks to beat it.
It was rather exciting. As you can hear in the video, I couldn’t stop giggling. Blojay even got to hit the snake with his stick. So much fun!
They severed the head so we could get a close look.
And then we all inspected the body and got pictures (notice that even the Liberians have their phone cameras out… technology is really becoming commonplace, even in rural areas!)
That night my Ma cooked Blojay and I a wonderful crawfish and red oil gravy. So good!!
I spent the night at Blojay’s house (which used to be my house, back when I was with the Peace Corps). It brought back so many memories — I got to see my old buddy Christian and all the kids I used to hang out with.
And the moringa tree that I had planted from a seed was BIG!
Can you believe it? That’s only a little over two years of growth from a seed!
The next day we went down to Fanty town (the community that lives on the beach) and got some egg sandwiches.
We stopped by the docks and watched the fishermen hard at work
(click for full-size panorama)
I happened to run into one of my old co-teachers that taught science at the school.
He also was also interviewed in this VICE documentary about Monkey Island. (Warning: contains Liberian war violence) See if you can recognize him!
When I first watched the documentary I was pretty tickled because VICE makes a big deal about how remote the area is, when in fact I was one of the least remote Peace Corps Volunteers. It took me under two hours to get to the capital, where for some of my brothers and sisters, it would take two days (including driving all night).
We went back uptown and the scenery here as beautiful as I remembered.
From there, I took my usual route around the community visiting neighbors and friends.
My neighbor UJ was still making his mats:
The grandmother next door was making soap:
And someone had made a little bush house next door for the children to play in:
I spent some time at my old co-teacher Mayson’s place, and was happy to find people still playing scrabble.
The principal was there too, and we sat around and chatted while we ate plantain chips.
It was so wonderful to see everyone at Marshall — it’s really a second home for me now. I’m so happy to be back here in Liberia!