Bold orange earth and the sweet smell of sap dripping from tall, green rubber trees set up the candy-coated contrast that is Liberia. Banana yellow dresses against the midnight of she skin. Red-headed Agama lizards perched chest puffed on concrete block walls painted blue.
Happy to have my boots on the ground again. It’s hot in equatorial Africa. Have you heard!?
Today we did a distribution in the worst slum in Liberia. A dark and heavy place called West Point. Muscle and threat everywhere. Black-skinned predators lining the unpaved paths while others dart this way and that on motorbikes honking horns. The thick stink of feces dried by mean sun clashes with babies’ innocence on resigned mommas’ backs. Pregnant teens walk slowly dragging their worn sandal heels aware at once of women’s power and vulnerability in the ghetto. Children are much the same as anywhere running and playing and staring curiously. Cute and yet untarnished by hardships of a hard life. These wear more dirt than clothes and show no concern that most of them will never make it past 15.
We did our benevolent deed and made a few friends before moving on. There were many smiles and much appreciation. Some were shocked that we chanced it in there but could tell we go without fear.
There’s no guard like intention. When you legitimately come to help, animosity is confused and diffused. It’s always a profound confirmation that head-to-head good beats bad.
We made way back to the hotel sweaty, sun-cooked and silent..in our heads about the day. Driving along a stretch of rural highway I saw a man wearing only a loin cloth walking on the side of the road. He gently forked the ground with a skinny tree branch-for-walking-stick as if pacing himself for a million steps. His blackest skin smeared grey over chest and shoulders with a muddy shield. I thought to myself how tribal, wild, fresh out the bush he looked – like a scene in Africa. Then it hit me that this actually is Africa.