Thursday, February 28, 2008

two questions

A friend asked me on the phone what my happiest and saddest memories of Liberia are. I answered her incorrectly on the saddest one so let me get it right here. (btw, it's 5:45am here and I've been laying awake in bed for the past hour. this whole sleeping thing has eluded me for quite some time now...)

saddest:
I would actually call it the most disturbing memory but it's sad too.
So if you've never heard Liberian English, it's a whole nother dialect and virtually impossible to understand for the newbie. Knowing this, the Liberians speak freely (aka quickly and without fixing grammar and vocab) around the white folks (they considered my nephew white as well which I got a kick out of) when they don't want for them to understand - like their own secret language.
So I'm chillin at the compound and there's about 10-15 guys sitting on the steps with me. One of them is telling a story and they're all laughing and prodding him on. I begin to tune them in, curious about the topic that has them all attentive.
The story teller is in front of the group (they're all about 20-30yrs old) and his whole body moves as he acts out portions of the tale. If I can read his lips, I understand about 50% more of what he's saying so everytime that he turns his head, I have 25% of an idea what he's saying.
'The general was just standing there, totally surrounded. You know what they did to him?'
(audience laughs)
'They stabbed him and stabbed him and kept on.'
(more laughter as the story teller acts out the part of the general getting stabbed in the lungs. He begins wheezing for a breath that his body cannot hold. he looks surprised everytime that he gets stabbed. more laughter)
'And he just takes it! And he's like (storyteller continues wheezing) and there's blood blood a-ll over the floor coming from him, like a river, more and more blood'
(I rise up from the stairs and exit the scene, trying not to cry at the reaction to the story being told. I understand that there's only so much that these men can handle and that we all deal with war and trauma differently... but the callousness and the emptiness that is required from someone to speak this way... it's a side of humanity that we ignore and push aside {have you seen 'The Beach'?} because it's so much easier to speak of Brittany and her boys rather than the brutality of the world that surrounds us. I can't help but wonder how we can just stand aside and watch this happen... I wonder why so few are willing to help, and why even fewer follow through when they're on the ground.)

happiest:
Probably hearing my son call me 'Mommy' for the first time. I've never, and will never, tell any of my children to call me Mom. I want for them (the adopted children) to come to that conclusion within their own hearts without my pushing them to it.
I was headed to the bathroom for a splash of cool water on my face when I heard Big P ask some woman named Mommy what she was doing. I glanced around the bedroom, and sure enough, I was the only woman there.
I looked over at my nephew to ask if I had heard Big P correctly. My nephew smiled and nodded his head, "he called you Mommy, Raquel. Congratulations!"
I, of course, gave Big P an unexpected and delayed hug. He winced with pain. I apologized for forgetting about the tumor on his back. I rubbed his arm instead. He smiled at me quickly and then looked down shyly. One of the pineapple-and-beaches moments...

10 comments:

Dawne said...

That made me cry. Both stories. I've seen it a lot, with my background, how people will experience the most horrific events, but be able to speak of them like they were talking about doing laundry, or something else mundane.

Big P is blessed to have you, and you him.

Chantel said...

tears came to eyes on both moments...i can't wait to call you and hear more about it. ;)

Chantel said...

tears came to eyes on both moments...i can't wait to call you and hear more about it. ;)

Erica said...

How the heck did you make it out on time? Did you have any issues with the Minister of Health? What happened when we left????

Aly Cat 121 said...

dayum, was that a REAL story? or some sort of fable? I squirm at seeing a dead animal on the highway, I could only imagine what someone could feel watching another person being stabbed to death.

Raquel said...

Alyson,
Unfortunately, it's a real story and I didn't even tell the whole thing... Liberia was in a war for around 15 yrs and the country has been devastated by it. The morals are LOW and the poverty is HIGH. Corruption, lying, stealing, and rape are the norm.

Stephanie said...

They really are blessed to have you in their lives. Thank God for you.

mountain-quiltist said...

Sista ~ welcome home to you and mister P, and prayers for a positive outcome to his medical woes. He has landed safely in the arms of a loving family and God will see him through.

Reading about your "overhearing" a group of young men who unknowingly spoke candidly thinking you couldn't possibly understand their patois reminds me of sitting on the sidelines at any Jamaican gathering...you hear and understand and sometimes it breaks your heart.

Love you Raquel, and your courage, and your family!

(ps. my son was in the Children's hospital in Seattle in the 60's and it was a wonderful facility ~ they saved his life. I pray it will be so for Mister P.)

mountain-quiltist said...

Oops, one more thing after reading the comments on this posting...if you would like to get a glimpse into just what some children in some African countries are living with I can recommend some films available at Netflix and maybe your local video store.

1) "The Devil Came on Horseback" a documentary about Darfur.

2) "The Sierra Leone All Star Refugee Band" mostly filmed in Refugee Camps housing refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Those two come to mind, but I know there are more out there.

Sarah said...

We are so incredibly blessed to live here in America. We are spoiled and my heart is heavily burdened for the people of Africa, not only Liberia but all of war torn Africa.
You and Jenny both inspire me with your love for people. What a precious gift.
It was great to see you the other day. Could I possibly come by this week and bring your family a meal? I would love to do that.

~S~