Liberia Study Tour, 2012: Reflections - Day Two

 

Liberia Study Tour, 2012: Reflections - Day Two

Posted on July 13, 2012 by Pam Klem

In the beginning, Riva led us in a centering blessing. She thanked God for sustaining us and bringing us to this moment. She then asked that we might open our eyes, ears and hearts to all that we were soon to see, hear and experience.

And indeed, we saw some remarkable sights. We had a glimpse of our own nation's history through the lens of former Minister of Information Bowier's perspective, and we saw the parallels he drew between Liberia's birth as a sovereign nation out of the socio-, political, and economic tensions in distant second and third party countries, and Israel's statehood a hundred years later-- a moment, he reminded us, in which Liberia played a momentous role. We saw Amiee and Fadu proudly write their names on the chalkboard in their open-air classroom, and watched Estella march up to the board and spell three phonetically regular words.

We heard some remarkable sounds. In the evening we heard the tumult of the Liberian rainy season; and in the late afternoon, when the clouds briefly parted, some of us gathered beside the relentlessly pounding surf. At the Low Cost Village adult literacy project site, we had our very own Book of Mormon moment when Riva explained, in English, that we were Americans, and Jewish, working to support social justice... And then Jeremiah translated, into English, that we were Americans, and Jewish, working to support social justice... The same content, almost the same words, but with Liberian cadences and, I think, also Liberian nuance. We heard President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf articulate the three greatest challenges Liberia continues to face. The first issue she named was the ongoing need for reconciliation, and the second was youth unemployment. The third was rape.

We shared some remarkable experiences. We held a tight phalanx position behind Abe's wardrobe malfunction, and successfully enabled him to make his way past the Presidential wardrobe police. We held the hands of the children who are Liberia's future. Some of us danced, and some of us sang. One fielded a marriage proposal. And we felt the power of AJWS' and it's partners' work in Liberia when one of the students in SHIFSD's adult literacy program explained how her life was different, now that she could write her name. "Before, I was ashamed. Now I am a student. Now I hold my head up high."

Clearly, we will see, and hear, and experience so much over the next week that we'll still be processing for many weeks thereafter. I feel so privileged to be a part of this study group, and so grateful to all of you for sharing these sights and sounds and experiences with me.

And that was the end of the first day. And it was good.