It had been a year since I'd driven down this road. My tired tear stained eyes grasped their final view of my home for the past year.
A woman with a baby tightly secured to her back with a lappa, while carrying a large bowl on her head. The pedestrians who randomly dove out into the street seemingly timed so they would have the best chance at striking our vehicle. The broken concrete monument that stood watch over Monrovia's likewise broken skyline, with it's barely ledgible bold faced words "protect human dignity" amidst the faded chipped red paint.Liberia.
I remembered taking this drive a year ago. Sitting in the back of a nine seat Land Rover, staring out the window at the lush green terrain of Liberia's countryside. I caught my first glimpses of her people. Dark skinned with distinct cheek bones and large, wide set eyes. They were beautiful.
As we drove past the city limits in the lush countryside I thought about the group of 20 or so friends who had gathered at the end of the gangway to wish me goodbye. It had been an international salute of flailing hands in the air releasing, me back into the world from which I had came.Their faces froze in my short term memory, causing a sadness in my heart. This was goodbye. Tonight the momentum of the ship would continue on as it always did; but I would no longer be a part of it's force. My bed in cabin 3426 was temporarily empty and I'd been de-winged of my ID badge.
The self-sufficient independent cynic had acquired a group of remarkably lovely friends that had crossed a threshold in her heart that she previously rarely allowed passage too. Goodbye was sad.
As we pulled into the airport, my stomach groaned. Looking at the car clock I realized why; it was 5 pm; dinner time on the ship. My stomach had become conditioned like Pavlov's dogs.
After reassuring the baggage woman my two large bags didn't house any stow-away children, I was given a boarding pass and shuttled into a stale one room waiting area.
I took my place amongst the rows of plastic, undersized chairs that had the word "UNMIL" an the accompanying logo stenciled on the back. A man behind me asked a uniformed Liberian man about the state of the wall air conditioning unit that was hung amidst the sea of plastic, blue linzoid curtains. Apparently he was too hot. The transition to the western world begins.
Tired and uncomfortable in my chair, I moved my bags and laid done on the ceramic tiles, leaning against the wall. Listening to my i pod, falling in and out of sleep, my eyes roamed around the room.
A woman dressed in a police uniform with an UNMIL patch. Men in crisp suits. A presumed journalist with a large camera bag and a telegraphic lens. A few "aid workerish" types like myself.
I opened my Bible and began reading 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient. Love is kind. Two photos fell out of My Bible. One of a group of friends at Nimba mountain, another of me and the "A Ward Men's Club".
I saw love and a few more tears.
Love is what I had felt this year. Love is what I saw. I had loved my friends; I had loved my patients.
A third class bus carried me from the waiting area to the plane. A staircase lined with bright lights served as my gateway to the world from which I had come. I strutted up the steps, as if waking up a bizarre catwalk. Before entering the plane I paused and looked back one last time. Liberia. This was goodbye.
In my head a thousand faces. Image's and storyboards. Tales of struggle. Tales of war. Tales of hope. Tales of sorrow. Stories of death. Stories of miracles. Stories of wickedness. Stories of love.
I carried them with me. They had forever impressed my heart and changed the way I viewed the world.
I settled into my seat and turned on my i pod as the plane dove into the dark abyss of the night sky. Heading towards the unknown. I still can't see where we are heading.
When I arrive home it will most likely be unchanged. I am certain the momentum of life has continued in my absence.But it will be different. I have changed. My eyes see a new world.