Life here is a fickle two-year-old. Yesterday was the first day she didn’t cry or cower behind the nearest person not me. Yesterday she walked up to me, her round chocolate face so cute and beaming, no pants, stomach distended with a huge bellybutton bulging out like an appendage.

She smiled at me. Held out her hand for me to shake and then giggled into that same tiny hand. And it was such a small thing. Like her, a tiny fragile thing. And it filled me with something like joy. A 30 second exchange on my way home.

Today, overconfident, when I saw her, I smiled and reached out my hand. And her bright face darkened. She clutched the smiling boy beside her and looked as if she might cry.

My heart fell. Yesterday’s fragile joy forgotten. Shattered on the frown of a capricious child.

And my days here are like that. Tiny triumphs sandwiched between mundane disappointments.

This weekend I hung with my friend, Dimples, in Monrovia. While waiting for him to arrive I found myself getting my purse fixed by a man sitting on a corner. I held his umbrella to shade him from the brutal sun while he worked and we chatted, When I told him I was a volunteer he looked at me blankly, a rarity here. And at that moment a woman walking by stopped and said, “I know. A volunteer taught me to write.”

We continued to chat – me being scolded by a random man walking by because she was stooping to write down her information- turns out she is the director of a health NGO in Bomi. And when I finally met up with Dimples for fish at his favorite spot we chatted easily about his new apartment and me almost looking like a Liberian (my dress created the illusion that my unfashionable teva shoes discredited).

And I was all laughter and ease.

And the laughter is a salve to the training that still hasn’t been set in stone or the inconstant internet or my bean fatigue or taxi drivers and market merchants charging me extra.

Tomorrow I’ll pass by that spot with the little round-faced girl with the sometimes fearful eyes and sometimes delightful smile. Her house sells the best ground pea candy and there hasn’t been any in weeks. Maybe the fickle winds of Liberia will blow in my favor tomorrow and I’ll get some candy and a smile.

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