There are times when the generosity and kindness of Liberians makes it easy to forget that the country was ravaged by war – or the crisis, as it is often referred. But little things prick the memory and I am reminded. More than the pin pin boys on flashy motorcycles dodging in and out of traffic or the “don’t rape” posters plastered at clinics and on billboards beside the road, the speed to anger and the shell of towns alert me to a not-so-distant past.

Last week a missing young woman’s body was discovered in Voinjama. Shot. Dismembered.

It is difficult to get reliable information but what I have cobbled together is that for some reason the Christians in the area blamed the Muslims, and so they burned the mosque. The Muslims, in retaliation, burned the Catholic Compound. And then a collective chaos broke out – burning and shooting into the night and the days to follow.

Peace Corps finally evacuated its volunteers from the area. One, previously evacuated from two other countries, was familiar with the religious tensions in the region. “it isn’t an isolated event here in Liberia,” she said. “in fact, when they told me I was going to Voinjama and I looked at a map, I had a bad feeling.”

So she and another volunteer are headed down to Monrovia- and probably home. Meanwhile, I call america to ask friends and family to investigate online what I have difficulty finding out on the ground. According to the radio today, a policeman shot someone and then was burned by a mob. I’m still unsure of that incident’s connection to the religious tensions but…the quickness to anger is commonplace.

This weekend at Kpatawee, as we prepared to leave, we watched as a small man was held by several other men and someone kicked him repeatedly. Gutz stepped in, angry and shouting, and soon there was shouting and posturing all around. It seems the beaten man was driving his motorcycle with the man beating him on the back. They fell. The man was angry.

But beyond the flashes of anger, there is a quieter reminder of the crisis, the war, the gap in liberia’s growth and development.

The concrete skeletal remains of houses and schools and churches. Cars, stripped and rusted and overrun with Liberia’s interminable greenery. Driving along a narrow strip of dirt road, splashing up puddles the color of Thai iced tea, the feeling is often as if our car’s occupants are the only people for miles-for ages. And then we inch by graying houses, no windows or doors, papaya trees sprouting from the living room. Or we see the caved in roof of a church or school house, crumbling mud brick, corrugated tin scavenged and carried away. And the feeling is all the more isolating. All the more lonely.

In some cases, people have returned, commandeered the ruins of a previous home and begun to erect their own. But it still feels lonely. Still has the appearance of occupying someone else’s clothes – or better- someone else’s skin.

Driving by one such village, its remains sprawling for a good distance, I tentatively asked eric if this was the result of the war.

“yes, Bong Mines was affected. People left and the area was looted and set afire.”

And so we drove on. Me looking at what remains, what is being remade, and wondering what it looked like 20 years ago; wondering if any of the people sitting in doorways or under palava huts (thatched roof open sided shelters) have come home to reclaim their pre-war history or are simply creating a new one from the ruins.

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1 Comment on remains of the day…

  1. Niambi says:

    Please be careful.

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