UA-63899747-1 Back to Liberia Day 9 – Nzinga Harrison, MD
Back to Liberia Day 8
January 17, 2014
Back to Liberia – LAST DAY and LAST POST
January 21, 2014

I woke up thinking today would be a lazy day with nothing much to do.  Boy did I turn out to be dead wrong.  I finally dragged myself out of bed at 10:00am.  I was awake since 7:30am, but it was so nice to just relax.  I jumped in the shower at 11:45am knowing the driver would be here soon to get me for lunch.  While I was in the shower he called.  I said “Hello?” (mind you I’m literally in the shower)  He says “I’m standing right outside your door.”  Yipes.  I cut the shower short, threw on some clothes and the day began.

I went to the nearby hotel where the Carter Center was holding a training on new software designed to track the patients that the Mental Health Clinicians are seeing.  This gave me the opportunity to see many of the students I taught back in July and was a wonderful reunion.   One of the students asked me for a case consultation on a young man who was severely addicted to drugs whose family had him put in jail because they didn’t know what else to do.  As I was helping her conceptualize the case, she asked me if I would see him.  So, of course, I said sure.   His family had him released from jail and drove about an hour and a half to see me.  I spent an hour and half in an individual session with his Auntie (who functions more like his mother) and then met him and his cousin for a family session for another hour.  It was extremely encouraging, and we were able to devise a treatment plan based on what was available.  He seemed to leave the appointment with hope that he could quit using even through the cravings and withdrawal.  His family so hopeful and so grateful for the time we spent.  I believe I left with as much hope and gratitude as they did.  Because the Carter Center staff was ready to go before we were, his Aunt Josephine agreed to take me shopping for gifts for my family, make sure I ate dinner and get me home safely.  So, off we went.

She took me to the center of Monrovia street markets and said “You don’t speak. I will do all the talking.”  First we stopped at a cash box on the street to change my USD to Liberian Dollars (LD).  She gave the man $50.  He put a stack of LD on top of the box.  She started yelling “What? That’s it?!  I will take my money somewhere else! That is not enough!”  By the time she finished with him, he had put three more stacks of LD for the exchange.  Next, we went to a merchant who had jewelry.  She said “Don’t point out anything you like.  You tell me quietly, and I will act as if I am buying it for myself.”   So, we executed the plan.  She said “How much is the bracelet?”  He said “$10.”  She said “$10?!  My daughter shops here every day and told me the bracelets are $3 and now you want to charge me 10?!!!!!”  He said “Who is your daughter?”  She said, “You know the one.”  Then, she calls her daughter on the phone and hands it to him.  He clearly had no idea who the daughter was, but the tactic worked. Lol!  I ended up getting all the jewelry I wanted for less than $30.   Finally, we went to a clothing store.  I picked out a dress.  She did her special form of bartering, and the final price was $15.  If you could see this dress!!!  And here’s the best part… we then walked across the street to a tailor that used to work for her.  He measured me up and tailored the dress on the spot.   The experience was nothing short of amazing.

Following that adventure, she took me to meet her husband at the place where he relaxes.  It is basically the sidewalk in front of the auto shop that his friends own.  We pulled up and they were outside drinking Heineken, listening to music on the iPhone through a Bose speaker and sitting on car benches taken out of old cars.  When we pulled up, one of the workers brought out a car bench for us.  She told her husband I was hungry, so he gave me a few options and then called someone and said “Bring a pizza across the street.”  He then summoned a younger man and sent him to the market to get us juice.  We all sat around on our carseats relaxing, laughing, telling stories and having a great time.   As it began to get dark, I started to get antsy.  I figured my DEET was wearing off, and I realized I had forgotten to take my anti-malarial medication this morning.  Luckily, she was ready to go and carted me off home.

So again, Liberia gave me another wonderful day.  The chance to make a difference in a young man and his family’s lives, an authentic Liberian shopping and chilling experience and a Liberian friend for life.   Tomorrow, will be my last day in Liberia.    Josephine, who began the day introducing me to people as Dr. Harrison and ended the day introducing me as her daughter offered to pick me up in the morning, take me to her house for some relaxing time on the river and feed me a big lunch before the driver takes me to the airport.  Of course I said yes!   I’m really looking forward to it.

So this is almost it.   I had my last Skype call with Joel and the boys (it was a hoot) and I will pack my things in the morning and prepare to say farewell to Liberia.   I figure I’ll write one more post once I make it safely back home.  I didn’t take any pictures today, since I didn’t realize I would be on an adventure.  I should’ve known!

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