Stanley wants to know if we can do an eye transplant so I can take his eyes to Liberia with me. That way he can see his family and see how much his home has changed in the last seven years.
Most of the youth in Staten Island haven't been back since they fled during the war and all are curious as to what the country looks like now. "Is it safe?" They ask. "How's President Ellen doing?" They inquire. "Can you give my dad a hug?" Someone wonders. Oma puts her arms out to imitate an airplane, letting me know that she understands where I'm going. I even receive a few requests to hide people in my suitcase. While I don't think Homeland Security will allow that I do take photographs to bring back to people's families.
I am in the middle of packing for the trip. In my bag is a large folder with phone numbers of all the people in Liberia I will call when I arrive — brothers, fathers, mothers, and children of the young people I have met over the last eight months in Staten Island. Even Darnell, Kenje and Isaiah's cousin who was deported from Staten Island back to Liberia, is on my list.
What happened to the youth that remained in Liberia after the war? Are they similar or different than their brothers and sisters that fled? What about those that came to Staten Island and got deported back home? What are their lives like now? What are the challenges of reintegration?
I'll keep posting while I'm in Liberia and let you know what I find out. Photos, videos, and more blogs will follow. If you have an questions or comments definitely write in and let us know.
We're looking forward to finally getting on the ground in Africa. Please come along for the ride.