Packing and Wondering: my experience the night before we leave for Liberia

As I sit here in my family room, I continue to pack tirelessly with my father and 14 year-old brother who has slipped away, probably to relish his last moments of solitude, internet access and “comfort”. The room is now a maze of clothing piles, medicine, ointments, as well as a lot of anti-diarrheals and bug repellent. One of the many challenges this trip poses is that everything my family has decided to bring must travel with us to Goyazu; a day’s walk in the forest. This means we will have to hire strong men to help us carry our load. Along with our clothing and toiletries, we are bringing notebooks, textbooks, pencils and other supply for the school to use. We have decided that most of the clothes and things we bring will stay in Goyazu for our family.

Everything we are bringing must be washed by hand… where or how we will do this I don’t quite know. I sort of imagine myself bent over in a lapa (traditional West African wrap skirt) tirelessly scrubbing my shirts on a hard rock. But I attribute this naiveté to my skewed Western standard of cleanliness and efficiency. I must also mention that we are bringing no sheets, which means no bed sheets, or bed for that matter. I suppose I will be snuggling up on a woven mat and hope that my back is okay in the morning. On the bright side I will have my blowup traveler’s pillow!

So I guess it is not hard to tell, I’m nervous. I have no clue what to expect… the smells, the food, the landscape…. Yes, I have I seen it all, but only through the screen on my Macbook or while flipping through photos in an album. But it is this is the exact reason my family and I are going to Liberia, to better understand the country and who we are as first and second generation Liberians. For my whole life, my grandfather, more affectionately known as Papi has called me Sienne (SI-ENN-E) which means travel brings good luck, and while in Liberia, I hope to discover who I am as Sienne.

-Sienne Najha Zigbi-Johnson

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