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The Shift

Car stuck in puddle

The Rainy Season

Its been raining non stop for two days now. As I kneel on my couch, scanning the sky through the tight black grid of the double-screened windows, I see an endless canopy of dull grey and I realize this downpour will not end anytime soon. Part of me relishes in the luxurious coolness the rain brings and the other part of me really wishes I didn’t put a load of laundry in last night.

This rainy version of the relentlessly sunny Liberia I’m accustomed to is creating a bit of a drying dilemma. My habitual trips home during the season of torrential downpours has left me ill equipped to manage this situation.

At the moment my small living room closely resembles a very poorly run laundry mat. Shirts hang off the back of chairs, underwear lays strewn over the exercise bike, pajamas cling to the standing fan and pants dangle from the ajar doors. I’m surrounded.

This is all part of “the shift” – the adjustments that need to be made each year when I move between two distinctly different worlds. Upon return to Canada, ask me if the transition home is difficult and without a pause my answer will be, “No, of course not!”  I have no problem embracing 24-hour power, safe tap water, cool breezes, amazing fresh food, excellent public transit, and clean air (this is not a comprehensive list).

Now ask me that same question when I first arrive back in Liberia and you’ll get a very different answer.  There is definitely a period of transition when I return to Africa.

It’s the multitude of daily realities that shake me up for a bit. Little things like indestructible cockroaches, teeny-tiny killer mosquitos, relentless kitchen ants, untrustworthy tap water, weird stomach issues, diesel belching trucks, crazy drivers and perpetual sweating (this is not a comprehensive list).

Eventually, after a period of denial, I begin to navigate this new reality and it becomes just normal everyday routine. I even start to enjoy the added challenge life here brings. Trying to outsmart mice, figuring out what erratic maneuver the driver in front of me is going to pull, knowing when to hold my breath – it all makes even the most mundane day a little more interesting.

So while this is transition time is still fresh in my mind, I want to ask you to help me with “the shift” next year. On the last day we see each other in Canada I need you to put your hands on my shoulders, look me straight in the eyes and say, “Remember.” Next you’ll need to take off your shoe and smack it really hard on the ground. Then, come back to the previous shoulder/eye lock and say: “That’s how you kill a cockroach.”