So much has happened since entering 2010 that my life is in total transition right now. First, I had to return abruptly to the U.S. on January 18 to resolve some concerns that had arisen during my time in Liberia. Surprisingly, this is the second time within an 18-month period where I was summoned home after residing in Liberia for one year. And in both situations my dreams and plans were stymied by the fallout of a failed business partnership in Liberia in which one of the four partners had misappropriated the construction funds and project supplies and equipment.
Secondly, after having no success finding non-profit paid work in Liberia, I returned home seeking employment in one of the toughest job markets in U.S. history. According to a 2009 second quarter Job Vacancy Survey from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, there are eight job seekers for one job posting, so this translates to “240,000 unemployed workers competing for 31,000 unfilled jobs” in my home state (source: Jobs Now Coalition). However, while these statistics are daunting to this eager job seeker, it is far better than in Liberia where their unemployment still stands near 85%.
Thirdly, with living abroad since June 2007, minus a seven-month break to complete my bachelor’s degree in 2008, I no longer have a home, vehicle or other household possessions. As part of my marriage dissolution agreement, I gave up my interest in our home since neither one of us could afford to buy-out the other due to financial constraints of the failed business venture. Also, to graduate debt free I sold my prized 2004 Jeep Wrangler to cover my final semester’s tuition that was paid with my credit card. My final tuition bill was rather costly, because I had registered for 40 credits—combination of classes and independent studies—during my last semester of college.
Fourthly, returning to Minnesota during the winter has been very difficult, since I left the tropics for the bitter cold and dry weather. Even after being back for over a month, I am still FREEZING! Besides wearing two layers of clothes, my winter coat usually remains on while I am inside. At night, I sleep covered with flannel sheets, three blankets and a down comforter to keep warm. Then there is the problem with the cracking and flaking dry skin that takes continual applications of lotion to only give temporary relief. The drastic weather change has taken a toll on me, since I still struggle to adjust.
Lastly, there is the cultural shock. The adjustment of returning to the “land of plenty” after living one year in a post-war developing nation is a day-by-day process. Since my economic means in Liberia was stagnant, I lived on a very tight budget [hand-to-month]. I adapted to not having running water or 24-hour electricity, since these sources have not been restored yet in Liberia. I survived mainly on one meal a day, which occasionally was dry rice (i.e. cooked white rice) and an egg fried with onion and African pepper. Though a vehicle was usually at my disposal, there were times that I crammed into an overcrowded taxi or bus to transport me to town or home. As someone who was accustomed to a higher standard of living before June 2007, I was living for the past year on what would be considered upper-poverty level in Liberia.
What I just described were a few of the transitions that I am facing right now. And as I go through this process, I remain cautious, because I do not want to forget what I endured during this past year. Though it seems that the daily struggles in Liberia would be hard to erase, I cannot ignore how easy it is to assimilate into the structured U.S. system to where your life seems like a computerized program. These experiences living in Liberia have shaped and changed my life so drastically that my existence in this world resides in two countries. This makes the transition between the developing and developed world that much harder.
So since returning home, I have been actively seeking employment while considering my plans to pursue a law degree. I have been keeping pretty flexible with my employment options including type of job and location as long as it is near a law school. As I focus on these goals, my returning to Africa remains in sight.
It is my hope after languishing in uncertainty for over two and half years that the doors of opportunity will soon open. I am ready to go through those doors as I create a new life that is bound with a sense of compassion and humility for those who live on practically nothing. After experiencing many heartaches and losses of my own, I want to go forward with my dreams and goals of giving voice to those who screams of suffering are continually ignored.