'How da body?'

Liberia, November 13, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Bija Gutoff/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Bija Gutoff/Mercy Corps

Pounding rain, deep red mud...and a hundred smiles.

We've been bouncing over the worst roads I've ever seen. Adolphus, our driver, seems to think he's at the Indy 500. If another car tries to pass him, he speeds up — in the broiling heat, I've kept the window down (the AC is broken), but I've learned to roll it up really fast when a huge muddy puddle looms...or when another car passes.

We are visiting villages so poor, the children literally have nothing to do. There are no toys, no books, no games, not much to eat.

As a mother, it's hard to see poverty so deep. I hug and tickle and make funny faces at every child I see. Their initial shyness disappears in an instant. Liberians are friendly people, and as soon as you offer the expected greeting — "How da body?" — they instantly relax into a warm, open greeting.

Everywhere I look, there are children laughing and playing. You wonder, how is this possible? And yet it's just the spirit this desperately poor country needs to be able to recover from the brutal war years.