Today is a national Liberian holiday called Armed Forces Day. I asked a Liberian what the history of the holiday was and why we celebrate it. She could not really give me an answer. So, as with most Liberian holidays we headed to the beach...
The difference this time is that we brought Mary and Piko with us. Mary and Piko are both ORR employees. Mary is our Liberian Ma. She keeps us fed and taken care of and helps with our feeding program. Piko is a monitor in 2 of our orphanages, watching the general goings on and helping them around the home. Mary and Piko have been friends since they were small girls. They have grown up together and stood by each other through more than most of us could ever imagine, including years of war and the death of loved ones. At times I have been mesmerized by their stories of the horrible conditions of living through the war and at other times I have been in tears laughing as I watch them giggle and share like the life long friends that they are. Not too long ago they were talking with Cramer about how much they used to love to "bathe in the sea" (go swimming in the ocean). Earlier this week, when I was asking Mary how she would spend her holiday she said "Maybe Matthew could take us to the beach?" And so the plan was born.
This afternoon both women arrived tentatively at the ORR house. They borrowed swimming clothes and plastic bags to protect their hair, and were trying to come up with excuses not to go in the water. As excited as they were to go to the beach with us, they were also nervous. Especially Piko, who had not even touched her toe in the ocean for 30 years! (Yet she lives across the street from the ocean). We all (Cramer, Jen, Andrew, Mary, Piko and I) piled into the car Liberian style and drove to one of our favorite swimming spots. The two Liberian women were very reluctant to go into the water. I had to promise Piko I would not leave her side. We walked into the ocean hand in hand in hand. Mary and Piko laughing all the way. About 6 inches in Piko was on all fours crawling through the surf and a few seconds later Mary was behind her. Then they were on their feet again, we got about waist deep and the waves were coming strong. Piko said she was in far enough, but I pulled her farther in. She was unsure, but off to the left Mary was diving face first into a coming wave. Not wanting to be outdone by her friend, Piko was soon diving in too.
We spent about an hour jumping and playing and laughing in the surf. I really think it was one of the best things I have done in Liberia. To see these two women, who I have come to love so much enjoying themselves like school girls in the surf, "bathing in the sea" like they did 30+ years ago before war and death and life changed things. It was precious, amazing and an honor to be a part of. It also was hilarious!
So, maybe I don't know why we celebrate Armed Forces Day in Liberia, but I know that today we celebrated. We celebrated overcoming fears and war. We celebrated life and fun and good friends. Boy did we celebrate!