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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Yaron Deskalo Liberia Journal Day 9

Monrovia, Tuesday

Last full day in Africa.
Our bodies have taken a beating and have been largely ignored.
Yesterday, our director of photography, Gregg Hoerdemann, walked down to the lobby. He said he was feeling signs of malaria. He was tired and achy.
Seven straight days of shooting in 100 degree heat with a marine-size load to carry. No, bro. You don't have malaria. You are just tired. As expected.
We ended our shooting today with our final practice with the amputee soccer team. After getting our meat and potatoes in the first two shoots, it was time to add a bit of gravy. We brought the squad to the beach, where they often practice, and had them scrimmage under a setting sun.
This is my first trip to Africa. But for those foreigners that now live here, they all say that Liberia is a bit different. The worst, some even say.
You think about that when you see these amputees practicing in such a beautiful, natural environment. We're here trying to tell their story, but tomorrow we leave, and life continues for them. That happens every time you finish a story, but the desperation here is, well, the worst I've seen.
Two nights ago, as rainy season slid its way into West Africa, the sky opened up with a barrage of six straight hours of consistent downpour.
Earlier that day we visited Joseph Kolobeh's inhabitable shack. He told us when it rains, the tin roof leaks. As I stumbled out of bed around midnight to the steady, comforting sound of rain, I thought about Joseph and all the others under their tin shacks. They're getting soaked. Trust me, it wasn't just him. It was everybody in his neighborhood.
When we saw Joseph today on the beach - the same guy who defends goal with just his right arm, but yet can't even pump water from the area well on his own - he reminded us of his situation. He asked us whether we could help him fix his roof; he wasn't asking for our carpentry skills.
I tell him and the countless others that have requested anything from a handout to a home for their daughter in the states that we can't do anything. We are journalists, after all. It's not that we don't have a heart, but we aren't aid workers. All I tell them is that I am going to put together the best piece possible. Maybe something good comes from it.
It's not the first time I've been asked. Or even the first time I said no. It's just the first time that I've thought that these guys aren't asking for something to make them feel better. They just needed something to make them feel normal.
We finished up just before seven. The sun had nearly descended into the Atlantic. The crashing waves welcomed the night. Four of us left in our comfortable air-conditioned van. The team watched. Some waved. Others began to pile into their 10-person van. Soon, it would be full with all 18 of them.
Soon, we'd be on our way back to the America.


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