Africa, Day 8, 9, and 10: Interviews, Interviews, and an Almost Missed Plane….

These last few days have just FLOWN by!

And at the end of them, we almost MISSED our flight home!!

Goodness.

On Friday we decided to turn the cameras around on our own camera crew, which proved to be very interesting! We asked the same questions we asked everyone else we had interviewed, and each had their own story and path though the civil wars, exiles, and finally to us!

We also started to film Kimmie Weeks interview, but being the super-busy man that he is, had to be called away to give rice to a local mosque. He was doing this in an act of solidarity- to support the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. This is all part of the rebuilding, he later told us, that many people in Liberia made reference to and are working towards. It is so interesting to see most everyone we talked to was uniformly wanting and working towards the goal of rebuilding community ties and putting the civil strife as far behind them as possible.

We wrapped up Friday by going to Providence Baptist Church in Monrovia, and doing what the film crew called “establishment shots” of the outside of the church. This, to me, basically means takes of Anna walking into the church, to edit her meeting Roberta for our interview, which wouldn’t take place until the next day. I learned SO MUCH from the film crew and Johnny about filming things- terminology, techniques, I even got to film part of the PSA that they are shooting and Johnny and Anna were off camera giving me acting tips- it was so great!

On Saturday, we finished up our interview with Kimmie, and got to hear his incredible life story first hand, which was an amazing experience in itself! He is such an inspiring figure, to go though so much and come back to work for the good of his country- if you haven’t already, GOOGLE HIS NAME IMMEDIATELY!! It’s a good read.

We went back to Providence Baptist Church one last time to interview Roberta Sherman, who was our Hospitality Director last week when we visited the church! The rain, which had held out so nicely every day we filmed outside, came back with a vengeance today, and made the sound and lighting difficult for our intrepid camera crew. It was so interesting to watch them light her with cell phones and pen lights- they were like the MacGyver’s of film crews!

We also interviewed Emmanuel Blowier, a former minister, who gave us an amazing overview of the history of Liberia. It is so fascinating how much America is linked to this country, and yet not many people know how intricately we are intertwined. It was very interesting to hear about all this history while sitting in the very first church built in Liberia, which was in eye-sight of the very island the freed slaves landed upon all those years ago!

Finally, our ‘martini shot,’ as I learned the last shot in a film is called, was us walking around the bustling downtown area of Monrovia, peeking into tailor shops crammed with pedal-driven sewing machines and brightly-colored bolts of fabric to buy. It was still a little drizzly, but so much fun and interesting, that I barely noticed my hair matting slowly to my head with moisture. (Great for the camera, I’m sure…)

We headed back to the hotel for one last celebratory Club Beer (naturally!) with the crew and toasted to our collective success as an accidental documentary crew. (And me, as the tag-along photographer. haha)

Sunday, we had a nice morning sleeping in and brought one last plate of breakfast buffet up to our beds. We packed up our gear, said our last goodbyes, and headed out for one last lunch with Kimmie at a really nice steak house- so nice in fact that a few dignitaries stepped in while we were there- including one of next year’s presidential candidates! Apparently they were all there for a committee on the Liberian football (American translation: soccer) league. This is a matter of national importance due to the fact that it is on every television set and every grassy field in the entire country, at all times.

We came back to our hotel and picked up our backs, said our last goodbyes to the owner and Marines we had befriended, and high-tailed it to the airport. We got there and said our last goodbyes to Robert, our amazing driver, and Musu, one of our film crew guys who was there to see his mom, who worked at the airport. Musu also hooked us up with an immigrations officer who got us though customs really quickly, which was nice. (I am telling you, this film crew was invaluable to us!)

Everything seemed to be going swimmingly until the computer couldn’t find Anna’s reservation. Worried, we ran over to the head office to plead our case. I was ready to trade all of my camera gear and any cash I had to get her on that plane, but it turned out to be a computer error and she was put on the stand-by list. After a tense 30 minute wait, she got her boarding pass, and we all let out a collective sigh of relief.

So now we are in the Brussels airport, waiting for our next leg of the trip. We were hoping that the flight to Newark would be overbooked so we could take a travel coupon and stay in Europe to actually spend a few days of our ‘vacation’ relaxing, but apparently New Jersey isn’t  a very popular destination, and there are 20 extra seats on the plane. Rats!

I can’t really believe our trip is finally coming to an end. It has felt more like a month than ten days, and I mean that in the best way possible. I have learned so much and seen so many things that have changed me and how I see the world that it would be hard for me to put it into words. Now, when I see an expensive purse, I think about how much time at school that money would afford a child like Pon Pon, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to school at all. Or when we go out and eat and there are leftovers, I can’t help but think about the kids at the soccer field that we gave a new soccer ball, but as one local pointed out “They are hungry- they can’t eat a soccer ball.” Or when I think about my own personal problems in my life, then compare them to what this entire region has gone through in civil strife, and how much they are all seemingly working towards healing, reconciling, and moving forward- then I feel like I can get though anything life might throw my way.

There is still so much to be done in this region, but what the Greener Diamond and Youth Action International has accomplished is nothing short of inspiring. From vocational training centers, to helping fund orphanages, to planting rice fields to feed entire communities and to rebuild entire nations’ economies on greener, more sustainable industries, these organizations are doing SO much good- and yet there is still so much more to do. But if any organizations and people have the drive, resources and most importantly passion to make big changes in this world, it is the Greener Diamond and Youth Action International. So, armed with my new life perspective, I will always try to look for ways to contribute what I can, help out when I can lend a hand, to these amazing organizations.

Thank you so much for reading along with our adventures. And especially, thank you to Anna, Johnny, and the Greener Diamond for allowing me to have this incredible experience. It has been, by far, the one of the most memorable and inspiring trips I have ever taken, and I feel honored to have been a part of this team.

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