Americans generally view Liberian women as being very tough. Rightly so. They are extremely hard workers in very harsh conditions. They are physically strong and do not show emotion easily. They live under constant pressure to provide for and care for their families with disease and poverty being major obstacles. From what I’ve witnessed and understand, most Liberian women don’t even cry out during childbirth! Expats here joke that a Liberian woman can be in labor and still be working on her farm, pausing briefly to deliver the baby. She then ties the baby to her back and continues farming.
I’ve had various comments from Liberian women since moving up to Voinjama that have made me feel like such a wimp. For example, one woman asked John-Mark why I don’t go out to our house building site. Well, considering it can be extremely hot and sunny, the walk is long, hilly and strenuous, I have a 19 pound baby to lug around, and I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy, I prefer to stay closer to home. She snorted and commented that those things don’t stop Liberian women. She’s right – and they do a whole lot more!
So, there are certain things that I realize that I will never be able to do. I’ve made up my mind that I will never ever be able to kill a chicken or other animal for food. And, I’ll never be able to carry and balance things on my head. And, I truly cannot stand the bugs in get in our house – cockroaches, worms, etc…
But, I am developing a bit of a higher tolerance for the spicy food they eat and I can carry Audrey on my back in a lappa quite well now. (Audrey loves it and has even fallen asleep while being back there)! I have gotten stronger since our vehicle is broken down and I have to walk (with Audrey) everywhere – including the house building site! And, I’ve gotten much better about exterminating and disposing of the various vermin that make their way into our home.
But… let me share a bit of insight about the Liberian woman. Granted, she is extremely tough and strong, but she are still human – not superhuman. I’ve learned that during pregnancy, even a Liberian woman can struggle with being overemotional, sometimes being angry and aggressive for weeks on end! I’ve talked with several Liberian women and apparently killing animals for food is not a mindless task. They really dislike the chore and many refuse to do it altogether! Who would have ever thought that a Liberian woman would avoid killing a chicken and ask her husband to “let the chicken live a few more days” or “please don’t kill the rabbits. The children like to play with them.” Apparently, Ansu’s wife will even cry when she sees worms in the house! Wow! I didn’t even cry today when I was disposing of a worm found on our kitchen floor! And even though Liberian women tend to keep their emotions private, I’ve learned that they still have them just as much as any other woman. They will stay up late worrying about their children, finances and their marriages.