This Part of the Sky is a book based on the journal I kept while in West Africa. My husband and I had the most thrilling experience of constructing a building that now functions as a church and school in Zorzor, Liberia. We chose Zorzor, or, perhaps, I should say, Zorzor chose us. That's where my husband is from and where his grandmother was living when he visited her the previous year - just before she died at 103 years old! You may know that Liberia is still recovering from the lingering effects of civil wars; an estimated 200,000 people are reported to have been killed and the country's economy has been devastated. After my husband's return, we were committed to actively doing something to benefit the people there. And so, we did - giving them what they asked for. Living on a meager budget in order to donate our savings and raising money, we left the comforts of home and headed to Liberia. Our hope was to positively impact this village. What an amazing experience it was for us as well. I suspect that you too will find reading this book of my reflections a worthwhile experience. It will make you laugh out loud, provoke thought, admire the Liberian people, and, perhaps, even move you to take some action for a community that's dear to you. Thank you for joining me in again looking at this part of the sky.
The chapters are completed; the accompanying photos are ready; I've "work-shopped" the pieces in a local writers' group. I've even done some community readings, and so, have gauged audience response. Now I need your help to have the manuscript edited and published. I set a goal based on my research of the most conservative costs to do this through small, independent publishers - the traditional publishing industry wants me to "tweak" my manuscript to make it more marketable, a better-seller. However, I'm not willing to compromise - I tell the stories just as they happened. Now, I need your assistance for this last part of the process - to get this book published.
How This Works:
If in the allotted time I get fewer pledges than the goal amount, you don't have to send any money, I don't get any and the stories remain on the pages of my journal. However, if we reach the goal or exceed it, you make good on your pledged amount, I send you the incredible rewards listed on the side-bar and the book gets edited and published! The stories of my experience with the inspiring Liberian people are shared.
The clock is ticking ... let's make this happen. Thank you.
For taking the time to read about this project, here is a brief preview. See below for short excerpts from two chapters of the book:
This Part of the Sky by Wendy Maragh Taylor
Beginning the Work – Hard Labor
Seeing a few women arrive with cement blocks on their heads, I decided to make myself useful too. During my walk with them, I heard, "tank you," over and over. Though I was trying to pay attention to their appreciative words, I was distracted – deciding whether or not I could actually carry the concrete blocks on my head like the other women. In the end, I decided against it. After all of the concern about Malaria, Yellow Fever, or the like, and whether the unrest which started in “the interior” – where we are – and led to the civil wars was really over, the last thing I wanted was for Joseph to have to explain to my mother how I broke my neck carrying cement blocks on my head.
I made two trips with blocks on my shoulders, stopping along the way to rest and reassure the other women that I was fine. At the tail end of both trips, the men would see me coming, abandon their work and run over to help me. However, I am proud to say that I carried those blocks without incident and to the intended destination. And then, the last trip came.
The women suggested that it would be easier for me to carry the blocks on my head because it would be centered, causing less pain to my body the next day. They created a cushion on my head by wrapping a lappa – the material worn like a skirt – around itself and placed the concrete block on top.
"It feels just fine. You're right . . . much better than on the shoulders," I said at first. But after minutes of walking, no, it was probably more like seconds after taking a few steps, I was ready to stop. My legs were buckling, my neck was trembling and I was certain that my head would implode. I didn't take the block down, but I did stand off to the side and motion to the ladies to go ahead.
"I'm okay. . . I just need to take a break. I don't want to slow you down, though."
"No, we will not leave you. We will wait," Yamah said.
"Sister, I should take it for you." Kluboh started to reach for my load, which would have added to what she was already carrying. I couldn't let her do that.
"No, no. I'm ready now."
"Sister, you are sweating!" Rose called out.
"Of course, I'm sweating!" I slowed down and called back, looking for a reason to pause once more. "I'm carrying a cement block on my head." The women laughed and then pointed to another who was making her way toward us with two blocks – one atop the other – on her head.
"Show off!" I called out. This brought more laughing out loud from the group, and, thank God, it bought me more time to stand still.
Corruption - The American Way
Today was a longed-for day of rest. When Joseph and I arrived for breakfast, there was a usual welcome party of little ones and grown-ups. Except for Zizi, the kids were sharing their bowl of rice. Zizi was looking rather cheerless and sat off to the side.
"Zizi, you’re not hungry this morning?" I questioned.
She shook her head, but didn't look up.
"Is she okay?" I asked her grandmother.
She smiled and said something to her granddaughter in her native tongue, Loma, but the little girl just shook her head again.
Zizi's mother, Viola, was hanging clothes on the line and responded: "She said she will only eat peanut butter and bread for breakfast … no more rice."
"Oh Lord …" I said looking at Joseph, who was already eating, "I've corrupted them with my American ways."
"You just had to have peanut butter and bread," Joseph mockingly replied between his spoonfuls of rice.
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