After 28 hours of travel we finally arrived in Monrovia late last night. The last leg of the trip was the longest – an unexpected layover in Freetown, Sierra Leone, a frenetic search for bags off the flight followed by a long, dusty drive into Monrovia to reach our hotel. Aside from required handwashing as we disembarked the plane, followed by a temperature check, everything about touching ground for our fourth visit here felt familiar.
I’ll be the first to admit I had some nerves about this return trip. The Ebola outbreak is over, but the horror of it is still fresh on people’s minds. And the exhausted, anxious part of me feared this visit would bring too much sadness. Or worse, that Ebola or something like it could appear during our short time here. Irrational, but so was Ebola. It challenged all the faith I had in the idea that after 14 years of war this country simply wouldn’t be dealt any more bad hands.
Fortunately, our first full day of shooting brought with it some really bright spots amid the sadness.
Quendi, the administrator of the SOS clinic – one of the only hospitals open during the crisis – greeted us with her usual electric smile and contagious laugh. She spent months on the front lines of Ebola and every day, to her, felt one step closer to death. She experienced the kind of trauma she had not felt since the war. But being with her today reminded us why were making this film. Because she’s still standing, and still fighting for better health care and mental health treatment for Liberians. Nothing will stop her.
On a lighter note Ben flew the drone camera over a few parts of the city and the results are powerful. He attracted a lot (perhaps too much) attention setting the spaceship-like camera into flight, buzzing above the city streets. Next time I think he’d better launch it over the jungle!
Finally, a terrific interview with Dr. Janice Cooper of the Carter Center Mental Heath Program. She’s worked for 5 years to build the program and populate Liberia with much needed mental health clinicians and supporters. Ebola threatened to destroy it all, but she’s still fighting, too. And we get the impression she won’t stop until she’s done.