The Science of Smile [ Ebola; Past and Present]

Phebe – Liberia, 15th October 2015 [05:09PM]

Back in the 19th century, the great American psychologist William James proposed that our facial expression and other bodily changes are not the consequence of our emotional feelings, but the cause. There is also evidence that our facial expressions change the way we perceive the world. More theory, hypothesis and reseacrh have been published in the following years.

Unanimously, science has debunked the face of happiness.

Korlu the girl in blue
Korlu the girl in blue

However, I highly doubt if eight years old Korlu knows about it or understand that the cause of her smile comes from a complex neurochemistry interactions. All she knows by now is that at the end of the day she will return to home with a pack of biscuits from a stranger whom she met at the hospital alley. Life has had never been easy for her. After a brief taste of school, she had to stopped following the death of his father due to Ebola back in 2014. She had to stayed at home for a while but it has not stopped her eagerness to learn. A book, a pen, friends and alphabet are al she got and all she needed.

“Ebola” she whispered when I asked what she afraid the most. The same answers which I probably receive if I throw the question out to the other Liberians. Ebola was a nightmare that rooted on each of their sleepless night. No one saw it coming and no one will ever forget the devastated year of 2014 when more than 10.000 Liberians have to cling their life into the limited resource and knowledge in a war against one of the most deadliest virus known in Human history: EBOLA.

 Alas, more than 4000 of them became a fallen victims.

It would have been different if I arrived couple of months earlier. I would not seeing Korlu’s contagious smile or the beauty of her dare naked eyes, in fact the country is everything but OK. A roaming siren sound of ambulance, a constant weary radio program announced the sign and symptoms of Ebola, a parade of UN peacekeeping heavy vehicles, various international NGOs wearing different vest and the alien-dressed medical personnels. One can easily sensed the thick-dark fear when arrived at Roberts International Airport of Monrovia where a temperature check became compulsory and the warm hand greeting of west Africa was transformed into a cold no-touch policy.

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“No-touch policy” Patient being assessed in Phebe Hospital, out patient department.


Monrovia – Liberia, 19 August 2015 [02:15pm]

In a muted light of hazy afternoon, I drove south of Monrovia. I could feel the breeze of Atlantic ocean as we passed the shore of ELWA beach. The bumpy road seemed limitless and all the taverns were deserted. Heavy dark clouds were hanging on the sky before minutes later transformed into billions of rain drops. Hours passed by and I stop counting how many times we had to stop at county’s border for temperature check. It’s been weeks since the last Ebola case was recorded in Liberia and couple more weeks before the country will be officially declared Ebola free. At this stake, everyone wants to make sure the nation reaches the end of outbreak. It’s been a long, weary and devastating journey in Liberia history.

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The Street view of Monrovia

What did I know about Liberia? Except the legendary beaches and civil war, I know less about this country. Little did I know that it is the first country in Africa to gain its independence. Liberia “Land of the Free” was the homeland of free African-American and ex-Carribean slaves who  came from the Caribbean islands and the United States back in the 18th century. Draw the irony, that for them to chase “the american dream” they had to flee from America. 

The country had been seriously wounded by civil wars, decades that claimed life of more than 250.000 civilians, million of displaced people and bring forth the use of child soldiers. It’s an epoch of war, coup d’état, guns and blood. Until the country witnessed the rise of woman as Leymah Gbowee lead over 3000 Christian and Muslim women who has tired and suffered from 14-years of war, belying the devastation within claimed their right for peace and ended the decades of war by an epic victory resulted in the first-ever female head of nation in Africa. 

Women of Liberia
Women of Liberia
Bong County
Bong County

“Welcome to Bong County”

I read the dim red painted signboard next to a brand new “Ebola Awareness” billboard. The street was dare empty and the quiet was unnerving. After five hours drive, I had arrived in my destination. Or at this case, I should call it my new home. 


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