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  • "180 Park Hill Avenue, Suite LG"

    "185 Park Hill Avenue, Suite LB"

    "The center? No, that's the one on the right." He's pointing at LH. I'm in the lower-level hallway of 180 Park Hill Avenue.

    "Hello? Who's there?" LG is a residence. No answer at LH.

    Dial the number ... ringing ... "You have reached African Refuge." Still no answer at 185 LB.

    "There's an office over there, just past the little white building." Somewhere in 240 Park Hall Avenue, I suppose. There's a security office.

    "... It could be 180, suite LC." It's not.

    "Give me a minute," says the man on the street. He has a small Liberian flag hanging from the rearview mirror of his car. Seems promising. "Down Targee, yeah? Yeah, just go down to Targee," he's indicating with his full hand, instead of just a finger. "Just down Targee. It'll be a white house, behind a fence."

    Lots of off-white, grey, brown, rundown houses. Nothing white behind a fence.

    "If you go underneath the brown house, on the corner. The side we see is the back, but there's a community center office underneath." Just this house, right here on the corner? "Yeah, that one. But you may also want to go over to the big apartment buildings on Park Hill Avenue." Yeah, I was just there.

    No sign of an office, community center, or even a door underneath the brown house.

    Both African Refuge drop-in centers are closed. The phone message says they'll be open 9 to 5, Monday through Thursday. Friday by appointment only.

    This isn't promising.

    --

    There's a parking lot between 180 Park Hill Avenue and 160 Park Hill Avenue. A group of four older women, apparently Liberian by their features, are selling peppers, fresh cut cilantro, tomato juice stored in Sunny-D and Gatorade bottles. One woman sells me a bottle of water and I ask her (not for the first time) if she knows where a Liberian community center is. She says I should go to the one across the street, the same one I've been trying to get visit for the past three days. "Well, you have phone number? I cannot help. I don't know." I call again, just for show. Still no answer.

    We talk a little. She says that they're all Liberian, that they sell the vegetables that they get at the farm (I try to ask more, but our language barrier becomes an issue. Mental note to look for farmlands in the area). She confirms that, yes, there are a lot of Liberians living here. She says it's the cost. "We are here because we can pay."

    Money appears to be a big concern. I ask the women if I can photograph their little market. "How much?" Asks the first. I try to explain that I can't pay her. That it's not allowed in journalism. The second just rubs her thumb against her forefingers. When I shrug and lightly shake my head she waves me away.

    Just before I leave another Liberian woman comes by to buy vegetables. She argues over the price and ends up leaving without buying anything. I ask her as we both walk down Park Hill Avenue if she knows where there's a Liberian community center.

    "I think there's one in here. She says, indicating 160. I walk with her into the building, turn right in the hallway. The first door on the right is closed, with no signage. "Huh," she says. "Normally the door's open." She tries the door handle. No luck. "They may be open later," she says. "In the evening. Maybe after 8."

    I thank her for her time. Mental note to add the first door on the right in 160 to my list of possibilities.

    I walk the rest of the way down Park Hill Avenue, heading towards Saint George Terminal to catch the ferry.
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