Liberia – Week 1
ALthough this is my first time in sub-saharan African, I feel like I have been here before. I am constantly reminded of my year in French Guiana with the climate, the fruit, the music, the people, the sounds….
There are some striking differences, however. Liberia is a country that has been ravaged by decades of war and violence. The evidence of those years are plastered in signs all over the country that remind citizens to “choose the ballot, not the bullet”, and “stop rape”, and “leave justice to the authorities” and “don’t do man and women things to children”, and “say no to guns”. There are compounds distributed around the country that served as military bases for peace-keeping international forces, I saw two of these, one that belonged to Bangladesh and one that belonged to Ghana, these were manned by the UNMIL – UN Mission In Liberia.
Another striking difference is that although there are wealthy people in this country, you do not see it well. There are no “rich neighborhoods” where you see nicer houses and nicer cars and cleaner roads. The president’s house is in the middle of what many would consider a semi-slum in any other industrialized country, it is just surrounded by a large white wall, so no one can see inside. I live in a nice apartment complex, also inside high walls, but from my window I can see tin shacks that families reside in. In other words, this is a place where I have not been able to see anything but poverty. In all other countries I have visited or lived in, I have seen the break in poverty just by being able to distinguish which houses are nicer… not so in Liberia.
I believe that my biggest challenge while being here, especially as I begin to spend more time outside of Monrovia, will be the food. Liberian cuisine is composed mainly of large portions of white rice (and by large I mean that in one meal you are given about 4 cups of cooked rice) with different sauces based in palm oil and a combination of meats. For example, yesterday for lunch I was given a heaping serving of rice with a bowl of potato greens drenched in palm oil with chicken, fish, pork and goat pieces mixed in…. my stomach could barely handle a couple of spoonfuls before it started convulsing in protest… I just want something fresh! while I am in my apartment I cook for myself, so no problem there…
Some of the noteworthy events of this past week:
– a 60 year old man asked me to marry him
– my drived ran over a chicken on purpose
– driving outside of monrovia in a car with almost not breaks in roads that had potholes larger and deeper than any others that I have seen
– the stunning red roads
– the skies