Liberia – Week 4
Once you are in a car all rules are thrown out of the window, honking and arguing with all those around you is the norm. Multiple times my driver has driven in the wrong lane to bypass a traffic jam…. I mean, can you imagine what it is like to be driving against traffic and feel like one small mistake on the part of the driver could be the end of you? Thankfully, these drivers seem to know what they are doing and at the last minute, WHAM! Back into the correct lane.
If India is known for its tuk tuks, then Liberia should be known for its pam pams, or the motorcycles that overcrowd the roads and are filled with up to 6 PEOPLE! This is one of the fastest ways to get around the city, but also most dangerous.
The city itself still looks ravaged by over a decade of war, buildings are hollowed out, sitting empty and quiet, a reminder of the role that Monrovia played in the civil war. But people are resilient, and Monrovia is rising from the ashes – part of the process has involved a massive number of Lebanese immigrants who have come to Liberia to set shop…open restaurants, furniture shops, hotels, etc. Another somewhat unique characteristic is the “on your face” and over the top presence of aid and development organizations. The city is overflowing with them, every other car has a sticker (red cross, usaid, childfund, SIDA, DAI, ACDI|VOCA, UNMIL, UNICEF, all the UNs really, CRC…… …. … … … …)
I am still not used to the constant staring from everyone… and it is not just someone looking at you wondering who you are, but these are people that just look at you with so much boredom in their eyes… the exception to this rule is the children. They are so fascinated by your whiteness and newness… they stare, wave, laugh… and yes, some even burst into tears of total fright!
As you head out of Monrovia, some of the skepticism that you often see in Monrovia turns into open warmth, the paved roads become red paths that lead into white puffy clouds, the animals hang out in the main roads, children dance and play in the space between the village huts, the air becomes cleaner and the sky bluer.
Although English is the official language, it would be silly to believe that a native English speaker would be able to understand a Liberian person… Of course, after a month here I get a word here and there, but it would be futile to follow a conversation between two Liberians
photo: the AV field office in Grang Gedeh, 10 hours south east of MonroviaWaterside Market, Monrovia
corn bread, a typical breakfast item in Liberia…and the red roads…. children trying to sell me hot peppers at a market in Bong County, 4 hours east of Monrovia the curious stare of a boy