Archive for March, 2007

you might find yourself in another part of the world

Friday, March 30th, 2007


it was very un-me of me to come to a place like this without first asking some questions. as i was trying to explain to someone the other day, scott harrison did a great job of depicting the conditions here. when i arrived, the villages and the people and the generally miserable conditions were all exactly as i had seen in his pictures. but somehow, when i was comfortably in nyc and nonchalantly agreeing to take this trip, i guess i imagined it would be more like a daytrip to Tijuana…

sure, i’d be out in those villages during the day, but then i’d hop back in my air-conditioned, properly maintained automobile and race away to a Best Western or Motel 6 or whatever. didn’t think that the rules of the jungle applied to everyone. i was wrong.

she’s got dumps like a truck

Friday, March 30th, 2007


what does that mean, exactly? well, i know what the expression means,
but i think it begs to be misconstrued. nevermind. that’s neither here nor there. i just had that song stuck in my head because i went to the city dump today. that’s a pleasant experience first thing in the morning.

since Liberia has no public waste system, garbage doesn’t get collected. people either burn their trash or they can drive to the city dump and leave it there. we opted for the latter. when we arrived this morning, i stayed in the car and let the flies come swarm all over me, rather than going to them. wanted to make them work for it. Olly (the NGO volunteer i’m staying with) dropped the trash and gave a few Liberian dollars to the kids standing in the dump, picking through it.

sorry if that ruined your breakfast.

my legs are so itchy i want to scream. see, i’ve let my guard down a bit, now that i’m staying at Olly’s house. started wearing shorts and not spraying Off! all up
and down my body. I forgot that although i’m finally at a nice house, it’s
still a nice house in africa.

that threadbare look was so last season

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

yesterday, i was running errands with a friend. as we were driving near the beach, we passed some people walking (as we often do) and they were wearing ragged clothes (as they often do), and my friend exclaimed, “that reminds me! i’ve got to buy rags”.

i thought that was hysterical. maybe you had to be there (although
when “there” is Liberia, i would recommend that you never “have to be
there”). for the rest of the morning, every time i saw a
person wearing a tattered outfit, i laughed.

we hate our customers

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

this morning, Olly suggested that i break my Royal routine. for
variety, he offered to drive me to the other side of the city, across
from the US Embassy, to The Mamba Point Hotel. this, according to
hotels.com or one of those sites, is the second best hotel in the
city, right behind The Royal Hotel. despite the fact that a hotel guest was
attacked and killed here at some point (according to a user comment i read on that hotel site). actually, i’m going to go find that comment and link it here, so you don’t have to get the facts second hand…

anyway, i’ll continue while another browser window loads that link.

oh, actually i found a bit more info than what i had previously read
in that comment on tripadvisor.com.

http://www.theperspective.org/2004/may/mambapointhotelmurder.html
“But current information gathered at the Mamba Point Hotel where the
victim met his untimely demise on Monday night, 24 May, revealed that
the U.S. military top brass was attacked and stabbed with an
unidentified object by an unknown person. The identity of the killer
is yet to be established. Both international and local police have
started a massive search for the culprit. The incident occurred in the
victim’s Mamba Point Hotel room.

The Mamba Point Hotel is located in the Diplomatic enclave of Mamba
Point within the vicinity of the United States embassy in the Liberian
capital, Monrovia. The Mamba Point Hotel is the leading hotel among
dozens of hotels in the country and has been host to hundreds of
travelers visiting the country.”


so, Olly graciously drives me all the way over here, and drops me off. says he’ll return to pick me up around 4pm. i walk into the lounge and discover signs and flyers distributed on all the tables, with a bunch of new rules about internet use.
apparently, they are cracking down on the people who prefer to lounge around here (in their LOUNGE) and use their internet all day. like i was planning to do.

beginning today, there is now a one hour time limit. and shoes MUST be kept on. and keep your feet off the furniture. don’t bring your own food or drinks into our establishment. they nearly go as far as to suggest we might have been raised in a barn. (i bet a lot of Liberians wish they were raised in a barn, so maybe that wouldn’t have sounded so rhetorical to them.)

fortunately, i have run into some ex-pat friends i made i earlier in my trip and we are now arranging a shuttle to transport us from this stingy little restaurant back to our safe haven at The Royal. if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. or, don’t go to Liberia. not sure which lesson i should take away from this morning’s adventure.

this is the modern world

Monday, March 26th, 2007

finally, i can get a decent night of sleep in Liberia. i moved into the Peet’s house today.

a fan on all night!
electricity!
no mosquito nets!
running water in a clean, private bathroom!


if i had been here the whole time, i probably wouldn’t have disliked Africa.

speaking of nets…

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

i just dreamt that a white Venus (or Serena- i can never tell them apart) Williams was teaching me how to play tennis. seems like i have a real gift for the sport.

nothing but net

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

i just caught a glimpse of a mosquito. inside with me, here in my bed, under the mosquito net! i’m freaking out…

the Off! spray is burning my eyes. i’m holding the can, waiting for the mosquito to reappear.

now my flashlight is dying.

a mosquito has breached the perimeter. he is inside the trusted, safe zone. and i can’t find him.

i’m dripping with sweat. and every bead on my skin feels like it could be his little legs.

i think they have a lifespan of nine days. i wonder if i can stay awake and alert for nine days.

UPDATE: got him!
3/24/07 @ 12:26 AM

use your head

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

another unfortunate example of a culture lacking proper education- children here are taught to carry oversized items on their heads.

i was just walking back to the office, after another lunch at The Royal. a schoolgirl was walking next to me, carrying her backpack on her head! the shoulder straps were literally dangling next to her ears.

i guess those bags should come with instructions.

Hugs, Not Thugs

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007


it’s odd to be in a society that needs PR campaigns to teach the basics. and i really mean the basics. a garbage truck just drove by… painted on the side is the phrase “Sanitation is Dignity”. other messages on billboards around town include “Teach, Don’t Beat”, “Bury Your Poo”, and “Stop Mob Violence”.

i choose to believe that celebrities are cleaner than the ordinaries

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

two nights ago, i had trouble sleeping on this pillow. in addition to it being sort of shapeless, it is (uncharacteristically) lumpy in some areas. it looks and feels at least 25 years old.

so once it occured to me that worms could possibly be living inside the pillow, i had a difficult time using it (as i didn’t want worms crawling in my ears). last night, i had a dream about this pillow… we somehow acquired details about the history of this pillow and it turns out that Jennifer Aniston was the original owner! that makes me feel much better, since the pillow didn’t just come from anyone. and, as far as i know, Aniston doesn’t have worms in her ears.

i should sleep better now.