Sunday, May 4, 2008

On my way out

Thanks to all my readers who followed this blog while I was in Liberia. I had a lot of fun observing life in Liberia and writing it down, someday Ill come back and reread it all after I have had time to reflect on my stay here. Thanks again!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

the Final Stroll

I took one last walk into the heart of Monrovia and snapped a few pictures, maneuver around the the beggars and ex combatants, and made it safely back home. Since it has been raining, the smells of garbage have increased, I gaged at one spot right outside my compound, I leave Liberia on Sunday, and only have a few more things plan before I am out of here. the four months have flown by, It seems like yesterday I was worried about my visa and what not. Now I am ready to move on and see how this experience has changed me, and to to hopefully live live full of gratitude. I dont think I fully know the impact this journey has had on my life, but I think I will soon know. Enjoy the pics. The first picture is looking up randall street from my compound, the second is a liberian music vendor, the third is a remeinder of where not to pepe, the last picture is of Providence Church on Broad Street,

Monday, April 28, 2008

Temple of Justice

I get to Monrovia and renovations are finished at the Temple of Justice, I like to think they built it because they knew I was coming, even if they did misspell it. As I took this picture, the driver at the time (Thomas) said he didnt understand or like the Justice System becuase how it had to work so hard to provide proof and how things take so long and how corrupt judges are, I was astonished, knowing how a decent judicial system can work, yes it takes time to lock away criminals but those who are innocent can prove their innocence!

Then again I havnt grown up in a society where the Government is wholly corrupt as are the officials down to the policemen, there is little trust, and I understand, even though I DONT, how the 14 year civil war on top of 30 years or more of corruption.

Friday, April 25, 2008

My favorite signs

"Do not Urinate here" or Dont PePe here typical sign all over Monrovia except most misspell peepee...

Monrovian Field Day

Today I attended a Field day behind City Hall put on by one of the NGOs in town. As we walked up to the pitch (soccer field) I noticed a LARGE crowd of people obviously upset because a front end loader was "levelling" the field stopping valuable soccer time. The first part was a girls kickball tournament. why the girls can't play soccer I dont know. But it was probably the first time the field had been cleared to let girls play on it. A group of local footballers through a fit about letting these people on 'their' pitch and had a minor sit in in the the infield preventing play, there was a giant discussion(2nd picture) and they cleared off. The girls got to play in front of a huge crowd. I think this is a neat deal, because the girls/women of Liberia face a daunting challenge as most of the violence is done unto them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

View of Monrovia

I know Ive talked about the trash around Liberia, so I thought Id give you a picture of some of the trash, this picture is standing under the bridge over providence island. the river is the Montserrado River and the shore is lined with trash and underneath the water is lined with trash. People were out throwing cast nets and setting crab traps right along the trash.

An enjoyable evening

The internet has been out at our compound, and since I have not had it, I have found other things to entertain me. Last night, a Thunderstorm blew in off the Ocean and I sat out side and just listened to it thunder and watched some spectacular lightning. After a hard day, it was nice to sit and just relax. The day was hard because I had several people ask me for money, and one of which was one of our drivers, who followed me home and talked to me there. It was a bit overwhelming to have several people ask you on the same day. I am growing tired of being a "target", (not in danger) to people, in other words I stand out. I have a short time left here, and my goal is not to look ahead but to do the best I can here, and now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Rainy Season

The rainy season seems to be upon Liberia, and right now its quite nice, the temperatures have dropped out of the 90s and the humidity, along with the smell has decreased. It rains during the night and gets cloudier earlier. Will put a dent into pool sitting, but the cooler temperatures are nice. Once it reaches full force I hear it just rains everyday, all day. I hope it doesnt get that bad while I am here. I can imagine the Rainy season being very miserable to the normal Liberian who lives under a tarped roof with dirt floors. I don't think it floods here too bad, or that would really make things difficult for the locals!

Monday, April 14, 2008

a local market

The local markets are the life blood for many Liberians, and one can find a wide variety of items at prices that are affordable for most Liberians. The price of rice is going to continue to rise, and soon I believe most wont be able to afford that. The first floor had non meat food items along with clothes and other necessities. The second floor had tables of meat, chicken, fish, and bush meat (anything not beef, chicken, or fish) The above picture is that of a hand of whay I think used to be a monkey. This piece has been pulled off as are most items into small servings costing 5 Liberian Dollars, (10 cents USD) or the smallest bill that Liberians can use. Most people live on 60 LD a day (one USD). I couldnt stay long on the second floor because the smell of fish and bush meat was almost unbearable to me. The vendors weren't forcing us to look at anything, like most of the vendors around the expat hangouts, and I think most werer suprised to see us there

Thursday, April 10, 2008

View of Monrovia Part III

This is a view of Broad Street, one of the main streets in Monrovia from atop the Ducor hotel. Monrovia is a slender piece of land surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and swamp/Montserrado River on the other. Haze covers the top.
On a sad note, walking to work today I saw a kid kicking a plastic water bottle, kids use anything and everything as a soccer ball, and a car came by and crushed it. He was devistated. I helped him find a new waterbottle among the trash which he kicked on down the street. I have never seen a more crushed look on a face when the car ran over that bottle.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Just got back into Monrovia from Harper, and it was a good trip. I was able to gather enough information to write 3 success stories. Harper is absolutely beautiful, yet building lie in rubble, the once proud home of former President Tubman. Its amazing to me that little has been done to rebuild. Some of the buildings are frames of once beautiful houses. The helicopter is a Russian made chopper and flown by Ukranian or Russian Pilots. The flight was hot, but only two hours long. Had we driven, it would have taken us 22 hours over two days. 12 hours the first and 10 the second, Ill take the helicopter any day!

here are a few pictures from our trip.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Census 2008

Liberia and USAID is currently working on the Census to count the Liberian people. Friday, March 21 was declared a National Holiday and all Liberians were to stay home to be counted. I was counted yesterday, March 23, 2008 and answered the questions. Today, at work I asked around and only ONE Liberian has been counted in my entire office. I know the census will be ongoing as the census people hit different areas of Monrovia and the rest of Liberia. As of now, there are 3 million people living in Liberia, and a million of those in Monrovia. I imagine this censuse will see a considerable increase in the population. I don't know how accurate it will be, or could possibly be given the situation and remoteness of most Liberians. Quite an undertaking. glad I was able to stand and be counted as an American in Liberia.


One of my favorite sights to see as I walk around is to see the children dance when they hear music that appeals to them. There are music salesmen who walk around pushing wheelbarrows filled with CDs and tapes and pump tunes out of a speaker connected to a CD player wired to a car battery. Kids of all ages will drop whatever they are selling or doing and dance, as if it natural. Then as soon as the music guy moves on, the kids stop dancing and go about there business. I think this could be used a metaphor for life. It does sadden me to see kids as young as 6 selling things!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

This is the view of the 9th hole from the clubhouse at Firestone about 50 Km outside of Monrovia. Firestone Plantation produces most of the rubber for the now Japanese owned tire company. The course is nice, because it is CLEAN, and the ability to get out and walk 9 holes is just amazing. The 'greens' are oiled sand, which makes for putting nightmares for me, because it is inconsistent depending on consistency of the oil, the heat, and so on.
When you step out of your car you are instantly surrounded by 30 15-20 year old boys wanting to be your caddy. Ricks the pro knows us, and has 'assigned' caddies to us. Jr. has been assigned to me. He is a quiet 17 yearold, and I appreciate the quiteness, because when I do make a bad shot the other caddies tell you, "no, thats bad." Really? thanks I couldnt see that!
I ask him all sorts of questions, and he talks sparingly but I tip well, so he doesnt mind. I hope to continue to golf at Firestone!

Friday, March 14, 2008

View From Monrovia

Every morning I walk down Randall Street to the Jmart where I work, and I pass the Captan Rattan Center. Captan Rattan was a small-small captain or captan, I guess he hadn't earned the 'i' yet, in the Liberian civil war. I assume he once sold furniture but now his center is an autoshop like the rest of the shops on my end of Randall Street.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

View from Monrovia

One of the more random statues that I have seen in Monrovia, and I can't figure out what it is symbolizing. I think it has to do something with distress because the face of the women is one of horror. I can't tell if it shows the horrors of women during or post war Monrovia. I hope to find the meaning of this and also to take more pictures around Monrovia.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cultural Difference part III

I attended the funeral of our co-worker last Saturday (3 weeks after she passed away) and the funeral was quite different than anything I had ever seen. We promptly arrived at 9:15 expecting traffic and for a 10 am start. Everyone else showed up at 10:00 am and started singing Hyms (Church of Christ Style) and the sound people and the video crew all set up. I didnt recongise the first few hyms but then they started Amazing Grace and that is sweet in any tounge, even Liberian English. after an hour of singing the crew was ready to start. Part of the service involved groups close to the deceased to give tribute. The group goes to the front, says something about the person, lays a wreath at the casket. The program had 10 groups for tribute. Two hours later the 20th group made its way to the front. We had been there for four hours in the swealtering heat and we left as quietly as we could to try not to be disrespectful. I think it is a correlation of how you lived your life and how many tributes you ahve at your funeral. However the difference was too much for me, as I think in America the wailing and beating on the casket and the tributes as well as the video cameras would just be too much for the familes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Follow up Picture from Classroom

This is the same classroom I posted the other day, It makes it easier to think about teaching here when it is filled with little kids wanting to learn. It was fun to go to the classrooms and see all the smiling faces. This school received a small grant to spruce up the inside. It was painted a brighter color, and transparent roofing was put in to allow for more natural light to flood the classroom. It was a much needed improvement. This room is shared by two other ALP classes and are separated by dividers. This is an ALP Level I class. The ALP is an accelerated learning program that combines two grade levels into one level, so level I is grades 1 and 2. The teachers receive training on participatory learning so their techniques are better.

Solar Power

In the search to provide Liberia with sustainable power, Creative, has donated solar powered radios and lanterns for teachers and students to use in their night classes for overage war affected youth. The teachers use the radios to tune into teacher training broadcasts and the students use the lanterns to keep fuel costs low by not running the generators. (gas over 4.40 a gallon) The technology is still expensive but is sustainable! I think more of it should be used in reaching Liberia's remotest areas with light.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Shadow of a President

The traces of President Bush's visit to Liberia still remain, here were just two of hundreds of billboards noting the visit.

Cultural Difference Part II

Yesterday I had the oppurtunity to get out of the office and move 3,000 text books from the Visions in Action office to the Montserrado Learning Resource center. I welcomed the physical task, even if the heat and humidity was near unbearable. We transported the books in a small toyota pickup and had to make 4 long trips to finish the job. The first trip there were four of us who went and moved boxes. the second trip one of the guys went and sat in his office and recruited two more people to come with us. for the remaining 3 trips myself, and the two new guys, moved all the boxes of textbooks, while the driver sat in the vehicle. Everyone was surprised that I would get out and help move the books.
There is a heirarchy here that doesnt exist as much in the States. Drivers, think they are only hired to drive, and managers think they only supervise, the maid panics if I wash my own dishes, stuff like that. I have talked with Peggy about this and she agrees and has given me other instances, and she says is a common trend in a lot of developing countries. She said that people are shocked to find out she doesnt have a driver or a house keeper.

Cultural difference Part I

Sadly, Last week one the local administrative assistance passed away last week and left two daughters and the rest of her family. The office has been in shock and she will be missed. I have noticed a few differences with how families here handle the death process. This is based on one tribe's way of doing things and is not how all Liberians handle things. The funeral setup is not just a family thing, coworkers, classmates, friends, everybody involved with the person sits in and has a say. After the death, friends, family, and community come to pay their respects by 'sitting on the mat' which is figuratively the last place the late person had been. They come sit on the mat to meet with the spirit of the person they are honoring. The family is required to feed all the people who come to the mat. This is very different than what I am accoustomed to, as folks prepare meals for the family goign throught the tradgedy. Funeral costs are about the same here as they are in the states, which is outrageous.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Could you teach here?

This is a picture of C.D.B. King Elementary school in Monrovia. This school received a smal lgrant from USAID to repaint and fix a few things. This is by no means the worse school I have been in, in fact its one of the better ones. Could you teach here? could you learn here? Kids do every day.
This school has newly painted walls which is a much needed imporvement.
Some schools that I have been in only have tarps for roofs, and have no furniture. Imagine a tarp for a roof in a country that gets the 5th most amount of anual rainfall. Electricity, venthilation, and cleanliness are non-existant in most schools. Some of these schools make the delapodated school of my childhood seem like palaces. Starkey Elementary's library is bigger than most of these schools.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This too is Liberia

If you caught any of the press about the President's visit to Monrovia Feb 21st you may have noticed something he didnt offer Liberians that He offered Rwanda and Tanzania, money. These countries are receiving 70 Million and 150 Million respectively. Liberia was left off the list because it has failed to meet good governance standards as corrruption is still a huge problem facing this current governement. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has done much to improve this country but is slow on clamping down on the rampant corruption. However, I think Madam President has done much to help this country, but it will take more time to change the way government is run here in the capitol city of Liberia. There are a few trials going on now over legislators who are charged with corruption, hopefully these wil begin to set the tone of how this governement should operate. One story, dates back to last year when the USAID started renovating the capital building, the legislators took all the furniture home. Now that the building is rennovated they started complaining that their is no furniture. This is the state of things...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Give Me Give Me"

Ive reached the 6th week mark in my stay in 'Mamma Liberia' (as named by a text I recieved from the cell provider calling for citizens to keep Mamma Liberia clean) and have seen a lot, but also seen very little. Sorry for the paradox but one thing that I have seen in Monrovia is begging, scamming for money and an expectation that they will recieve something from me. I am torn, because I believe it is my duty as a Christian, and as a decent human being to help those in need. However, there are situations that I tend to stay away from and some I help, here are some examples,
The other day after playing tennis (you do anything to find exercise to avoid sitting in your compound all day) my partner and I decided to walk back from the apartment compound with the tennis courts to her place of work, about a five minute walk. We walked by a group of 5-8 year old girls who instantly began to say "Give me!, give me!" The had their palms out expecting something in return, we didnt have anythign but our tennis gear, and my friend looked at them and held out her palm and said no, you give me, which caused both sides to errupt in laughter and giggles. It breaks my heart to know the extreme level of poverty here.
Another example and tragedy, is the amount of amputees that flood the streets, most are amputees from the civil war, and the others due to poor health care, They usually gather around shopping centers and surround you once you leave your vehicle and expect money. once you make it past the amputees, you are surrounded by pirated DVD salesmen and other salesmen who sell everything from pillows to dog leashes and everything in between. There is at one of the supermarkets two amputees that tag team, one (missing an arm) opens the door , while the otehr (with out legs) holds a box for donations, I usually leave my change with him, mostly out of thanks for not being in my face about it. It is a sad state because even the Liberians are shunning the amputees to try to forget the civil war, so they arent hired, and thus forced to beg to a society that doesnt want to see them.
The last kind of scam, i have no sympathy for and it involves someone coming up to you telling you that they have a "insert family member here" sick and they need money, I had a guy just this morning as a I walked to work follow me then finally catch up to me to tell me his story, Thankfully it is a short walk and I was able to leave his company right as he asked me for money.
I want to help, but the big daddy complex of America will solve all our problems drives me crazy,Liberia can't be healed until its own people help each other...Its a tough subject to talk about because its amazing how little these people survive on...

The President is Coming

The long awaited day of the president's visit to Liberia is almost upon us! It has been a crazy week as plans are scrambled to be completed to only be changed by the embassy and the whitehouse team due to security reasons or time constraints. I actually have been volunteered to stand at the front of the auditorium tomorrow and check people's names off and make sure they match the ID card, They needed an American to do this, so here I am. as of yesterday I was actually volunteered to stand on the bus andcheck people off, but like everything else with this visit, things change. More and Likely this will all change five more times today, along with every other plan. I heard a fact that President Bush's visit is costing more than the total amount of USAID money poured into Liberia. So is the visit worth it? For Liberia, I think it is, The international recongition, as well as the increase of funds can only help. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Startling Facts

As I have been writting reports and success stories, I have come across some facts that have startled me. During the 'Presidency' of Samuel Doe, a little under 50% of the population had any formal education. for 20 years it was like this, then Liberia was plungedinto an 'uncivil war' that destroyed what was left of the education system. Families stopped sending their girls to school, which is common in impoverished nations, and this only leads to the increase of violent crimes against women. After reading Three Cups of Tea , where Greg Morteson makes it his life's ambition to build schools that allow girls to attend in Islam centered Pakistan and Afghanistan, I can see how much education is important, to all. The US education system is not perfect, far from it, but I begin to see how blessed I am to have the privledge of public education. I wish that as an elementary student we could have seen different cultures schools or lack of. I think it would have great impacts on our children and teach them at an early age how important education is, instead of just focusing on standardized tests. I think it would be amazing if U.S. schools would 'adopt' a needy school or community in another part of the world and donate money(pennies), books, clothes, and other necessities. Then set up means to connect the schools via satellite or internet or just photos if the school doesnt have electricity to run such amenities, to see where their donations were going. Would we change the world? probably not, but you could start giving kids a global perspective. Ok back to work!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Visual Stimulation

Here in Monrovia, and out into the other country, signs and phrases are painted on everything from taxis to walls to carts. This particular sign is right outside my compound, gently reminding me that even here in Monrovia I can have a home. Many are informational such as "Wash Hands after pupu" (which has a picture of a guy 'puing' and "Violence leads to Jail" or "Peace not Guns" portraying a busted AK 47 over Liberia. There are also signs that say "Rape is a Crime" and "Don't beat your Wife" with graphic pictures describing the scene. Most of these informational signs about sanatation, civil obedience, protection from malaria and the running stomach are sponsored by USAID. I wonder how they are precieved to the illiterate in the population, who the signs are targeted to. When they see the picture of the guy 'puing' do they think to wash their hands? or when they see the picture of the guy raping a girl or beating his wife, do they think, I wont do that. These crimes as well as robbery are on the increase. I doubt this is caused because a high percentage of the population is illeterate, but its an ironic situation, and very sad. We hope that with generations of school children learning to read and write that crime will go down, as they climb out of poverty.
The signs on the taxis range from religious statements like "small is much when God in it" to statements of perplex ideas. My favorite one so far is "Man suffer, Woman Enjoy" The taxis are also adorned with huge bumper stickers and the sticker of choice is a huge picture of Maddona with her name written above it. Its on about two-thirds of the taxis I see. The Taxis all have license plates that start off TX - #### so I always think of Texas when I see one. About a quarter of the taxis are broken down and being repaired on the side of the road or in route by pushing by standers. The term personal taxi doesnt exist, and one could share the taxi with up to 7 people, not includeing the driver! With gas and food prices so high, the taxi drivers can affoard to take one person at a time. I should start writting down the phrases on back of taxis or the names of churches.
During the seige of Monrovia in the 90's the poor rebels came into Monrovia and painted their names on houses and other things that they 'claimed' and thought that when they returned they would take ownership as they were promised for fighting. Now most of the walls say, "Don't pepe here" , or "Only dogs pepe here!"

There are many carts and wheelbarrows that roam the streets looking for their next sale. My favorite are woden carts that have a picuture of a head of a cow that has been removed from its body and its looking at you almost with a smile on its face with the caption "Cow Meat" I havnt bought any of this meat, but will soon get a picture of one.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lacking Schools

I am currently reading 3 Cups of Tea, which I recommend, about one man who fails to climb K2 but stumbles across a poor Balti villiage in Northern Pakistan. He sees a bunch of kids doing multiplication tables sitting in the dirt, without a teacher and promises to build a school. It is inspiring and as I have visited a few schools here in Monrovia the need in Liberian schools is great. But before I think that education will take root here, the poverty level will have to decrease, in other words kids have to not be hungry before they can learn. The rebuilding of Liberia is a huge task, and it is sad to think of the how Liberia came to be in the despair it is in. Warlords with no regard of human life, along with greed, drugs, and violence destroyed this economy, as well as the familes and individuals who bear the scars. I have met many different people who are involved in many different projects, with goals ranging from education to re-electrifying Liberia. It is all needed and each project depends on the other to help their own project improve. After seeing the money that is poured in here, you hope that it will take root and grow a sustainable society here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Surfer's Paradise

I know I posted most of these on my flickr account but I just wanted to share withevery one the beauty of Robertsport, I hope to go back there soon. If there was any infrastructure, it could become a surfing heaven for tourists. But that vision is a long way off as Liberia slowly rebuilds. The promising thing is I see potential here, its just going to take Liberians realizing it and this will take much time and education. Along with getting people above the poverty line, getting electricity to the people, as well as running water. However, there seems to be a bad case of "big daddy complex" over here, as a lot of people think the US will keep funding Liberia. This too will have to change before Liberia wil be able to stand on its own two feet.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dangerous Jobs

The Creative Office is being painted today and I am thankfull that I am not a painter here in Monrovia. They are painting a ledge on the third floor and have three ladders bairly connected together to reach the height! The conditions of the ladders are such that I would not wnat to climb on one of them if they were standing alone and not attached to two other shoddy ladders. Its an amuzing site, but I also am concerned for the painter's safety! I guess Ill just keep a close watch on the ladder out my window and if it falls go administor first aid! Most of Monrovia is being painted in order to beautify the city which is in dire need of something to help its image. Little by little it is picking up the pieces from a decade and a half of devistating civil war. The scars are still deep and visable. At least the Painters have a job, unlike most people in Monrovia, I dont know the wage but it probably isnt much...but maybe enough to buy rice and minuets for their cell phones...

Good to be back...

I have started work today and am back in the Creative Office which is on Randall Street. As some of you know, I spent a half week with most of the Creative staff at a workshop in Gbarnga. They are all friendly and welcoming and honestly enjoy having me here. I like that. I am one of them, I am not a boss, or just another American, but they have accepted me, they teach me Liberian pronunciations, and have taught me the Liberian handshake, and yes every liberian knows it and uses it. I have started working on Staff Biographies and should have them finished by the middle of next week. I realize that I will remain busy for the rest of my time which will keep me from getting home sick or too worried about things back home. This is good. I do miss Texas and my friends, but I am loving the experience that I am having here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Busy is spelled F-e-b-r-u-a-r-y

I am nearing my one month in the country of Liberia, and the new month has already altered my day to day routine. Friday the 1st I was able to witness a festive event as previously described in my blog. I am going to work with VIA as their Communication Volunteer in charge of designing the 2007 Annual report. There are problems to this, the office is in Sinkor which is all the way on the other side of Monrovia from my residence and I dont have my own means of tranportation. Also since it is just a volunteer position, taking the taxis and providing my own meals will be costly by the end of my stay here. Gas prices have doubled since I have been here, and many blame the governemnt for purposly doing it to rid the road of all 'junkers'. Seriously that was reported in one of the newspapers today. So working is new but I am glad to undertake a task and feel 'purposeful' over here.
February is shaping up to be a busy month not just for me, but for the whole of Monrovia! Everyone here is gearing up for the VIP visit from the POTUS(President of the United States) on Feb 21. Roads are being repaved at a feverish rate, which means traffic is at a stand still,and The education NGO's are getting ready to host the President or the First Lady to their education sites as education is the main focus of the event. Because of this NGO's are also stressed and are in need of help, I have been hired by Creative Associates International, Inc. to assist the Cheif of Party and Senior Educaiton Manager in certain tasks preparing for the visit as well as producing success stories about the visit. I am torn about leaving Visions so soon but I might be able to produce the annual report in my spare time, but the idea of working for pay and in an office that is walking distance is much more fesible. I plan to talk to the director of VIA about possibly finishing the annual report in my spare time or on weekends. It will be interesting no matter what I spend my time doing, and am looking forward to pouring into my duties. Because of this visit things will only get more choatic as the visit date approaches. Hope everyone has had a great super Tuesday!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Local Games

I have observed several of the Liberian kids playing several different games. The first that caught my eye is what the kids call toil, or at least thats what i think they call it. its basically tether ball! My 2 summers as Activities director much of my time was spent re-attatching tetherballs so it made me chuckle. the other is lapa which is like dodgeball, one kid is in the middle with several pairs of lapas, or flip flops and the other kids throw a 'ball/sand bag' at the kid in the middle, every time they miss the kid in the middle arranges the lapas in anyway they seem fit. They have to dodge the ball. if the kid is pegged, the thrower gets to go to the middle and starts the arrangement all over.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Million Book March

Today I witnessed a marvellous ceremony which took place at Aquilla School in Paynesville. Visions in Action is helping supply a million books to schools, libraries, and other areas to promot literacy. They are also training teachers how to use a library system so that the books are not just locked in a room as a valuable 'trophy' and not used by the kids! The children marched into the school joyously singing where there were speakers from USAID Liberia, Books for Africa, and Better World Books as well as members of the Liberian Ministry of Education. It was exciting to see all the smiling faces on the children. I met with the founder of Visions in Action who I am going to sit down with and talk about possibly volunteering with them as they continue to distribute the million books to the 15 counties around Liberia. I met Justin and Andy from Better World Books which is an online book seller like but they donate some of the proceeds to purchase books for children who need them. So if you are going to buy a book check them out at . Books for Africa is an organization that is aquiring books to ship them to Africa. There were instrumental in helping visions reach their goal of a million books. Today was a good day and reminded me what I have told counselors for years, that its all about the kids, and it is. I am excited to meet with visions in action and hope to start volunteering soon.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Firestone, Liberia

Today we travelled out to the Firestone Rubber plant today which is about an hour drive from Monrovia. It was neat to see the acres and acres of rubber trees with the bark pulled back to extract the rubber resembling the same technique of extracting maple syrup. Firestone creates a bunch of jobs, small villiages have sprung up around the plant and the employees of Firestone are generational since the early 1800s.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Not Aestheticly Pleasing

As I see day to day life here in Monrovia, I notice very few Liberians actually try to improve their surroundings. This disgusts me at first, and I start blaming them, thinking they are lazy or just worthless. I have to stop myself and think about how I would look at my world through a conflict as brutal as the one most here survived through. Think about living in a world where anything nice was destroyed becauseyou had something nice that a rebel fighter was jealous of so he either destroyed it or claimed it as his own. At all the checkpoints, Monrovians were shot at random for appearing fat or the least bit wealthy. If it looked nice, it stood out and was either stolen or destroyed, I think of what that does to a mindset and how that would affect how I make my environment look. I dont think I would live any different then. Its not that the people here arent smart, because they are, they are people, its the mindsets and the lack of education that has crippled them(in american ideals at least) I just have to remember that its not America and that things are different and I am accepting that and just taking it all in.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Africa Cup of Nations

After work today William and Thomas took me with them to go get thomas' car out of the shop, while we were there waiting on the final touches we went into a small room and watched a futbol match on a projector screen with about 100 liberians crammed into the room. the excitment was equivalent to going to a sports bar in a town when the local college team is playing a basketball game during march madness. However, Liberia did not even qualify into the Africa Cup of Nations tournament and the excitment was for camaroon!

Monday, January 21, 2008


Liberia is 80% Christian but the religiosity is apalling. here is an interesting article about how people use religion here in Liberia, I think it is a safety valve from the war, even some of the most bizarre and cruel killings were done with images of christian symbols, like the video of Prince Johnson killing then president Doe with a huge portrait of Jesus in the back ground then taking part in religious hyms. oh prince johnson is now an eleected legislator. this place is truely odd.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Its hot

Today was the clearest day yet in Liberia (locals pronouce it lie-beer-a) but it was still really hazy! But it was the hottest day yet, which made the aroma of urine and trash even stronger, which was not good. The lack of education is very evident here, because logical thinking isnt a common thread in the life. The government only requires up to a 6th grade education! most of the Liberians that I have come in contact with have graduated highschool and some college. Most know how to read and write, and basic math skills. The work ethic is much different. I am no carpenter but today we hung framed maps of the 6 counties that Creative Associates has schools in and the framers were just going to hang the pictures however, I stopped them to straighten them out and make sure they were level, They werent even going to eyeball it. nothing is done here to improve the asthetic look to things, only if Americansor other foreigners will be living there. People just throw trash on the ground like it is nothing, and people urinate on walls, and its humid and hot which doesnt help. oh wellmore ramblings to come!

eating and drinking

I tried two Liberian dishes yesterday, both had lots of rice, and fish. One was extremely spicy and the pepper left an after-taste kick. It is prepared in Palm oil and is very high in cholesterol. It stuck with me most of the day, which is probably why most eat it here, because it might be one of the only meals they get. If I ate it everyday, I would probably gain 100 pounds in my 5 months that I was here, and probably have a heart attack soon there after.
The local beer is brewed in Monrovia called Club Beer. It is a sweet beer and very malty. It is a decent beer, but things tend to not stay cold here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

One Week

I have been in country for one week. and i have seen a lot. I have enjoyed the NGO side and eating at the nice hotels and enjoying the beaches, but I have also had my Monrovian friends take me out to some of the hotspots for some 'boiling' or what they call going out and having a good time. I will know for sure by monday weather or not I have a real job, but as of now I am just volunteering around the office. The office is getting ready for a VIP visit from George and Laura Bush, I wont get to met them but its still pretty cool that they are coming here.
This country has potential but has so long to go. People just have trashed this place with war and literally with trash. A lot must be done to clean it up, but I think the right steps are in place for recovery.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I am all moved in and the accomadations are probably the best in Monrovia. Not really roughing it in the least bit. My bedroom is bigger than any I have lived in. The compound itself is in good condition and has razor wires all a top the the 10 foot wall running the perimeter of the facility. This is the view outside my bedroom window. I have not ventured out of the compound on foot, or by myself yet. About the only adventure I have had in me is to go sit by the pool alone. There is a beach not 100 meters from the compound, but it is unsafe to go visit. I don't think to ever truly enjoy compound life. There is no view, and its almost as if you have shut out the entire rest of the world. I guess if you try to help all the the time it is probably nice to have a place to come and hide.