Friday, March 14, 2008

Monrovia

Monrovia was suffering from fuel shortages while we were there and is not a pleasant looking place at all. Our host, Eva was an amazing and wonderful lady and really took care of us while we were there. She is a radio producer for UNMIL radio in Monrovia so she knows everyone and all the stories. Her family has 2 homes on their land and are currently building a 3rd which we stayed in and had built around us.
We really had no plan for Liberia and had hoped to pass through quickly. There is nothing to do and only completely crazy tourists would transit out here. There is very little info about here but I had heard about a boat going down the coast to Harper and since it would allow us to bypass the north of Cote d'Ivoire (our next destination) where all the rebels and hassle are, we decided to wait around for it to leave. The problem was that there is very little transport of any kind going to Harper and we ended up in Monrovia for 3 weeks, 2 of which were just waiting around and expecting the boat to leave any day.
Eva and her extended family were great and we had a really nice set up but Sky and Savannah were going crazy just hanging out and waiting around. We just read and played cards and lived on fish, rice and porridge. There are tons of UN vehicles and personnel on the road and all the vehicles on the roads seem to be either Landcruisers from some NGO or shared taxis. Lots of UN helicopters overhead too. We went to the beach one day and it was nice, quite empty and smaller than Freetown's. The beach is known as "where all the white guys hang out" since locals don't really swim. I think we were the only true tourists in the country but we did see a bunch of aid workers sunbathing a swimming. The city is a mess and we rarely went into town (we were ~10km south of the centre) as it is full of blown out buildings and the main road is potholed from all the mortar shells still. Even the President's mansion is burnt down (though not from war apparently). The only good news is that the President (the 1st female one in Africa) and a lot of the people on top are actually trying to bring about positive changes. Slowly. President Bush came for a one-day visit and had the entire city shut down for security reasons.
The 1st Sunday we went to church with Eva's family and it was way out there, full of singing, dancing and Hallelujah. Our 2nd Sunday was a failed attempt to find our own church nearby so the 3rd Sunday we called around and had someone pick us up. We got to talking with a few and were inviting to see an orphanage that had been set up in a nearby village by some members, so the next day we all went on a field trip into the countryside to check it out. I'm really glad we did. It's a beautiful land, lots of green and we passed some rubber plantations before heading out on some rough side roads into the bush. If I've been sounding angry and bitter lately it's because it's so frustrating to see such beautiful countries with so much natural wealth and potential destroying themselves. Almost every building we passed was a blown out shell. Everything was destroyed and people were back in little shacks made from sheet-roofing. The orphanage itself was even more depressing. It's in a blown out building, 40 little kids, 4-12 years old (most of the younger ages), with their volunteer caregivers sleeping on thin blankets on the hard concrete, drinking purified murky stream water, wearing an odd assortment of clothing donated from somewhere and sitting on rubble and logs in a bare room for a class. They were pretty excited to see us and most looked pretty happy and cute even though they had nothing and had been living there for a year. They're the lucky ones though because there are over 150 known orphans nearby that have been turned away for lack of food to feed them all. And that's the norm out here, there are so many projects but still tons of problems and corruption so few ever get the help they need. We're thinking of organizing something to help them and maybe there's a reason we were delayed because the next day we got word that the boat was ready to leave.
Ammon

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