i need to get back to reporting on my explorations in Liberia! in the last 2 months i’ve been to Nimba, Gbapolu and Bong counties for ‘work purposes’. i’ve the great opportunity to travel in liberia and i enjoy being curious.
i’ve now been to 11 of the 15 counties. alright, so i don’t have posts on all of the visits, but i have done the travel time! so far each place is different and yet each place is the same. you fly (UN heli) over hundreds of kms of green forests and vegetation, track a brown river snaking through the greenery, and spot the patches of huts and brown-red soil that indicate where people have grouped together. it seems to me that people live in the oddest places. i mean u can find small clearings with 5 to 10 huts in the middle of nowhere. there is barely a track leading to the village. and i have to wonder ‘why here?’. what made someone decide to set up the family hut in this exact remote and isolated piece of the land? and more so – why have the families stayed here? but hey, life is very simple. why complicate it with western aspirations of comfort?
everyone makes their own choices based on the information and the opportunities they have.
livin’ in rural Liberia
first observation: the backdrop colour to life is invariably green and brown. this may be why the clothing is so colourful and bright – full of reds, blues, yellows!
second observation: life is simple. living conditions are very basic – living in the compound of huts where everyone knows the family and the community business, cooking on a fire outside the hut, sleeping on the ground inside the hut. there is no electricity and no running water. the water source is the life-line in the community, and the palava hut is the heart of the community where people congregate to talk and resolve their problems.
third observation: life moves slow. people don’t seem to be busy with too many activities. plenty of men lounging around, women sitting and talking while grooming each other or caring for the kids, and children unkempt and scruffy playing in the dirt. the atmosphere created is one of a slow pace of life, and yet without the calm or tranquility.
fourth observation: life is hard. just surviving is tough. as there isn’t much farming and few goats or animals – how do people feed themselves? everything about life seems raw and brutal. traditional beliefs and superstitions have a strong hold on people. the chiefs and traditional religious leaders dictate…well everything. sex, rape and violence seem to be part of the rawness of life and justice is not administered according to the international convention of human rights!
fifth observation: i cannot say more than this. i have been an observer peering thru the grimy window of a helicopter or vehicle as we whizz past people and communities on our way to some important mission!! i’ve never stopped in a village for longer than a few minutes nor had the chance to sit with the women to talk with them about their life. so that confessed, i think i’d betta stop here. the observations stand becoz that’s how life in rural liberia looks to me as the foreign photographer…but i dare not say more.
highlights from Nimba county – 2-day visit
i travelled with the big-boss-lady of the un mission in liberia to ganta and saniquellie towns. we stayed overnight in ganta at the bangladeshi camp. one good thing about travelling with the big-boss-lady is that everything is highly organised and nothing is allowed to prevent the trip being successful! the bad thing about travelling as part of the vip delegation is that there are few moments of quiet – the lady keeps up a cracking pace!! that sux becoz i often get dehydrated when exposed to the humidity and natural elements! true to form on this trip, even tho’ i drank litres of rehydration fluid, i still collapsed by dinner time of the first day – headache, vomiting and a slight fever.
‘The Memorable Moment’ of the trip was when, having fallen into a semi-comatosed state curled up in the fetal position on the bed, vommie bucket by the bedside, a voice that i recognised interrupted my misery. ‘oh, she seems to be asleep’. dragged abruptly into consciousness, i realised that the big-boss-lady was making a bed-side visitation to her sick staff member! suitably humbled and grateful for such visitations, i slept and felt much better the next day. the plus side of that humiliation was that they put me in the armoured back-up vehicle with the security detail, so i got to ride in comfort for the rest of the trip before we finally heli-ed back to monrovia and air-conditioned comfort.
along with the usual military parade and security/military briefings, we visited – the border with Guinea (a potential hot-spot given the military coup in that country at the moment); a women’s agro-project, a volunteer child-care centre, and a medial clinic. on the 2nd day in saniquellie we visited the prison – scary; opened the new circuit court; did the ground-breaking ceremony for the new correction facility; saw a school construction project; met with the superintendent and county authorities; and held a UN staff mtg. there’s a lot of good work going on in the counties – renovating roads, building and constructing, training programmes and the like.
liberia is slowly developing…small small…
this has taken a long time to craft, more so becoz the fotos won’t sit where i put them! i’ll write more about other counties in a post sometime in the future.
ciao 4 now