I am alive, but silenced again by technical challenges!

It has been a long, long silence – far longer than intended. This time I will blame WordPress because the changes they seem to have made to their system have overwhelmed the Liberian internet service provider! I have been unable to log into my account and unable to access my dashboard. It maybe that the changes are good for the world of fast ISPs but it is not wise to assume that everyone enjoys such luxury!

During this dark period of silence, I have in fact been very busy! Work was more interesting and varied – I like that! Then I had a 3 night visit to Buchanan which also varied the pace a little. Now I am about to head off on a well-earned holiday – to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the first time. That will make my 14th country on the African continent which is not bad for my time here, especially when you consider that I’ve been to many places more than once.

Hmmm, I am not able to attach a photo due to the ISP incapacity. Sorry! But at least these few words let you know I’m still alive. One can hope that the ISPs will be faster in East Africa! Love & laughter!

 

 

Advertisements

Explaining my silence on this blog

Aside

Wow! Time has passed by so quickly! A whole month lost without a post. Sorry!

By way of an explanation: 1) I went to Kenya for a 6-day safari in the Mara North Conservancy! 2) My work circumstances changed and I simply haven’t had time for blogging. 3) The internet has often let me down and I haven’t had time to struggle and conquer it! At least the first two reasons are good ones!!

Tonight I have jumped on the internet to have a look see, and things look healthy enough within the site, but I wish I had something prepared to post aside from these apologetic words. Sorry! I cannot promise I’ll be able to post anything more for the next few weeks but one can always live in hope!

 

The road to Bopolu City, Gbarpolu County

The main thing everyone mentions in reference to Gbarpolu County is the road! Oh my goodness…the road!! We drove to Bopolu City in March and it wasn’t the worst road I’ve seen in Liberia, but it certainly is tedious. The things is that this road is repaired and cared for. Beyond the county HQ into the more rural areas, the roads are worse. Three of the six districts are inaccessible by 4×4 for most of the year. The UN military engineering unit was out repairing the road before the onset of the rainy season, so here are a few photos of them in action.

Personally for me, the main problem with Gbarpolu is not the road, it is the lack of food! If you don’t have contacts or people to care for you, then the constant drama of daily life will revolve around food and the never-ending question of “what am I going to eat for my next meal?” The UN staff there rely on each other to bring supplies every time they travel from Monrovia and that is what sustains them. We only saw small stalls such as you see here and there was no fresh produce to be found anywhere.

The oddest contrast of Gbarpolu is that it has the largest newest court building I have seen outside of Monrovia. It is almost completed but not yet connected to generators or operational. Why they need such an audacious building in a remote and humble county, defies my logic.

Just so you do not think that UN staff live in luxury – this is a photo of the guesthouse accommodation provided to us by the UN for a nightly fee of USD35! I had nightmares of imprisonment but cannot think what might have brought that on!!

So that’s Gbarpolu County. The HQ is only 3 – 4 hours driving up from Monrovia, but due to the bad road it feels as isolated as the counties in the south-east that take 10 hours+ to drive to. There really is nothing there to comment on and life is spent in the compound every evening and weekend just to enjoy the power and internet. It is not an easy life at all. As usual I admire all our staff who do good work and make it tough in rural Liberia!

Faced with the desire to be Reckless

I woke up this morning with a desire to write and post recklessly without the usual care and limitations, and without knowing what thoughts are compelled to escape onto the blank screen. Not sure what brought this on, but will run with it anyway! 🙂

Having written that, my mind has gone blank. I don’t really have a lot to say beyond describing my life in Liberia – but that is hardly reckless posting! As for all the other topics, (such as my personal thoughts and political opinions, my dreams, fears and ideas),  well I type a paragraph on those things and then I swiftly delete it. Too much personal information. I’m obviously reflecting my personality into my blog. I’m not a reckless person. In person and through the social media, I am cautious about what I reveal to others. People have commented that it is not easy to get to know the real me. “Yes”, I agree with a sweet smile! I know it. The difficulty with recklessness and the social media is that I don’t know all of the readers and there’s no way to control who reads the words or how they might interpret the message. Therefore I want to keep this blog at the safe level of information sharing and photos. I am obviouly retreating from recklessness pretty rapidly!

Okay, I do take many risks and my life is far from ordinary. Some would say that living outside of Australia in post-conflict countries, or travelling alone as I often do, is reckless – but its not really. Whatever I do is always a calculated risk and I know Plan B and C to get out of a tricky situation. In fact I will rarely walk into a tricky situation. Planning removes the recklessness from my path.

If there were a scale between Routine and Reckless, I’d be edging upwards from the middle…getting somewhere close to Risk-taker but not at Adventurer or Reckless dare-devil level yet!!  Certainly, I have moved beyond the ordinary routine of the comfortable city life I could have had back in Oz. That suits me just fine! Its good to be comfortable with who you are and your level of discomfort so that you can push it out just a little, each time!

But then I do have moments when I want to break free and be reckless. Is that part of the normal human condition? I wish I didn’t care so much about my professional reputation. I wish I didn’t care what people thought of me personally. Then I would wear jeans everyday, even when meeting VIPs. Say all the outrageous things that cross my mind. Voice the wickedly cheeky observations that are far too politically incorrect! Snap photos of every person or scene that attracts my eye, even if people don’t like it. Travel alone. Spend all my money. Laugh and laugh and laugh all day, loudly and for no particular reason. Play insane jokes on people. At least that’s how I would start IF I were to be more reckless. Oh, and I’d probably blog more recklessly too!!! Commit it all to writing and damn the consequences!

Does anyone else have that desire or urge?

Well, that was a nice moment of exploration, but even though I desire to do something entirely reckless – it ain’t going to happen! Not today and not here in this blog post!! I’m far too sensible to tell you something recklessly and regret it later 🙂  (Pushing the publish button for this post will take care of my reckless urges for today!)

Sorry-o, she says with  sweet smile!! Til next time…

Welcome to Cestos City!

At the end of the dusty track is a small town on a peninsular between the Cestos River and the Atlantic Ocean. But you have to drive the 4+ hour journey yourself to fully appreciate the humour to the sign, “Welcome to Cestos City!”

We visited there recently and stayed in a local guesthouse which provided me with a far better sleep than I’ve had in UN guesthouses in other parts of the country. A clean simple room with a mosquito net, large bed, sea breeze, and a bucket of warm water to wash with in the morning – what else does a gal need for her US$25? If it were not for the generosity of the Ghanian peace-keepers who provided meals for us, it would be difficult to manage as a visitor. Food is not available on the streets and I don’t know how often there is a local market. The only way to make it for a long stay is to find a house/room to rent – you may have to find a partly constructed house and complete the building yourself – and set up a means to cook for yourself everyday with supplies brought in from Monrovia or Buchanan. You can get fresh or smoked fish which is the enormous benefit of living on the coast! Our staff spend most of the evenings and weekends in the office where there is 24-hour power and internet access most of the time. (Cestos does not have a functioning light or power grid nor running water as is the norm for all places outside of Monrovia.)

The County Superintendent (who has just been reappointed by the President for another term) is quite active. He moves everywhere with his iPad showing photos of building projects and he has quite a few plans to develop the county. He has started a new road and wants to encourage people to eventually move to a new part of the town as sea erosion will eventually inundate the current town centre. Unlike many Superintendents he spends most of his time in the county and he appears to enjoy the job and be competent to plan and manage the work well.

Somehow despite the difficulties, I quite like Cestos. It is a quiet village with a restful feel to it. Perhaps I like it better because it is on the coast I have an affinity for the beach),or perhaps the functional County Administration brings a different sense of hope, but whatever the reason, if you get posted to Cestos you should not be too despairing – there are many worse places to be!

These photos will illustrate some of the sights of Cestos City…

Logs in Liberia

Logs are murdered trees – cut down in their prime!!

Following from my last post…here are some photos of dead trees…logs stacked up at the Greenville Port ready for export. When you see them piled up there (put into perspective against the man in the photo) you realise that’s a lot of Liberian trees sacrificed for someone’s furniture or smooth floorboards.

At least you should replant what is cut down! REPLANT!!!

That would be responsible and sustainable natural resource management, wouldn’t it!?

Logging Liberia

This week I was back in the field again and will write in more detail soon about my restful visit to Rivercess County.

On the 4 – 5 hour road journey to Buchanan and Cestos, we were dusted by the numerous logging trucks. We must have seen more than 20 in our drive which amounts to quite a number of trees cut down. Liberia is blessed with natural resources including amazing forests. Unfortunately its easy to cut down the trees, but sustaining the forests is more challenging. I haven’t seen any managed forestry or replanting of the hardwoods although I do hope it is happening somewhere, or it is planned for the future! The bush we passed on the road has all been cleared and there are very few of the original tall trees visible along the main roads.

When you see Liberia from the air you see that there are trees everywhere, but a lot of that is bush, palm trees, and regrowth. The taller trees are being removed quite fast with little regard for the future generations.

I’m back in Monrovia

I’m back in Monrovia. Back in the green and brown land. Back to slow and frustrating internet service. Back to food that always disappoints. Back to distrust and having to stay on constant alert. Back to tedious superficial work. Sigh. I want to be positive, but its difficult to move beyond a sort of relative positivism derived from knowing that “there are worse places to be”. That always sustained me through difficult times in Albania “well you could be back in the classroom facing 35 rampant 13 year olds…hmmm…better to be here afterall!” Now that thoughtline is replaced with “well you could be in Afghanistan, or Dafur, or Iraq…hmmm….better to be here afterall.” But it does kind of wear thin. Mainly because my subconscious is also starting to raise a counter argument to that…”well you could also be in Australia, or Croatia, Cambodia or Uganda…hmm…so you don’t actually have to stay here!” Aahhh the human mind is pretty amazing and tricky in how it reveals what’s really going on as a sort of sudden surprising revelation. I’m not about to make any changes, and I plan to stay in Liberia for as long as it makes sense to, but that’s not to say that there are some days when its nice to dream of escape and a more enjoyable and constructive way to pass my time.

These negative thoughts are somehow indicative that I had a fine holiday these last 5 weeks…great holiday equals difficult re-entry! The long flight back gave me time to think through the type of life I want here. As I can’t do much to change the work scenario, I need to sort out a few things related to my living situation – deal with the house-cleaner who is cheating me, find a new fitness routine to replace taekwondo, resign from all responsibilities outside of work, and expand my social network. All the usual things that we typically think through at the start of a new year hey…but good things that will help me to be happier for as long as I’m in Monrovia. I spent a few evenings sitting by the beach with an evening drink. The sunset by the beach is the best time of the day in Monrovia!

Even with the weeks of silence on the blog, there has been a steady stream of readers – noice! I need to find the time to post more and snazzy things up a little…if only the internet was a tad faster!!!

Here’s a photo to capture the mood of this post…sunset at the beach taken New Year 2012. Til next time, let’s keep smiling 🙂