Another birthday, another chance to reset my direction

I’m in a reflective mood brought on by the fact that its my birthday! So allow me to ramble a little as I sit in Addis Ababa looking out over a green flowery garden, listening to the birds twitter. This is paradise for me at the moment, because it is beautiful and because it is not Monrovia. I have to admit that my main objective seems to be to ensure that the 19th June is not spent in Liberia! My first birthday since working in Liberia (2009) I flew back to Australia to escape, in 2010 I went to Senegal, 2011 to Durban RSA, and this year to Ethiopia! That’s a fun way to remember my birthdays! I wonder where I’ll celebrate next year! But, beyond the surface, I really like to get out of Liberia so that I can reset my thinking and direction.

I think when milestones come along, they should be celebrated – marked in a special way.¬† The birthday date serves as a marker and a milestone. Another year has passed by and what have I done with it? What do I want to see happen for the coming 12 months? At the moment, a big part of me would love to settle into a comfortable life in Liberia with good friends, a comfy house, and some semblance of normalcy – that is very attractive! It could almost be possible. Another part of me wants to see how far I can stretch the limits of my abilities and how much I can contribute to this planet. Its a dilemma to balance these two conflicting desires because I don’t know how to blend them together. I hope it is possible to push ahead with the career motivations but within a network of loving, supportive friends who encourage and give you the courage to give your best. I doubt that this international life will ever be normal, but I can see from my friend in Addis, that there are ways to create a loving, exciting, and challenging lifestyle within the constraints of the abnormal settings where we are temporarily located. That may not make sense to many readers, but its very real to me! I want to shake up my pathetic career and I want to live a more connected and real life with loving friends. It will be interesting to see how far I’ve moved towards that by June 19th, 2013!

Love ya!

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! ūüôā

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 Рbut 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 ūüôā¬† (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…

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 ūüôā

PostAWeek2011 – what it meant for me

There are times when I think that attempting to blog in a country with minimal and erratic internet speed and service is just a recipe for frustration. I started this blog 3 years ago when I came to Liberia with the high ambition of having an avenue to share my impressions and images with my friends and anyone who might be interested. For the first 2 years I struggled! Either I was too busy or the internet was too slow to upload anything. So from its Sept 2008 birth, at the pathetic rate of about one post a month, I kept my blog alive but barely!

Then came the PostAWeek challenge and a faster ISP in Monrovia (I use LibTelCo). I remembered my original goal! My imagination was fired up again! There were possibilities and they could be achieved or so I believed!

Therefore I proudly declare that¬†in 2011¬†I added 55 posts to my blog! I achieved my goal. Okay, I admit the December frenzy of (10) posts helped me get there, but I really wasn’t that far off my target even without that blitz. That makes an average of one post a week – a few ranks improved¬†from pathetic!!

As for the readership, oddly enough the number of visits to the site in 2011 was double the total visits for the previous two years! Go figure! The more active you are, the more visits your site receives! The more your post, the more readers!  Thanks to the challenge, my blog is alive and healthy and getting closer to becoming the type of site I imagined from the beginning.

It is good to have an end of year review and recognise the milestones and achievements. I feel encouraged by what I have accomplished because I admit that it has not been easy especially under the ISP conditions I live with. But it is worth it. I have enjoyed reading other people’s blogs and have even started to subscribe to a few myself. I find myself drawn increasingly into the WordPress world.

So what¬†is my blogging¬†plan for 2012? More of the same, but with a few changes.¬†I might remove some of the pages that I enthusiastically added in order to write about my safaris. With my constant time-crisis, I¬†simply cannot work on them. I will also try to do the weekly photography challenge, just for fun. But mainly¬†I will continue to share small snap-shots of life in Liberia as I experience it and I’ll¬†write about my holidays when they happen. For as long as the internet gods bless me with sufficient¬†internet speed,¬†I will continue!¬†¬†

Having said that, dear subscribers whose inboxes have suffered from my recent blogging blitz, I will now return to a more intermittent posting schedule because I am going on holidays! If you are lucky I won’t think or write about Liberia until sometime in February!! Happy New Year, happy holidays,¬†and thanks for reading!¬†

 

2011: Every holiday was a safari!

Well I must say that the true genius of 2011 was my holiday planning!! On that score the year rocked! If anyone questions my planning and organising skills, I’ll just point them to my awesomely planned holiday schedule!! Aside from my annual journey down-under, in 2011 every holiday was a safari!!

I won’t gloat too much, but 2011 allowed me to enjoy¬†safaris in 3 national parks in South Africa,¬†plus a¬†sublime month-long safari which took us through Botswana, Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania/Zanzibar!! I simply haven’t had time to edit¬†the 15,000+ photos I took in that month!!¬†What a blast that was…2011 was the ‘year of the safari!’

So, allow me to indulge in a few safari references to illustrate the year that was.

The 6 am rises for the morning game-drives¬†quickly settle into¬†the ‘safari rhythm’ and you start to appreciate the momentum of¬†the morning dawn experienced while bumping across the savannah and the sundowners enjoyed to the fading light of the sunset.¬†[2011 was my 3rd year in Liberia and life¬†had developed¬†a largely dull and unchallenging routine. I can’t say that I like it much, but I am grateful to be here and there are some enticing¬†opportunities emerging on the horizon.]

The¬†anticipation of the chase and the kill are definitely high adrenelin moments of any safari. You have to be alert and ready¬†because even though the hunt can take time, the kill can be over in seconds. But after the kill, you do think of the victim –¬†the¬†sweet baby¬†antelope that just happened to become the leopard’s dinner. [There were moments in¬†2011,¬†when I felt like¬†I was being¬†hunted by a¬†pack of¬†nasties trying¬†(and failing) to make me their victim! Lesson: stay alert and don’t become anyone’s ‘kill’!]

 

 

 

 

 

The safari experience is best enjoyed with like-minded friends and/or photography buffs. Sharing the vehicle with restless bores is definitely¬†excruciating and¬†I find I don’t have patience any more for difficult and complex people in my social life!¬†¬†[In 2011, more friends left my¬†social circle than entered it so I have¬†ended up in a¬†deficit of like-minded people around me…except that my new¬†friends¬†are outside¬†my work-life and they’re pretty cool!]

Open spaces, rare opportunities,¬†and splendid skies. Safaris always restore my sense that it is great to be alive and moving in god’s creation, spotting rare wild creatures¬†under an enormous blue canvas sky. [Even though Liberia’s skies are often hazy and grey¬†the wet season can bring some spectacular thunderstorms, enormous clouds, and beautiful sunsets.¬†Whatever the weather, I am grateful to be here: alive, exploring, and ready for more!]

I hope that 2011 was a splendid journey for all my friends and readers.

I wish that 2012 will be a superb safari for you all!

A year of adventure, unexpected surprises, natural beauty, 

and wild possibilities!!!

Life is a safari!

Real Man helps his Wife in the Home

This is my favourite social awareness sign in Liberia! I pointed it out to the three Liberian men I was travelling with while in Voinjama recently. Two of them who¬†drive past the sign daily, claimed to have never seen it! The billboard is part of the programme to stop Gender Based Violence and is a fabulous effort but I’m not sure if any Real Man is paying heed to the message!!

Real Man Helps His wife in the Home – I certainly hope so ūüôā

Home and family (Liberia)

Today I will share 4 posts to round out 2011 with a few of my favourite photos from the year. The bonus is that they will come to you with very few words!

 

I think the photos show a fairly typical scene of home and family in Liberia.

I need to write a few words…

Okay, I must make an effort here and post some words.¬†It¬†has been¬†silent here on the blog¬†for 2 weeks and my only excuse is that life has been fast and the internet has been slow!¬†I’ve got too many important things to do but I don’t seem to be very successful at accomplishing them. Like last Sunday, I had the day to chill, edit photos, and post a piece on the blog. Did I achieve any of that? I did edit some photos, but I certainly didn’t chill and the post got messed up too. Its frustrating because I can’t exactly define where the time went and why things didn’t get done.

On reflection, its been a theme for¬†2011, as¬†there are several important things that I have not done – and I don’t know why they didn’t get done. The slow internet service is a good excuse, but it is more than that. Something in my motivation to do the hard stuff is missing. Or maybe I’m too tired from just doing the essential work tasks that t the essential non-work tasks don’t get addressed. Hmmm, it will have to be faced soon enough I guess, because I’ve got 2 essential non-work tasks looming and I need to buy those plane tickets! Actually maybe that is the missing ingredient – an urgent deadline. The plane tickets will be purchased because holidays have a deadline. But other things that I want and plan to do, like writing here,¬†don’t have fixed deadlines. It seems that tasks without a credible, unbreakable deadline, simply don’t get done! Well, there’s a useful revelation that has come of this rambling.

Except of course, that’s probably¬†too simplistic! There are many reasons why some tasks get done and others don’t, and while having a deadline might be a strong motivator, its not the only one. There is also the motivation of feeling good, satisfied with an accomplishment. There’s also motivation that comes from ticking off an item from the ‘to do list’. I’m not sure that there are (m)any other motivators for me.

So, at least I wrote some words. Another post has been submitted. I am satisfied ūüôā and my ‘to do list’ is one item shorter ūüôā