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 🙂

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Liberian skies

There are often superb skies in Liberia – clouds, sunsets and sunrises. Being a tropical country the wet season brings tremendous thunderstorms and cloud formations. I have yet to set up my camera and try to photgraph lightning because there is too many other light sources in the urban area and I would need to find a higher balcony to capture a proper panorama, but I do have several shots from my balcony of the glowing colours of the sun sinking into the sea. These photos are quite typical of what can be seen on a regular evening. It is a nice way to end a day in Liberia.

There are occasionally sweet sunrises as well, to welcome the day. So I end with this nice cloud formation from last week to prove my point.

Men @ Work! Housing construction, Liberia

In my area there is a house under construction. I hate it when the guys turn up for work and shout excitedly about the latest news noisily at 7.00 am (esp on a Sat sleep-in morning), but I appreciate the opportunity to observe Liberian construction methods. Cement is mixed with shovels, bags of cement carried on heads, metal bars cut with a hand-held cutting saw, and….  It is very labour-intensive and the men work mostly without protective gear! These are a few photos of the progress, starting from foundation and building up from there!!

The starting point: a hole in the ground. As this is overseen by a Lebanese bossman, the “big yellow machine” was available for the digging tasks.

Yes, it really is called a “big yellow machine” out here! 🙂 Personally I’ve seen bigger ‘big yellow machines’, but this smallish yellow machine did help a lot.

So now some photos of the men at work…

That’s a pretty neat triangular ladder hey!! You can see behind the ladder how they’ve built the walls up. These photos were taken from June to August. I’ll post some more soon. 🙂

The President signs the Education Reform Act, Liberia

Without being flippant about a serious event, here are some photos of the President actually putting pen to the Act. This is how the grand lady enacts laws! You can see that she takes the following important steps:

1. check that the pen is a suitable writing implement (Hmm no gold fountain pen – I’m disappointed),

2. write something to be sure the pen works,

3. check the wrist watch to get the right time and date; and finally,

4. add the autograph! An act becomes a law. 8th August 2011

(Apologies for the incorrect focus – I was forced to hold the camera above the crowd and just shoot, so most of the images do not have the President in focus.)

There are some who might suggest that the signing of the new Education Reform Act on 8th August 2011 was just another election-related ploy, but there are some worthy components within it which if implemented could benefit the Liberian education system. The biggest plus of the Act is that it devolves a lot of responsibility for education matters to the County level, and eventually even to the Districts. Anyway, my policy is not to delve into Liberian policy and politics in this blog. What I really wanted to do was to add a few photos from the signing event which I attended. Unfortunately, I cannot post video here, because I recorded an incredible young man singing with the school choir. The song, “That’s the sound of victory” was inspiring.

A personal observation: the Lady is strong! I don’t know how well I’d stand up to her gruelling schedule. She sits through events and listens to speech after speech, and sometimes she must be as bored as bored. But when its her turn to respond, she’s as sharp as a tack. She refers to previous speakers comments, she makes jokes, she gives sharp messages, and she’s as quick-witted as ever.

Now let’s watch the implementation of the Act…

Spruicing up Monrovia, Liberia

I am so used to seeing the small stalls, crazy yellow taxis, and the chaos of Duala and Red Light market areas, that the recent developments in Monrovia are a pleasant surprise which almost passed without notice. There is a new one-way road movement in the central area, newly painted zebra-crossings, new road-signs, and even street signs in Sinkor! Something is in the air!! Here are a few shots snapped from the vehicle window but I hope it gives you the impression that things are moving “small, small” in the big city.

Perhaps it took the ‘birds’ eye view’ I got from the new 8 storey office building for me to recognise the progress being made, because from the 5th floor it was great to see the new buildings on the horizon. The road infrastructure is being tidied up and some new forms of public transport are emerging…this is my favourite! 🙂

In keeping with the Liberian flag theme of my last post, this photo incorporates the flag into the billboard message from the President of the Republic, “Liberia will Rise Again!”. Its a sentiment of hope that might be realised if the country can pass through the forth-coming election smoothly.

 

Hotel Africa, Monrovia

There’s not much evidence of the Hotel Africa’s 5-star former glory but it offers some photographic interest to pass away a Sunday afternoon. We talked the guard into showing us around and snapped a few photos as we went. It would be a great place to return to with a tripod and more time. So for a photo safari with a difference, here is a photographic tour inside the ruined hotel.

From what I can understand the Hotel Africa was built (with Libyan investment) for a large Pan-African Conference in the mid-80s. There were separate villas for each head of state (so over 50 villas) and a pool built in the shape of the map of Africa. The hotel continued in service right up to the 1990s but then the war began and eventually the hotel was looted and it has laid in ruins ever since. It must have been beautiful when it opened and it is still a very solid structure. There are rumours that Libya might invest again (and in the Ducor Hotel in Mambo Point) but given the current turn of events, I doubt that will happen any time soon.

It has taken an hour to upload these photos so I don’t want to push my internet luck any further. The final comment is that if you google Hotel Africa Monrovia you will find in Yahoo travel that you can still book rooms at a reasonable rate but the customer’s didn’t rate the service very highly! 🙂

Monrovia photo-safari

The Project has begun! Mission: ‘Raise the standard! Purpose: 1. Improve my photo collection. 2. Make space for new photos from up-coming safari. Activity: 1. Edit and enhance all 25,000 photos; 2. Delete those that are not up to standard. Timeframe: Weekends and some evenings until the mission is complete. Deadline: Sometime before 2015!

The benefit of The Project is that I am revisiting photos in my collection (I dare not call it my portfolio) and rediscovering  the fun of those moments. I think it appropriate that I share some of those moments with you. My last post about Grand Bassa County was a product of that remembering! So here now are some photos from a photo-safari through the streets of Monrovia, Liberia in March 2009. They give a taste of the scenes from the vehicle window rather than being up close and personal. Notice how much of the Liberian economy is driven by small shops (stalls under umbrellas by the side of the road) where people eke out a living by ‘trying small small’.

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(Again I’ll opt for a slideshow because that’s the fastest way to deal with the upload, and I assume if it works well enough for me to see it on Liberian ISP speed, then you with the faster ISP speeds will have no problem at all!)

liberian currency

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inspired by the weekly photo challenge – numbers – i decided to write a bit more about liberian money.  the local currency is the Liberian Dollar, known as LDs. at the moment 1 US$ is about 72 LDs. when i arrived in liberia nearly … Continue reading

Liberia’s Daily Chalkboard – conveying the news to those who cannot read

I’m going to try a new thing here and embed an external video into the post. When you are in Monrovia, you can’t miss this Daily Chalkboard by the side of the main road intersection with the turn-off to Spriggs airfield. I’ve never seen a crowd as large as that in the video, but there are always a few guys hanging around looking at the headlines, and every driver snatches a quick read of the headlines as they drive by. Its a great idea to convey the news verbally and simply to those who are illiterate, but of course, it still requires someone who can read to tell the story to those who can’t. I guess at least it gives a focal point where people can get the news for free in simple words. Bravo for creativity.

Most Liberians get their news and information from the radio. UNMIL Radio (UN Mission in Liberia) is the only station with nationwide coverage, but most county centres have a local radio station that covers the local news stories and interviews local celebrities and leaders. I’d like to write more about this in a more detailed post another day sometime in the future…

Now to see if I can make the technology work to achieve my objective of sharing with you the interesting video from the TIMES video about the Liberian Chalkboard in Monrovia. Here it is…its worth a look.

Liberia’s Daily Chalkboard Newspaper (video)

Weekly Photo Challenge – RED

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i’m going to mix the weekly photo challenge with a few wordz about food in Liberia. i took these fotos on my iPhone earlier this year with the view to illustrate visually the lack of decent fresh veg in Liberia. … Continue reading