Saturday, November 21, 2009

HRUSA Blogs from Liberia, Day 5: Market Madness, Electricity, and School Children

I had to hit pause on a very productive day when, with a whir and a sigh,
the generator at the Carter Center took its afternoon break. One would think
I might know the generator schedule after several days of being here, but it
seems I’ve been out and about with clients and not in need of electricity
during those times. So making copies of finalized applications for Monday
morning will have to wait for a 30-minute window early tomorrow morning
before we head out of Monrovia.

In the meantime, I’ll update you, our dear readers, with some news from
Monrovia. Speaking of - I’m attaching a picture of “The Daily Talk” - a
large blackboard that is covered with handwritten headlines of the
every-other-day-or-so. Unfortunately, today it was not yet open when we went
by, but the picture gives you a sense of the news stand in place near JFK
Hospital. We drove past on our way outside of town to meet several clients
in the market and ohmigoodness, I don’t know that I can adequately describe
the energy there. Vendors were packed in areas side-by-side or about on foot
toting their wares - from fresh water, to sunglasses, to potato greens, to
towels, to lapas, to anything under the sun - and buyers mixed in along with
cars crawling along as tightly packed as the people but moving more slowly.
(See picture of large truck trying to navigate the market.) Driving here is
a riot. (See picture of some of the roads outside of Monrovia.) Horns are
used to say “watch out, I’m passing on your left,” and “watch out, I’m
backing up,” and “Nope, I’m going first you need to wait” and often just
“Hello, person I know.” Emergency flashers are used to avoid an emergency -
put those on when the person in front of you is waiting to turn left across
solid traffic to let the person behind you know to take your brake lights
seriously. There are tons of taxis - both because no reliable bus system is
in place for those needing to travel significant distances into downtown and
because many people injured by the war cannot do more strenuous work. The
taxis often have messages painted on the back ranging from the religious
(“God is good”) to the practical (“Keep me Clean”), but my all time favorite
was clever or mistakenly ironic but either way hilarious: “NO MSTAKE.”

I’m happy to report that the “snap!” at the end of my Liberian handshake has
shown great improvement and my fist bump, well, that’s so basic it doesn‘t
need practice. Which is a good thing as it seems no small child here can
leave a fist bump unrequited. Put a hand up with the flats of your fingers
and knuckles out steady and even the shiest child is sure to reach a tiny
fist up in response. The bump and my digital camera have won me some small
friends here. While kids are initially skeptical of a foreigner hopping out
of a large 4x4, bring out a camera and show them how to zooooom and voila!
they are enchanted - and enchanting. (See picture some school children took
of others after a quick “press this button” lesson.) My understanding is
that most children do go to school - and you see plenty of uniforms
(Adventist school shirts are bright pink) to attest to that. But school is
very expensive for some parents so some may not be able to attend
consistently. Those in school learn more than English lessons in the
classroom - NGOs like “Right to Play” teach kids valuable cooperation skills
through outdoor playtime. Driving through the outskirts of Monrovia today,
it was fun to see large groups of school kids enjoying playtime. Seeing
them, I wondered how many were old enough to remember when no one would go
out of doors for fear of being hit by a stray bullet and what Liberia will
become as this new generation grows up.


Check back in regularly for updates from Piper as she's in the field. Also - be sure to mark your calendars for November 30th at 4pm, when Piper will host a conference call to talk about her trip to Liberia and the upcoming trial against Chuckie Taylor. Be sure to post any questions you have for Piper in advance!

1 comment:

  1. Watching and reading from afar... We're all "oil rice" over here! Keep up the good work!!!

    Kim Hanrahan and your Covenant family