Monrovia Trip and other Shenanigans


 

This week we got to go into Monrovia for the first time to explore. In reality Monrovia is a giant city with much danger and small crime. I absolutely dread the idea of going into Red Light, the Taxi hub for most places into and out of the city. The other Taxi hub is called something that starts with a D, but I cannot remember it. I dread it as well. I actually dread the idea of being crammed into a cab. Two in the front bucket seat, four across the back seat. And for emergencies VIP which can be on the roof or in the trunk. But enough about Taxis! Lets just say they are not my favorite.

 

We arrived in Monrovia on Friday around 10 am. I should backtrack for a great road story. We piled into the Taxi at Doe Palace. We were assigned cars and we also had assigned groups. My group was Mariah, Kim and myself. Our group leader was Maureen, who has been living in Kakata for the last year. She has been around our group much of our training. As we were leaving Doe Palace, I had this piece of banana cake that I was given for the road, but got tired of carrying and was not going to eat soon. I offered it to the others, none wanted it. The guy in the front seat was going to throw it out the window of the car. As I handed it to him we saw a kid with an older man, maybe his dad. Alex B. yelled “hey kid you want cake, catch” then launched this cake wrapped in napkins at this kid. The kid actually caught it, the taxi driver said “of course they catch it, it was food, if not food no catch.” Alex then said, “for the next two years, you see me in a taxi you best duck, cause I am throwing cake!” So that was our exciting fun taxi story for this adventure.

 

We arrived at the Peace Corps Headquarters around 10 am. A few people needed shots, I did not, but I had this rash under both my arms that was not healing. I thought it was rug burn from my backpack straps. Turns out is is a fungal infection, I was treating it with anti-bacterial cream and that was feeding it. So I knew it was getting bigger and worse. I must say it is very painful and nothing really helps, but knowing it will go away in a week makes me feel a bit better.

 

After seeing the PCMO, which is a fancy acronym for the doctor, we headed out. Maureen chartered a car for our adventure. It is much easier and better to charter a car and not have a taxi stopping to pick up and drop off people. Our first stop was to the Ducor Hotel. It was once the most prestigious hotel in all of West Africa, but during the war it was destroyed. Being able to wander through an old abandoned building is a dream of mine. One like this, that I would never have been able to every afford to spend time at is even better. It sits atop the highest point in Monrovia. It had 8 glorious stories, a large pool and what looks like an incredible bar and restaurant under a green roof.

 

Most of the inside of the hotel has been stripped out. The walls and floors on the right side were mostly gone on many floors. After the war the Libyan Government took a 30 year lease on the building. They initially hired security to run the squatters out of it. They began some demolition so they could restore it. The Libyan Government is no longer actively pursuing this project due to civil unrest and financial instability, but the lease is legal and cannot be broken, so for the next 24 years it looks like this grand site will sit rotting.

 

We were able to access the rooftop and had a picnic up there. It was beautiful and grand. There is a 360 degree view of Monrovia and the Atlantic coast. I really wish I had brought my camera for this. We also got a long history lesson of Liberia and why the war happened and what the problems were prior to the war. It is very sad that an evil entity like Charles Taylor, who in case you did not know was trained by Gaddafi, exists. Such a proud city and country completely devastated by war. It makes my heart hurt for them.

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After we descended the Ducor we headed into the heart of Monrovia. We went to the old Ministry of Education building, where many textbooks are sold. I am not so good at these bartering things and I paid $15 for the same book two other girls bought for $10. I did refuse to pay $35 for the first book, which another trainee got for $15. I have to get better at this.

 

I bought a T-shirt at the Waterside Market, which is this crazy huge swap market on the streets. Wheelbarrows full of T-shirts. I paid $50 LD for this nice soft T-shirt. I refused to pay $150 LD for another one. By the way $50 LD is the equivalent to 60 cents in American currency. I spent most of my money on food. No really I did. The lunch atop the Ducor was a sub sandwich with melted cheese, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. It was most fabulous $3.50 USD I have ever spent.

 

The next stop was the grocery store with cheese, yes cheese. I bought Pringles, on the request of my host ma, I shared some cheddar cheese Pringles with her once and told her it tastes like America. Now she thinks America tastes good. I also bought two small baguettes and a hunk of Brie. I bought a soda, because it was ice cold. We finally chartered a car to the restaurant with dancing later that night. This was the one thing I wanted so badly to do. I ordered a side of spring rolls, which were basically veggie egg rolls, and a bowl of cream of asparagus soup. The soup was so good. We started at 6 pm and went until after midnight. We have had a 7 pm curfew for the last month and a half. Most of the trainees eventually showed up to dance. It was a ton of fun and I am so glad we did that. The place we went was a specific spot for NGO’s and Ex-pats. So not many Liberians were there, but plenty of other nationalities.

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The hotel was decent for $35 USD a night. It might even have been less, Peace Corps paid for them. I turned on the TV and the first station that came in clear enough was showing the night before’s Sounders game. I was a bit teary eyed over that one. The next morning we checked out and chartered a car to the Royal Hotel, which had a coffee shop, like Starbucks type coffee shop. Real pastries, soy milk expresso, lattes. It was glorious. We basically camped there all day. We held everyone’s bags until they had to leave. Our last stop was to Red Light and we were one of the last groups there. I ran to the grocery store before we left and bought cabbage, tomato, small cucumbers, olives and a can of chick peas. I am so stoked I will be making a mock version of a greek salad. I even bought some of that laughing cow type cheese to throw in it.

 

We paid for the whole taxi home. It is spendy to do this, but we all agreed we just wanted to leave and not wait for car to fill up. As the taxi pulled down the road, he stopped and put his brother in the trunk, this was not acceptable and we argued, but he owed him a favor so we all pulled our bags up front. This is how I left my umbrella in the trunk, sad face, I never even used it yet.

 

We got stopped at a checkpoint and the guy in the back was causing the police anger. The taxi driver had no license to boot. We were panicked that we would be stuck there, but it all worked out, the brother got on another truck and the taxi driver, I have no idea what he did to get to leave again. We were about 5 miles from Kakata when I looked at Mariah and asked what’s that noise? About 5 minutes later we had to pull over for a flat tire. Ahhh that noise was a flat, good to know. Lucky he put a spare back in the car when he pulled out the other load when we paid for whole car.

 

Other fun and exciting things, we will be teaching on Monday for the next three weeks. I have my first two lessons planned out. We all celebrated some birthdays last weekend. That is all I can think of.

 

 

 

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A Brief History Lesson on Liberia


As I settle into my new country I have so many feelings to unpack. First off one should understand life here in Liberia. For much of the country power is limited and runs off of generators. Gasoline prices are a deciding factor on running power. There is no running water in most of the country. Parts of Monrovia have both power and water, but not much. Monrovia is a huge city, not in land mass but in population. The city had an influx of displaced people during the war.

 

Before the civil war, Liberia was close to Ghana in development. There were paved roads, power to most big cities, running water and sewer systems. War is an ugly beast. It destroys not only infrastructure but it can destroy the spirit of the people. The rebels destroyed everything during the war. You can still see the evidence of the water tower from my host home. I asked about it, very sad. Talking about the war still opens old wounds.

 

The paved roads were dug up in sections by the rebels. This prevented motorized travel either direction. If you have not done so watch “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”. It is a powerful documentary of the scars of war and the power of the human spirit.

 

On top of watching a documentary, listening to real people’s stories is heart breaking. It brings the reality of war to life. Knowing the struggles puts into perspective why this country seems so undeveloped.

 

The education system seems to be the focal point at this time. It makes sense. You have a huge gap in the education of the next generation. You have no one to teach future generations. I am inspired by the stories and the sheer determination of Liberia. Instead of losing hope they maintained their spirit.

 

Last week we had our naming ceremony. My host “ma” was in Monrovia, so her cousin named me. Actually “ma” picked my name, the cousin just gave it to me. My name is Munah, which is Kru for my own. Somehow my “ma” seems to like me very much.

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Next week we have a weekend in Monrovia, which sounds like fun. The week after we start model school. Model school is where we are assigned a grade and subject to teach real students for three weeks. I have 12th grade and I will be teaching Biology. I got excited about the subject of Human Ecology, which is basically an intro to Environmental Science. I had planned my curriculum out and built my first lesson very quickly yesterday.

 

I am also thrilled to be given the highest class, but it may be more about my age than my abilities. I am the oldest volunteer. I did hear that the stronger your personal education and experience the higher the grade level they have you teach, but this is only a rumor. It may be because I have more education and experience or it could be because I most likely will be seen as a leader due to my age. Either way I hope to succeed.

 

This weekend, I plan on cooking and shopping for the first time. I am hoping for cabbage with onions and garlic sauteed lightly in olive oil. Maybe I will find potatoes as well. I am very excited about this. I hope Madeline likes it, since “Ma” will be in Monrovia, I think. I still have a hard time following what she says. I suspect she is speaking in Kru instead of Liberain English, because it sounds nothing like anything I have heard in classes.

 

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Reflections of Africa to a newcomer


 

The weather is wicked humid. I take a bucket bath and dry off. Before I can get dressed I am drenched again. It is not from sweat but from the humidity. I am always dripping. I feel so miserable being wet. The sheets on my bed mat does not stay in place and I cannot sleep. Having a sinus infection has not helped the sleep matter much. I am so totally sick of fish I want to gag. Luckily the last two days I have been sick and I leave it behind saying that it upsets my tummy.

 

In the market I actually saw garlic, which I intend on using intensely to rid myself of mosquitos. I am not as eaten up as some of the trainees, but I have my fair share of bites. I avoided my bug net the last two nights. It is like sleeping in a hotbox. With my sinus issues, I felt that giving myself time to just sleep was needed. I did put this nasty spray on, and I still cannot figure out why I am being bitten with the spray, it is 40% DEET! I really just want to rub myself down with garlic.

 

Friday I was taken to Monrovia to see the doctor. It seems I have a sinus infection, which I suspected. I was given horsepills to take for the next 14 days twice a day. I feel better today, but I am still coughing up nastiness.

 

Two years is a very long time to live away from family and friends. I am just starting to feel a little homesick. Mostly because I really want to have a nice steaming bowl of Pho and take some Nyquil and sleep. I am starting to understand some of the language and the cultural norms. Frankly what I really want is a nice pot of fried cabbage and onions. Tonight I have collard greens, but I am certain there will be fish involved. Seriously the fish is staring at me, I cannot eat that!

 

I am also saddened by Richard’s loneliness and his problems with the neighbor. You cannot expect someone to be totally silent living upstairs from you. They guy complains 3-5 times so far and apparently he is not supposed to be living there! Richard took his rent check in on Saturday and informed the management that this guy was complaining almost weekly. They said he is not on the register to live there, so I am thinking this guy is going to be in some trouble. When he complained to me he kept saying he has this 3 year old kid, I have never seen said child, nor do they have a car seat in the car. Oh and they smoke pot heavily, so you know!

 

I don’t think about home or family too much. I have been in school and trying to get homework done and sick for the most part. Family life is not so difficult for me, minus the fact that Madelin is basically a house servant. I thought she was a granddaughter, but that is not correct. Her mother left here with Ma Pauline to help put her in school. In return she is basically a servant. The language barrier makes it feel as though Madelin is always being yelled at. Other than this, homelife is fine. My language instructor has taken a special interest in me, I guess. He has been to my home 4 times since Wednesday. I do not know if it is because I have been sick or if it is because I am not getting on in the language. I hope to speak well enough to get by. This language is very unlike English. It is more like Jamaican English. The accent is strong and the words are butchered and are not used appropriately. Religion seems to be a high priority with Liberians as well. I was warned not to say I was an Atheist at all. By claiming Buddhism, I was accepted. Buddhism is a general practice that I do try to incorporate in my life.

 

The worst part of this ordeal for me is the weather. It is getting better, but man if I had a fan over my bed at night, life would be sweet! I did finally meet my “Pa” last night. His name is Kingsly. Nice enough gentleman. It seems that although Liberians put men higher than women, the women are in charge. They run the households, they have all the say.

Today I got home while Madelin was fetching water. When she saw me she smiled and said “ChaCha! Hello!” This is progress! I left her some orange soda last night on the table. I think she liked it, I know she liked the chocolate from last week. Maybe later this week I will give her some Pringles and more soda!

 

It is starting to feel more like home now. I asked for no fish. I told “ma” rice and beans are my favorite. I got rice and beans tonight and they were delicious. I also got bananas and mangoes (plums) and some monkey berries (Lychee). I was asked today what my favorite part was in Africa and hands down I have to say the fruit.

 

I put a buzz in Sam’s ear today about wanting a site on the ocean. Sam is in charge of placement and he takes our personal desires into account. I have heard that both Buchanan and Robertsport are coming open. Either of those would be fantastic. To be able to swim in the ocean before bed each night would be heaven.

 

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Epic Man Eating Spider Battle!


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This morning I got up and took a bath. As I sat down for breakfast, I prepared my coffee. I was sitting at the table eating for 15 minutes or so, when something on the ceiling caught my eye. The biggest freaking spider on the planet was up there! I am not even kidding, it was so damn big I thought it would eat me. This monster pushed me outside to finish my breakfast. This girl is not about to be eaten during breakfast!

 

My “ma” said she would spray today. When I got home supper was on the table. I was looking forward to a meal with no fish! No fish! (Happy Happy, Joy Joy!) I was happily eating the beans and rice when I glanced up and that same, at least I hope there was not more than one, spider was looking at me, licking its chops! No it is so big it has visual chops! I decided I needed to eat outside. As I was getting up my “ma” came in and I told her I could not eat with the man eating spider there. She proceeded to spray bug spray, while my food was exposed, on the monster. I have no idea how but the stupid thing as it was falling leapt towards me. As it landed to close to me I screamed and nearly busted the chair trying to get away. “Ma” laughed at me and then she said oh it is dead. It then got up and moved, I was like that beast is not dead! She ran to get the little broom and dustpan. As she was trying to sweep it up, it crawled up the broom, to which she freaked out about. I laughed at her and said, see it is very scary. She laughed and finally corralled the stupid beast and shipped it outside somewhere.

 

I hear these spiders are prized by volunteers due to battling cockroaches to the death. I do not care, they must be outside if they can consume my whole hand in one bite. I have not had any bugs aside from mosquitos bother me yet, I hear the other trainees have cockroaches, the giant spiders and even mice in their rooms. Oh dear, I am going to have horrible nightmares for quite some time now.

 

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Peace Corps Week 2, Gender Equality and Liberian History.


This week started out with my birthday. I was also “adopted” into my new Liberian family on this day. It felt different and strange. The ceremony itself was long and these women walked up to receive their child as if they were giving birth. These are a funny bunch of women. My “ma” is more dignified and older, I suspect she placed me with her due to my age, I am the oldest in the group.

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We basically came home after the ceremony and I set up my bed, ate dinner and went to bed. Funny thing was the Peace Corps said we all had to carry our stuff and walk back, but due to a very heavy rain, they changed their minds. We were the last ones delivered home. In Liberian culture a home that is painted with concrete over the mud bricks is “rich”. The fact that we also have this strange vinyl covering on all the floors elevates the family another notch. Add to this a shared generator, and we are the queen bee here.

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My room is fairly large. The bed is adequate but the mattress sinks where you lay on it. The Peace Corps provided them, but the families get to keep them when we leave. This year they have implemented a home stay language aspect to the curriculum. Unfortunately I missed an assignment. My “ma” went to Monrovia Monday afternoon and did not return until late Tuesday/early Wednesday. I have been home with Madalin, who is 15 I think. She is a nice girl and a great cook, but we do not understand each other at all. I sent here for two coca colas and got two large water bottles instead. I came home late on Tuesday since I went for a beer after school with a large group of classmates. I was actually relieved my “ma” was late getting home. I did not have her number and it would be rude to have her worry about me.

 

Wednesday my language and cultural instructor walked me home to see where I live and meet my “ma”. She was in a church meeting until late, and this added to my frustration in the language part of the curriculum. It does not help that I was dehydrated and am still suffering from jetlag. I am so tired.

 

Thursday I came home early, I skipped watching the World Cup game due to not feeling well. I seem to be coming down with a cold, maybe even a sinus infection. When I arrived home “ma” was surprised to see me. Dinner was just starting and it has usually been done before I arrive home. She informed me that she had a meeting later that night, so I grabbed my notebook to ask her some of my gender studies questions. I was both surprised and delighted to know that her job with the police is with a domestic violence program. So violence against women and rape are being slowly addressed. We talked for quite awhile about this.

 

Later that night, her small sister came over. I decided it was time to share some chocolate with them. The picture on the front of the chocolate package was of great interest. It was a picture of a ferry in Seattle with the mountains in the background. I explained that the boat carries cars across the water to the island. This was a strange concept to them. I felt like I brought a little piece of my home to them. Just explaining that small thing made me feel so much more at ease.

 

I have experienced staring daily as I walk to and from school. Men on motorbikes or in cars rubberneck daily. I asked my “ma” about this. She said it could be my skin color, or even more likely it is my tattoos. They have not seen such colorful ones here before, or not much. She suspects they are really trying to see what they are. This makes me more proud of my ink than ever. Imagine explaining tattoos to an entire country! Oh and my lip rings the kids are really fascinated by. They want to reach up and touch them, I have had to put this to a stop quickly. I do not know where their grubby little hands have been. This is the same for children anywhere though!

 

My “ma” asked me Sunday night if I was a Christian, I told her I was Buddhist. It is not far from the truth. She simply stated that she had no idea what I would do while they were at church on Sunday! I informed her that I would sit under trees and think. She later asked me about my chest tattoo. I informed her that it reminded me daily when I see it that I am lucky to be alive. I told her about my collision and she simply asked who was at fault. I guess I understand more when the conversation is directed to me. I however cannot understand the children. They kept asking me if I was going to meriqua. I had no idea what they were saying, and I finally asked if they were asking me if I was going to America? Apparently that is how the children say it.

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All in all this is a nice place and I am not disappointed by the life here, although being left handed and vegetarian is proving to be a challenge. I am not a fan of the fish they have here, it has bones in it and they cook it whole. Other than that the food is grand. Spaghetti is fabulous, yes I said spaghetti! Although spaghetti for breakfast was a new one on me. I am disappointed by the lack of fruit served in the home. I hope to get some mangoes (plums) bananas and pineapple at the market this weekend. I also hope to find tape a mirror and coca cola to share with Madelin. Saturday will be a big day. I will do laundry, go to the market and hope to start learning to cook. I simply need to learn new techniques as I already do know how to cook. Dishes will be similar to hand washing back home. Laundry well it will likely be a paid out chore, just to avoid the tediousness of it.

 

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Site Visit and Gana Gana


We left the protective borders of Doe Palace to venture into many sites this week.  For the past three days we have all been separated out into smaller groups and sent to many sites.  First off I want you all to be aware that I will not die of Malaria, or pestilence or disease, I will surely die from Taxi rides.  To get to our sites required multiple taxi rides.  Our first taxi was overcrowded, but the car seemed safe and the driver was experienced.  In Liberia, a taxi will fill up as many people in the vehicle as humanly possible.  This includes livestock.  Most cabs, except those driving through Monrovia will have two people in the front seat.  They stuff anywhere from 4 to 6 people in the back seat and if there is no luggage or goods to carry three can typically ride in the trunk area.  Sometimes people will ride on the roof or stand on the bumper holding onto a rope in the back.  This is insanity, and thankfully Peace Corps does not allow us in the trunk, roof or anywhere there is no seat.  To ease comfort you can rent the whole vehicle if you require it.  I may rent the entire front seat from now on!

We got out of that cab and met Rachel, she commissioned our next cab, this situation was sketchy at best.  First the driver tried to jack the price up, she refused.  He then said he would bring the car to us.  In Liberia there seem to be no actual road standards.  People drive willy nilly and it is quite scary.  The taxi arrives, we get loaded and we climb in.  We pay our fare, and one guy counts and says yes ok.  The other  guy starts saying we are $40 LD (Liberian Dollars) short.  For a clarification the exchange rate is around $1 USD to $88 LD.  Rachel counted the money again and sure enough, instead of owing us back $50 LD he was short $40.  I think the first guy took money for gas, but who knows.  I also think I put in a $20 USD on accident.  Damn what a shitty mistake.

So we get loaded and the car is on its last leg.  Seriously, rusted out at the back door, no shocks, overheating and the backseat felt as though it would fall out the bottom.  As we drive along every single pothole feels like a jack hammer.  Every deep mud hole we cross water seeps into the car.  I thought we might die.  We finally arrive to the village of Gbarma, pronounced, Bahma.  The girls we are staying with are very generous and fun.  They have many stories from the last two years.  We were fed curry over rice, a real treat.  We were issued bug huts by the Peace Corps.  I must say this is the least comfortable or practical thing ever.  Sleeping in these is not a joy, it was very hot and no real breeze even though there weather was a bit cooler in the evening.

We went on a walkabout, which is what they call a walk.  No kidding this term is not just Australian.  The village has a market, but only on Wednesday, which we arrived too late to enjoy.  Many people have little shop fronts in their homes, but they all sell the same stuff.  They had a video club, which is a place to watch movies and a dance club where you can either buy beer and stay or buy beer to go.  Liberia has a decent lager called club beer, but I have not had it ice-cold yet, and this makes me sad. I do miss iced anything at this point.  In our homes we will either cook over a coal pot or buy a gas stove to cook on.

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There was a wake our last night in the village.  The hosts were obligated to go, so we joined.  It was awkward and strange to be set in the front of the bereaved family as honored guests, not knowing anyone.  After we left the wake we had brownies, and if you have never made brownies over a fire, it is amazing.  We also had Gana Gana, a fermented sugar cane “whiskey”.  Most of the others from our groups hated it, said it tasted like dirty water.  Ours was mixed in with an orange drink similar to Tang and lime was added.  It was not bad other than the gritty texture of the drink.

Bucket baths are a great experience and I highly recommend everyone try one.  Learn to flush using buckets of old bath and dish water.  My appreciation for modern conveniences has upped a bit in just a week.  Cooking over a coal pot is a unique experience, and we even had a travesty on the second night.  The pot of beans tipped over and water and beans spilled out.  We did not lose enough to  matter but I am now fully aware of the dangers of this style of cooking.  The second night we had burritos, and cooking beans takes just as long if not longer on a coal pot as on a regular stove.

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To start a coal pot people use plastic, rubber of if they can find it paper to light it.  As an enviro girl I am absolutely horrified by these things.  I wish I had a solution for this problem.  If anyone out there has a suggestion just let me know.  It is amazing how much trash is made in a country with so little.  The sign of true capitalism, I suppose is trash.  It also amazes me that for a country with no power supply, save gas generators the ability to own a cell phone is prevalent.  Everyone has one.  It just seems so strange to me.  I really hope to start a project on trash and refuse disposal.  It would be an amazing project to get off the ground.  I hear that one site has sidewalks and trash clean up.  I really look forward to visiting this site.

Our site was packed with kids.  First thing I took note of, the boys do not wear bottoms until they are around 9.  They just run around pant less.  At first I was disturbed by this fact, even worse is that they pee and poop anywhere, but the reality is, pant on these children would cause the mothers so much extra work.  No laundry from pooped pants is a blessing.  We were all given Ghola names at the site.  Mine was Jartu, pronounced Jahtu, the r is silent.  Anna was named Mousu, not certain on the spelling of that one.  Dani was given the name Kona.  When you give your village name in an introduction, most people will say oh, you are my sister, or my mother or auntie.  This means that they have someone named that in their family.  I ended up putting my metal piercings back in my lips due to losing every last acrylic I had.  Everytime I took a bath, brushed my teeth or ate I lost one.  I finally gave up.

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We got back today and learned how to do laundry in a bucket.  It actually is not that hard.  The worst part is waiting for it to dry.  I keep worrying about the rain.  Amazingly my jeans are almost dry, my t-shirts are a long way from being dry.  All in all I think this is the best decision of my life.  I may feel yucky and I may miss home, but I am already seeing things in a new way.  And that my friends was the entire point!

 

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Initial days in Africa, visions of rain and awe.


The flight out was long, it followed a 2 hours bus ride and a 5 hour wait in the airport.  I had a difficult time sleeping on the plane.  I could not get comfortable, I was totally exhausted by the time I got off the plane.  After getting through the customs and immigration, we were swiftly shifted onto a bus and driven upcountry to the  fairly decent sized city Kakata.   The first night was exhausting and the bus ride was about an hour and a half.  Our first meal was nice and quickly served.  I immediately unpacked enough to take a shower and crawl into bed.

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Sleeping with a mosquito net is very strange.  I am not a fan of having to sleep under it, but I am less a fan of getting malaria.  The food is spicy and not at all salty.  It is basic but filling.  I love having fresh bananas, pineapple and mangoes.  Cabbage is a common salad component as is green leaf.  I am fascinated by the salad dressing is just left out on the tables.  refrigeration is not common here.

Classes have been very intense and I need coffee so badly.  I am so happy that I finally found my coffee, grinder and french press.  I keep nearly falling asleep, but that actually could be part of the jet lag.  Today we actually ventured out into the markets.  It was like a swap meet with food.  Very young children carrying bags of water or treats to sell on their heads was a common thing.  The transportation here scares me.  The motorcycles seem to just go willy nilly down the roads.  Pedestrians are very near the traffic and it feels so unsafe.  We changed money over at some of the money vendors at the market.  I felt like I was going to be robbed today.  After I converted $70 to Liberian dollars at an exchange rate of $88 per $1 USD, the wads of money get quite large.

ImageI bought a bar of soap for $50 today, which in American money is literally $.70.  I had to remember that I have quite a large sum of money here and it seems there are no coins.  So for all of you who hate pennies, this is great news for you.  But, it comes at a price, sanitation, safety and modern conveniences are non-existent.

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I am still taking in all of my thoughts and I am so excited to be here.  I cannot believe that a life long dream is actually a reality.  Food is spicy, the weather is stifling, and the humidity is intense.  The people are wonderful and I am excited to see so much more of the country.  Tomorrow we head into the country and we get to spend 3 days visiting different sites.  I look forward to updating in a few days.

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