A New Life

July 29, 2009

Well…this is a different kind of post!  I have lots of information to share…got really excellent pictures and video of the July  26th celebration…particularly of the Liberian Cultural dancers (not including the negative connotations of native) and of Madame President Sirleaf…I will post those over the next day or so.  Thanks for all of those who have been following my journey.  I’ve been trying to post when I can…however, I have been busy and am not always able to get to an internet connection. For those of you who know me, you also know I can be pretty closed and private.  However, I believe this experience should be shared…especially for those who are contemplative about life.

Yesterday, we headed out to visit a farm.  I was pretty excited about it…the food was going to be excellent (big thing for me since I am not typically excited about food), I was going to spend an evening in one the large agricultural settings, and would have some good time out in another area of the interior.  I was sitting in the backseat working on a presentation I am to give tonight, when I heard someone in the car yell.  At this point, I didn’t even have a chance to look up.  We must of been traveling at a speed of 80 – 100 mph, (international rules differ a bit), and the driver lost control of the car.

The car flipped end over end at least 3 times…not side over side…end over end…the seat belt saved my life because everything was thrown out of the car…when the car stopped it landed next to a stump that we had flipped over, did you hear me say over,…a few feet of a difference and it would of penetrated the car and impaled someone…I was sitting in the back seat…you see that dent where the roof of the car is bent up…well that was me being tossed around inside of the car even with the belt on…

The Auto

I imagine that we all may have different things that go through our mind when something like that happens.  I never lost consciousness…I was actually very lucid.  While the car was spinning, I first thought…SHIT…this is not good (ok, now is not the time for political correctness)…I thought about when would be stop…I wondered if there was a ravine we were about to roll down…as we kept spinning, I thought about my four children…my loved ones…parents should not have to bury their kids…I even thought about ‘Left Eye’ of TLC…I thought about my grandfather…

Auto II

I had my computer in my hands…and you know I will kill a fool over one of my laptops…my window to the world :)…and as the car kept flipping…I let it go…and it was thrown from the car like everything else…and when we finally came to a stop…I immediately responded by trying to be aware of my body so as to try and do whatever I could do to maintain myself because I wanted to live…the car stopped, I started smelling for gas…and immediately pushed open my door to get out…still trying to make sure I could tell if I was ok…


I then started to help others out of the car!  This was a road where you may see a few people sporadically, but not a lot of people…but, then out from the bush people started coming…like they were coming out of nowhere…  Now, the folks in the interior can be very spiritual.  In fact, they tend to be highly connected to what some would call the spiritual world in as much as others are connected to the material world.  As I stood there in shock and in a daze…people came running out of the push…picking up our stuff…one man came running towards me with my laptop that had been thrown out of the car…people were picking up papers…and you could also hear people crying…  Some were running up to the car crying…as if they had been called from a far distance by a sense that some disorder had taken place that threatened the sacredness of life…  It was completely amazing…

These people were all so helpful…interestingly, the United Nations has a huge contingent here.  At least 10 UN trucks drove by without even stopping…one even almost ran into us…a truck from the organization Dr.s Without Borders also drove right by…and UN Ambulance also just drove right by…I guess I don’t have to say anything else about that…It is a wonderful thing that we all had on seat belts, and there were no immediately terminal injuries or we would of all been able to interpret the different perspectives that others have around the world when it comes to the UN…Except this time…it would of been our own experience!!!  One group who were in a UN truck stopped to investigate…they came with the police…but, they wouldn’t even allow us to sit in the UN truck inorder to gather ourselves….ok, enough said about that…

A Liberian tax driver had stopped!  They shuffled a few people around and took us to the hospital…Phebe Hospital…  The Dr.’s checked us out…said we would live another day 🙂  and so I headed back out…


Needless to say…this was an experience that I wasn’t counting on.  Often times in convesating with people…it is said, wow if I was young again.  I’ve never been one of those people.  Hell, it was hard enough getting through some of that stuff the first time…If I don’t have the knowledge of living to guide me, why would I want to go back through the same stupid mistakes I have already made.  Plus, it is a waste of time to deal to much with the hypothetical…instead…I am like a cat who has nine lives 🙂  That experience of rolling around in that car in rural Liberia, was a journey to another dimension.  Makes you thing about the future…so that is what I will deal with… Instead of talking about reliving life…how about what are you going to do with your New Life?  A day starts…you go through your routine…then the routine becomes not so routine…and it is over…what if you are given another chance…what would you add to your life?  How would you treat people?  What would you do to make it a better place?  Well, that is where I am…Looking forward…fortunately, I was here anyway to do what I could to help somebody…so I will continue on with that…what a great way to help yourself…to help somebody else 🙂

In the mean time…anybody I’ve hurt or pissed off….please  forgive me…and I don’t have any grudges against anyone who has do the same to me!

I saw Abraham, Noah, Elijah, Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, Buddha, a few Sacred Cows…and everybody else on my road to Damascus 🙂  My Kids:  Don’t worry…Daddy is still banging 🙂

Ok…A New Life…on with the Journey…

As I said…great pics and stories to come…



July 24, 2009

This is the view from the hill above the gate at Cuttington University.  As with most roads in the interior, they disappear quickly into the bush…the pine trees on the highways in Georgia can be thick…but this stuff here, redefines thickness…I’ll write tomorrow about how dark it can get 🙂  This is just one of the many views of the interior…strangely beautiful, no stores, commercial signs, exits…just bush…and it keeps going, and going, and going…oh yeah…there are no toilets and there are plenty…each bush or no  bush 🙂  The gate is entirely brand new!

View from Campus Gate

I don’t believe I mentioned this in prior posts; however, a huge opportunity for me is that this coming Sunday (July 26th) represents the 162nd anniversary for the founding of the country.  This is a big deal every year…and they also have the celebration in different parts of the country each year to promote engagement and development.  This year the celebration is in Grbanga, Suakoko, Bong County.  Madame President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will be here along with only God knows how many other people.  This should be interesting.  Last year and sat not to far from her at a football/soccer game when the national team played Senegal at (SKD) Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium…again, this stadium was renovated and donated by the Chinese…is the international politics getting any clearer 🙂

First thing upon arrival, we stopped by the gate because some of the President’s team were there organizing an event:

Iron Ladies

Minister of Foreign Affair King-Akerele (Stylish Liberian outfit facing us) and Minister of State Parkinson (Lady in Black)…they were discussing the dedication of the monument for Madame Suakoko that I mentioned earlier.  With all the events that will be taking place later this week and this weekend, I’ll be sure to post some pics on those…but, those of you who know me…also know that I can be anti-social some times…so lets keep our fingers crossed…may turn into Jeremiah Johnson…but, I won’t wander to far…just back to my place 🙂 …speaking of my place:

Guest House

This is my day to day abode…it is the guest house…very simple accomodations…it holds a few rooms for out of towners.  The great thing is that it is the rainy season…so the temperature doesn’t get above 82 everyday…thank da lawd 🙂  Whew, last time I was here in April, it was like an episode out of the Green Mile, where Wild Bill was screaming…they’re cookn em boss, they’re cookn em…ooooweeee, I can smell em…even being from savannah…it was hot as…you get the picture…and no air…so I am thankful 🙂

This is the road I walk several times a day…once in the morning, twice in the afternoon, and once in the evening…beautiful rich red dirt…of course as you walk…things are running next to you in the grass…I say things because you don’t necessarily see them, but you hear them and know that they are there 🙂  Let your imagination take it from there 🙂

Morning Walk

Very peaceful walk.  Gives you time to think…is there anything else to do…reflect on life, capture of the benefit of slowing things down.  Coming around the first bend before you walk up the hill…you come to the fish farm.  Yes, the fish farm.  They have several ponds off the side of this road where they are raising fish.  They also raise chickens and cattle…in fact, you see chickens everywhere…and I do mean everywhere…it is almost as if everyone has a few…and the little chicks are also everywhere…these are the chicks I saw this morning on the way into the office…sweet little pieces of meat 🙂  especially with some palm oil and pepper 🙂


Also on the way into work, I usually pass the fellas who maintain the fish farms…they use cutlasses to cut the grass…a cutlass is like a piece of metal…maybe about 2.5 feet…the metal at the end of it is loose…so that when you swing it…it can go parallel to the ground and cut the bush/grass…the ones I have seen thus far…the blade is just several inches long…so when you use a cutlass you are going to work!  In the states, sometimes we have to bust a head to get our kids to cut grass with a lawnmower…could you imagine home many times children services would have to come to the house if we made them use a cutlass 🙂

Working the Farm

Don’t remember if I posted this before, but this is my little temporary work area…very comfortable…great view…they have made me feel right at home…

My Temp Office

One thing about this experience that stands out for me…we have quantified human life so much…put such emphasis on income and wealth…however, out here…I have to make some adjustments because there is nothing to buy…so I don’t need that much money…I have what I need.  Sometimes, our thoughts on poverty are based upon what we impose on others…and that really says more about ourselves than other people.  Regularly someone will walk up and offer me something…they may not have much…but, they value what they have…and more importantly they are willing to share what they have…interesting comparison to life in the states…where we often times don’t even know the name of the person across the street.   So it is a real special experience to become a part of the group.  Yesterday, a woman brought me some bananas…I looked at them for a minute…then ate one…and let me tell you…that was the best DAMN banana I have ever had…it even tasted like a banana 🙂 …crazy American…in fact, it was better than a banana…it was fresh, rich in flavor…and it meant something to the person who gave it to me…which made it even better!  It meant the world to me!


Of course in the states our interpretations are based on our history…however, we typically don’t know much about African or in this case the history of Liberia.  The history of Liberia is closely connected to the United States.  It was formally settled by freed slaves from the U.S.; some states even sponsored colonies for the freed slaves; and the U.S. from time to time provided military aid and leverage to help the settlers form into a country.  Amongst many other factors, many Liberians feel a close kinship to America.  For our benefit, I am posting a brief blurb about this city Suakoko and the person of which it is named after.  If you are interested you can ask questions, or just do some research on some of the terms you will find. Her history is particularly significant if you research the dynamics associated with the formal founding of the Republic of Liberia, the evolution of relations between ‘Americo-Liberians’ and tribes already in place, as well as the mechanisms utilized to establish governance: provisional chiefs, district commissioners, etc…Books to read: “Mask of Anarchy” “The Evolution of Deadly Conflict in Liberia: from ‘Paternaltarianism to State Collapse

This information is great just on the history of Liberia, but if you want some pragmatic information that provides transferable information on why and how certain cultures (e.g. some Islamic areas) are at mortal conflict with the U.S….then these are really good reads.

I am posting this because President of Liberia will be here soon to dedicate a statue in honor of Madame Suakoko…enjoy 🙂

Madam Suakoko was born in the 1860s at a time when her parents resided in a small village known as Nyalensu, near present day Suakoko.  Her mother came from Gboryorkweler and the father was a native of Kiayea.  She was given the name Koko at birth and acquired the added name of Sua after graduating from the Sande school.

Sua grew up in Kiayea, today a part of Suakoko District.  She spent some of her youthful years living with her maternal grandparents in Gboryorkweler near the village of Galai.  Sua was a remarkable person as her compatriots acknowledged her ability to unite people.  She is said to have played major roles in organizations and often brought order to chaotic situations.

Sua mastered the arts and traditions of her people much faster than her peers.  It is reported that she quickly learned to identify medicinal plants and the oral traditions from the leaders much quicker than others in her age group.  Legend has it that she received her leadership skills from God.  She was soon recognized as a “Zoe” in training amongst her peers.

When President Daniel E. Howard (1912-1920)  appointed Madam Suakoko Clan Chief of Kiayea her first task was to unify the clan. This she did by asking her kinsmen in Galai and Balama to work with her in the administration of the region.  Thus the villages of Balama and Galai became parts of Suakoko Clan.  Among the many Africans who rendered far reaching assistance to Liberia in her penetration process-establishing effective control in what is today Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties was Suakoko.  The assistance provided included intelligence, logistics and hospitality.  Through intelligence provided by Suakoko, Government forces knew the strength, troop movements, and strategies of the enemies, especially Jorquelleh which refused Government troops passage through her territory.

Madam Suakoko also provided the Liberian Commander Lt. Robert Alexander Harper with porters to convey arms and ammunition as well as the personal effects of Government soldiers.  Finally, through the hospitality of Suakoko, Government troops were able to regain strength and energy lost during their long trek from Monrovia and continue their long march to the far regions of Lofa, Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties.

In addition to her assistance on the military front, Madam Suakoko also contributed immensely to the establishment of three major institutions in her District. Her excellent negotiation skills resulted in the successful establishment of the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), Phebe Hospital, and Cuttington University in the District. These institutions have greatly contributed to the living standards of Suakoko residents in particular and the nation of Liberia as a whole.

Madam Suakoko administered the region effectively and was a strong ally of the Liberian government in the interior, until her death in the early 1930’s.




July 21, 2009

After a solidly four hour drive…and I do mean four hours…you can tell the progress.  The roads are much better, by better I mean less huge pot holes…everything is so much cleaner.  I  believe at least once a week they have a national clean up day…to remove the trash.  You even see regular citizens throughout the day, when they walk by and see trash…they will pick it up and put it in the proper container…

Now, Monrovia is the major city…it is urban and has all those characteristics of high population areas.  Suakoko…Gbranga…Bong County…now that is the Interior!!!  The Interior is when we really talk ab out ‘Interpreting Differences’ and transitioning cultures…modernization versus traditionalism, young vs. old, or even new generations needing to acquire their future gains through the elders versus the more modern or market based mechanisms of just getting out there and going for yours.  Every society, I imagine, has organizations where people engage in their cultural activities; however, in areas such as this (Interior West Africa), young people traditionally were a major part of the participation and this served as a mechanism to transfer cultural values and roles while maintaining the structure of the social group.

One of the many books I read to prepare for this trip, was a piece by John Gay.  Gay spent some number of untold decades in this area and really put together some of the most culturally insightful literature I have come across.  It is a very quick read, most interesting, and very helpful in regards to developing an appreciation for another way of looking at things.  Especially when it comes to the implications of modernization on traditional culture.  A lot of transferable lessons…particularly when we look at the conflict between western culture and those dominated by Islam.  Red Dust on the Green Leaves…just like the south…the dirt is VERY RED…


After a nice long drive, deep into the Interior…heading North towards Guniea…we arrived at Suakoko.  Cuttington University is supported by the Episcopal Church of the United States and is the oldest private four year degree granting institution in sub-saharan Africa…How about that?  🙂

This is the new Gate…when I was here a few months ago…they were just delivering the materials…now it is up and running.


This is where I’ll be working…Will fill you in on my assignment at a later time.  But for now, it will include reviewing the service learning curriculum and providing training on such.  I will also be providing training on statistical analysis for use in quantitative and policy analysis.  All this will include a train the trainer format so that ultimately they have increased capacity to train others.  If it is all based on one person, it is useless.  If participants can then take the information, culturally modify it if need be, then train the next crew…and the next, and the next, and the next…then we will have done something 🙂

This is the building that I work in…so far anyway for the first few days.  It is a new building, just finished a few weeks ago.  Guess who built it?  The Chinese…still making those inroads!

Office Building

And inside the building they have given me this quaint little office to use for a time.  My office:

My Temp Office

During the day, there is a great demand for the internet bandwith….so it can be difficult; so in the future I will post when I can…mostly in the evenings or early mornings I guess.

I’ve got a ton of pics…I’ll post some…but, most will get posted when I get back on my major web-site.  Thanks for checking me out and all the hits…makes a person feel like they are actually doing something.  Suakoko, Liberia…hell-uv’a long way from almost flunking out of High School 🙂


Suakoko, Here I am!

July 20, 2009

Well, all my arrangements came through…as they eventually do.  Sometimes it gets shaky, but with patience it comes through…the experience thus far has been great!  The folks at the Royal remember me now from the other trips so it is wonderful to renew old acquaintances and feel comfortable in your environment.  Something how four hours of a time difference can really throw you off, maybe I am just getting old, but it is kickin my _ _ _…if you know what I mean…

The good thing about this trip is that I have been here enough to adjust to the initial bombardment of a new experience drastically different than my usual life, so that I can actually soak up some of the deeper nuances and just enjoy.  Now I am more careful with my camera for the last thing I want to convey is something negative.  And you know, we as Americans can tend to be so caught up in our conveniences, appearances, and simplicities that we are quick to look funny when something isn’t the same or doesn’t appeal to our silly sensibilities.  Let me tell you something…there are challenges here…having been through a war this long makes that obvious…but, these people are RICH!!! In so many other ways…they know how to live…which some of us who have abundance could actually learn from them.  So…keep that in mind when you go through my Blog and see the pics…

My man Jerry Mbagwe, special assistant to the President of Cuttington University, picked me up from the hotel that morning…and since Jerry is such an excellent reader of people, he knew to immediately take me to the local watering hole and get me a nice cold guiness…this is foreign stout guiness…not that water we get in the States Draught Bottle…yuck!  One thing about West Africa…things may get rough, but you can usually find a cold guiness somewhere close 🙂

Jerry Mbagwe

Janie’s was a great spot…right across the street is the huge empty complex of the Ministry of Defense built when Samuel K. Doe was President.  The building was not finished and currently sits empty…I’ll post pictures of that one on my web-site later.  After our cold beer, a friend of Jerry’s friend had us over to her home for lunch.  It is located right behind Jenie’s…’oh’…let me tell you…the food was so Good! 🙂  We had ‘Rie’…Liberian for Rice…and when you say Liberian…the ber is pronounce beer…as in Libeerian…emphasis on the ‘b’ 🙂  We had Rie, chicken with eggplant and palm oil with African pepper!  Now, African pepper is not regular pepper…if you are not ready, or have a weak stomach…it will clean your insides out 🙂  But, I love it…it is so good…now the Palm Oil, if you are not familiar with it…It will make a rubber tire taste good!  They take the fruit from the palm tree and gather them up…put them in a press and squeeze it until the oil comes out…imagine somewhat of what they do with Olives to make olive oil…except in this instance we are talking about Palm Oil…it is a staple with rice…

I’m sure my Dr. won’t be happy with me because of the Cholesterol…but, hell what am I supposed to do…the Dr. will say why is it high…I will say, because I ate Palm Oil, Dr. will say why did you do that, ( in a chastising kind of way) and I will say sarcastically…because, it like…”TASTES GOOD” 🙂 ok?


that is my Clean plate on the left…as we might say in Liberia…”Happy Belly”

On my site, I’ll eventually post a brief history on Liberia…suffice it to say for now though that there has been serious conflict off and on since the Military Coup in 1980.  The vast majority of the infrastructure was destroyed and untold atrocities visited upon the Liberian people.  When I first landed in 2007 on a UN jet, there was a burned out jet with a rocket hole in the side.  How do you think you would feel landing next to that :/  It was sad to see how bad things were those first few trips.  But, I am so proud to say that the Liberian people with the leadership of Madame President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf  “O’ Ma” as in “Old Ma”  are really making a strong come back!!!

On the way to Suakoko from Monrovia, we passed the new campus for the University of Liberia at Fendall..The Chinese are building it…and if you have been keeping up with China and Africa you can see that they are investing heavily to build relationships…

UofL Fendall

And on the way past Fendall, of course we saw the rubber trees.  A huge component of Liberian foreign relations is comprised of the role of Firestone in the development or lack thereof in Liberia.  For those of us in the developed countries, we all know to well the high demand for rubber in our countries.  Huge plantations of Rubber trees still comprise the terrain of Liberia…ever seen a Rubber tree?  They are the ones off in the distance with the White coloring.

Rubber Trees

Well, It is getting late…I’ll be posting tomorrow if I get some time.  After that I will probably begin to wax eloquent on the spiritual implications of my visit…may be a cross between Edgar Allen Poe and Robert Frost, but I’ll try and keep it together!

Thanks for the support, thus far!


Ever been interested in hearing a Liberian Band that plays a full array of Elvis songs…how about Country Music…and you would of never thought that they could play “take me home”…”to a place”…”called”…”West Virginia”…do you think they know about WV… ok, you get the point…it was nice though 🙂  I would of liked to hear some Liberian music…

The Band

I always enjoy Elvis, but had to eventually head outside…and there I saw a friend I had previously made.  I remember him from last time…his name is ‘Bush Meat’ or ‘Sweat Meat’:

Small Meat

Or as some of the Liberians would say, “Good for Soup”  🙂  Yes, a little Palm Oil and some Rice…our little friend may have a destiny 🙂  I am surprised he has been around this long…well…bless him!

Tomorrow, I’ll be off to the Bush!



Just Landed

July 18, 2009

Whew…what a long couple of days…wasn’t as bad a trip as usual. Savannah to Newark to Brussels to Monrovia…each flight was delayed at least one hour for technical difficulties. Glad they are checking the plane though! Left at 12:16, afternoon, from Savannah on Thursday…arrived in Monrovia Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. There is a four hour difference…4:00 in Savannah…8:00 here.

Landing at Roberts field (named after the first President) is always awesome though. The coast is beautiful!!!

Stepping off the Plane

This must be one of the better times of the year in terms of weather.  Usually, when I come it has been between April and June…smoking hot…when you step off the plane it is like walking into a sauna with all of your clothes on.  But, the weather is fairly mild now…a bit of rain everyday…very nice!

On the way to Monrovia, you can see so many positive changes taking place since I first started coming back here in 2007.  So much cleaner, roads much nicer…and they have even started building new housing.  A big relief since when I first came there was a burned out jet with a hole in it (maybe from a rocket) sitting on the runway.  On the way in, you see all the different types of housing, fruit, palm oil and such being sold on the side of the road.  This time the driver needed something for home.  So we stopped so they could get ‘choco’.  Now keep in mind, Liberians speak English…but it is Liberian English…they also speak several different languages…but keep in mind they come from a different family of languages.  It takes some time usually to develop an ear for Liberian English…think of it as the emphasis goes to the dominant consonants  and vowels..the weaker ones get drowned out…so you really have to listen…even though I have an ear for it…it took me a minute to realize ‘choco’ was really charcoal 🙂  They use it for the ovens to cook ‘te food’ 🙂

Buying Charcoal

Very nice people!  Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll be heading out to Suakoko…one thing you learn in Liberia…things don’t always go as you think they might 🙂  It’s ok though…it is a part of ‘Interpreting Differences’.  So as technology allows, I will be posting…in the mean time, here are some pics from this a.m…enjoy:

Light traffic on a Saturday Morning:

Light Traffic on Saturday

Young Liberian Boy selling eggs, when I saw him later in the day…he had sold all of his eggs:

Liberian Boy Selling Eggs

Liberian Boy and Girl selling Lettuce:

Liberian Boy and Girl Selling Lettuce

A major form of transportation in Liberia is the ‘Peh’ Peh’…imagine the sound of a horn on a motor bike, ‘Peh’, ‘Peh’…they are all over the place…everywhere you go…you hear ‘Peh’ ‘Peh’, ‘Peh’ Peh’…in some areas you will see a group of them…called the ‘Peh’ ‘Peh’ boys…sometimes if you give up some money…they’ll give you a ride…at the corner where you may see dozens or more of them…they call that the ‘Peh’ ‘Peh’ station…Liberians are known for how they put together these interesting sayings!!!

Peh' Peh' Transportation

This is a common sight…Liberians can’t afford to sit back and be entitled…everywhere you look, somebody is working…like this young Liberian girl carrying her work:

Young Girl carrying work

On a typical day you see the yellow cab everywhere.  Talk about overload…sometimes when you see them it looks like a college frat party trick…almost to the point of arms and legs hanging out of the car…”They do what they have to do, and get where they need to get to” 🙂

Yellow Cabs Everywhere

And let us not forget the side street shop…carvings and such…if you need something…stand there long enough and someone will come sell it…well, not everything 🙂

Shop on Side of Road

When I find a place with enough internet speed, I’ll be uploading a lot of pics to my website.

Look in the Photo Gallery…

This is life in the city (Monrovia), life in the country looks quite a bit different!

More later!


Interpreting Differences

July 13, 2009

Over the past year, I participated in a seminar called “Interpreting Differences”.  People with a variety of differences including race, gender, background got together on multiple occasions to talk about how we interpret situations differently.  A lot of good came out of it, as we improved our communication skills and learned to include an appreciation for how others think.  Now, I get a chance to take this to another level.

I am on my way to Gbranga, Liberia.  Over the years, I have spent time/worked in Liberia on several occasions.  However, this time I’ll actually be spending a significant amount of time outside of the capital city (Monrovia) and will be immersed in the rural areas in Bong County.  This time I’ll be going back to Liberia as the first Fulbright Specialist working in country since the Civil war began in the early 90’s.    Because I’ll be working to expand their capacity to re-build their own country,  I’ve spent a significant amount of time studying up on Liberian culture, the Kpelle people, and broader issues facing the country.

One book I read was ‘Mask of Anarchy’…talk about Interpreting Differences!

Interestingly, the Kpelle people migrated to West Africa around the 1500’s.  They are the largest clan/tribal group in Liberia.  During the era of Human Trafficking, the Kpelle were one of the groups (forest clans) that were regularly rounded up in the Slave Raids by some of the other tribes who participated heavily in the Slave Trade.  Completely throw away the notion that it was just the Europeans…some tribes made a living off of the slave trade.  To the point where they engaged in armed conflict with others to maintain their lucrative positions in the trade…Look up King Joe Harris (Bassa).

So it really drives personal reflection to go back to Africa as a Fulbright Specialist to work in an area dominated by the Kpelle people…who in large part could actually be my own ancestors.

I’ve got a few more days to prepare…and also make sure I’m caught up on all my work!  While I am working in Liberia, I’ll regularly post pics and my thoughts on this Blog.  But, I’ll also be posting on my new web-site.  I’ve been working on a book over the past couple of years…It should be ready to go to print when I get back.  To go with the book, I have a web-site to support the concept : Taking Ownership.  So follow along with me on my journey of immersion in West African culture.

My new web-site will be up in a few days: http://www.takingownership.org

It is under construction so be patient with me!  If you look in the photo gallery, I’ll also be posting pictures of my various travels.  There is a pretty interesting set of photos of Cape Coast Slave Castle in Ghana.

Interpreting these Differences…should be very interesting!