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!