Making Research – Part 2

The road to BarpoluSo a lot of things have happened since I last posted. Usually I like to try and keep things in chronological order and preserve the flow of events from one to another. But to capture the business that was this past week, I’m just going to give little one paragraph accounts of the highlights from this banner week.

Tom, Aldoph, Laye, and I went to Buchana to do more cell phone usage surveys. On the way over there we stopped at a bridge to take some pictures and enjoy theFisherman scenery. I was walking along the bridge when all of a sudden I heard a loud explosion. I thought, “There’s no way something blew up, something big must have fallen, but what?” We were in the middle of the jungle, no big trash bins or other modern junk to be dropped. I spun around and 100 yards from the bridge was a huge water spout where something indeed had blown up. Now I was thinking the war was back on and we were being shelled. It turns out the man in the canoe 20 feet from the water spout was fishing… with dynamite. Apparently this is somewhat common. I was even told that this method of fishing is less preferable since the fish don’t stay fresh as long. Probably cause they’re blown up.

After the water fell back down, the man jumped in, and started throwing fish in the canoe. I feel like now I can go back to America and know that I indeed have seen everything. Tom and I also continued making research across Liberia. Here and here is the video from driving to Barpulo.

Continuing a theme from this summer I made two trips to the emergency room in one week. The first time was to take one of the security guards at the Carter Center to the ER to see his son who had been hit by a motorcycle. His son had a little cut above his eye, but was otherwise alright. I hear that he is now doing fine.

The 2nd time occurred after doing some kiosk testing at the University of Liberia. We were packing up when a bus drove through and clipped a power line. The line fell down and we all backed up to avoid getting zapped. A car drove up and people yelled at the driver to not drive over the line, but he kept coming. I’m not exactly sure what happened next because I didn’t see it, but I think a security guard was trying to move the wire before the car hit it and was either zapped by the line and cut himself falling down, or was cut by the wire when the car rolled over it and pulled it taunt, either way he hit the ground and when he got up he was bleeding everywhere from his chin.

Thankfully, the week before I had decided that it was ridiculous that I was riding around in a country with no emergency medical response system without so much as a Band-Aid in the car. So I made a first aid kit for GATECH-1. To treat the wounded man I went back to my days as a volunteer firefighter with Station 17 in St. John’s county, FL, I did the thing you should always do first in such a situation, I put on latex gloves. Then I grabbed some gauss and told the man to apply pressure to his chin. While trying to find out how the man was feeling and what he’d like to do next. A crowd had gathered and the driver of the car was now yelling and getting very, very belligerent. He was just going crazy yelling at people, and of course, people were yelling back, even the injured security guard would take the gauss away and yell back at him.

After a minute of this I walked away. I didn’t want to be in the middle of a brawl, and my efforts to help were being ignored. Thankfully, a second later a lady brought over the security guard and asked that we take him to the hospital. At this point his supervisor had shown up so we had him accompany us to the hospital. I still need to call the supervisor to find out how the guard is doing. The cut wasn’t too bad, nothing life threatening, but he definitely needed a few stitches.

Earlier at the University of Liberia, I had a great discussion with some students about American politics. Who is going to win our election is a big deal. One guy said McCain was going to win. I asked why and he said because some American’s don’t want a woman as president, and some don’t want a black man, so McCain is the only one left. Another said the he had been watching American news shows and the news anchor had made a remark that even he could beat McCain right now.

It was so nice to have a real, intelligent, and fun conversation with Liberians. It was very cool to hear their thoughts. One man told me how much he loved watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Earlier that week Sean from the Carter Center, Tom, and I had been making fun of Wolf Blitzer for his style of reporting. Always saying things like, “Now for those people who are at home, and who can’t see what you’re seeing, over there, where you are, on the ground, tell us what you see happening right now.” The Liberian gentleman said he liked Wolf’s calm composure. I said, “Of course he’s calm. He’s in America.”

Here are some pictures of our video kiosk project being tested around Monrovia. Check out that sweet tent.

We picked up a new GT person for the week. Martin Bednar is a master’s student who had worked on the video kiosk project and also wanted to test some ideas for aN Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system for cell phones. IVRs are what you get when you call a place and hear, “For finance press 1, for…” This was Martin’s first time in Sub-Saharan Africa, so Tom and I decided to have some fun with him. We had our research assistants, Aldoph and Laye, hold up a sign with Martin’s name on it. We told them to meet Martin and tell him that we had been delayed and that we wouldn’t be able to meet Martin at the airport. We also told them to tell him that it wasn’t safe to take taxis, so they’d have to walk 40 miles to town. We hid around the corner and watched martin get out of the airport, meet, the guys, and then start walking down the road. It was pretty funny, and Martin handled it well. He didn’t freak out about any of it. I was kinda impressed.

I spent 2 hours at Eco Bank trying to get my money out to pay rent. It was by far the most unpleasant thing I’ve endured while in Africa. Somehow it bothered me more than getting my stuff stolen. It was quite a test of patience. I just had to remind myself how fortunate I was to have money in a bank, and a place to pay rent for. Not to mention that I purposefully chose to come to a country with such an arcane banking system. But it really made me wonder how they can be so slow. I mean they do have computers at the counters. They aren’t looking up balances in a ledger somewhere. At least, I hope not.

I walked in on David “Deacon” Cortie at the Carter Center counting petty cash. He probably had $10,000USD on the table. I was like, “Whoa that’s a lot of money.” He said, “No this is nothing.” And I was like well that’s still a lot to me. He then told me how during the war he worked for MSF (Doctors Without Borders) and had helped them bring money in from Sierra Leone. During the war banks wouldn’t send wire transfers to Liberia, and airlines wouldn’t fly to Liberia, so David would drive to Sierra Leone and pick up $300,000USD to pay MSF’s expenses in Liberia!!! I couldn’t believe it. He said the white people where too scared of being killed by rebels so he would drive over there, hide all of the $100s under the upholstery and then drive back like nothing was up!!! Crazy.

For those of you who saw my post about Jonathan needing a micro loan, he has received the requested amount. I’ll keep you all posted on his progress. Thanks for all the interests. I had several people contact me.

It was raining the other day and I was leaving my apartment with the headlights and wipers on. The security guard ran up and tapped on my window. I rolled it down and he goes, “your lights are on!” He thought I had accidently turned them on and was worried I’d run the battery down. I explained to him how it was illegal to not have your lights on in such conditions where I come from. All I could think was that this country has a way to go. It really makes me sad, and angry, when I see all the totally dangerous stuff people do on the road here. I feel Sad because they’re going to kill themselves, and others, and angry, because it’s so pointless. So often motorcyclists don’t have their lights on at night, or will ride around with the helmet right in front of them on the handle bars, but not on their head. I just don’t think they know that when I plow into them at night because I can’t see them, they’ll die because they aren’t wearing a helmet. Or they think it’s cool to not have their lights on and not wear helmets. The later is even a problem in the states.

I’ve been pulled over 3 times this week. The first time was in the 4Runner. I think I was a victim of racial profiling, and not having NGO license plates. The cop told me he pulled me over because people often drive with expired or invalid license plates. I showed him the paper work and he let me go. I was then pulled over at the same intersection again on my bike for the same reason. I showed him the license plate on the back of my bike and he let me go. I was afraid he was pulling me over for passing cars on the right. Nope, just wanted to make sure my papers were in order.

The 3rd time I was pulled over because the guy from the TRC who I was giving a ride to didn’t have a helmet on. He said I was being arrested and would have to take my bike to the central police station. I asked how we would get there, and he said he’d ride with me up there. So I asked where his helmet was. He said he didn’t need one. So I asked why, if I was being pulled over for a passenger not having a helmet, he wouldn’t need one. How can you uphold the law, if you don’t practice it yourself? So after five minutes he let me go. If I had known I was going to be giving rides I would have brought my extra helmet with me. From my above statements I do believe in helmet use. I would carry the extra helmet with me everywhere if it wouldn’t get stolen.

And finally I was driving down Tubman Blvd with Sean, and another guy, when 3 UNMIL tanks pulled out from 9th street in front of us. To be honest they weren’t really tanks, just armored personal carriers, but they had tank tracks, and machine guns. It was kinda surreal driving behind tanks on the road. They were just cruising along like it was nothing. I didn’t have to pull over for them or anything like when the president drives through. Sean told me to get closer behind them to take a picture. I was like, “yeah right they might shoot us.” Sean said, “It’s the UN. They can’t shoot us.” Oh the UN.

Later that night I managed to get the Carter Center pick-up stuck when I tried to drive over a sidewalk after being blocked in at golden beach. I hadn’t counted on the rear wheels digging out the dirt by the sidewalk making the drop off from sidewalk to ground taller than the tire. I also didn’t know that I had to lock the front wheels to get 4×4 to work. Thankfully some nice folks came and we lifted the truck out. Sean can’t drive stick and so I’m his night time driver.

And speaking of Golden Beach, the famous beach front dining experience in Monrovia, Golden Beach’s beach is about half the size of what it was. This past weekend a huge swell came in from somewhere in the Atlantic. It brought 10 to 15 foot waves that reshaped the landscape. Michael and I tried to go out and surf them, but we couldn’t get out, we just got really tired really fast. At any rate, a lot of beaches here are now really small.

And that’s Liberia.


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