Last night I went to the Liberian Basketball Association’s final championship game. The Kings played the Pythons. The match was held at the basketball arena downtown off of Broad Street. When we arrived there were already cars parallel parked all along the road… two deep. So what did we do? We just parked behind another car that was parallel parked in front of other cars blocking them in. This police officer walked up and motioned to us. I thought he was going to tell us not to park there because we were blocking the other cars in. Nope, he just asked that we move further forward so more cars could fit in. I love Liberia.
We paid 100LD each to get in and then walked through the gate. Sean, of Carter Center fame, made the comment, “this is like those basketball courts you see in video games that you don’t think really exists.” It was dusk, the sky was purple with the setting sun, bombed out buildings and the skeleton’s of skyscrapers peeked out just over the stands, six halogen lights on simple poles shown down on the court providing the only light. The stands were concrete block risers with 2″x6″s for seats. They couldn’t be simpler. Boys walked around selling beer, soft drinks, water, and candy. The court was old and worn. Lonestar, the country’s biggest GSM operator, sponsored the arena and had their name on everything.
The game was pretty good. There was a lot of carrying and traveling. And quite a few fouls. But on the whole it wasn’t half bad. It was entertaining to watch. At half time two local artists came out and lip synced to their song. I don’t know why they do that, but it seems to be what you do here when you provide a concert. There were two artists and one mic. It was pretty obvious they weren’t really singing, but everyone loved it. Also entertaining the crowd was a little kid who could bust a move. He couldn’t have been older than 4, but he sure could dance. Everyone went crazy for him. People even threw some LD at him. The kids parents yelled at a few people who got to close to him. It was pretty fun to watch the whole thing.
As they game drew near the final minutes the score was tied. People started standing up and getting really into it. With 50 seconds left the Kings pulled ahead by 2, then by 6. It was clear they were going to win. People started throwing bottles and cans on the court. Lots of yelling started. Some people started screaming at each other. Pewee, Also of Carter Center fame and a legendary photo journalist, looked at us and said, “Lets go.” When a Liberian tells you it’s time to go, it’s time to go. So we left. Thankfully we weren’t blocked in by a 3rd row of parallel parking so we speed off into the night.
On a completely unrelated note, roads are being fixed all around town. A lot of Monrovia’s worst roads have been fixed. From Freeport to Capital bye pass, and now UN Drive has been the latest to get a face lift. A few months ago they finished up Tubman Blvd. and just the other day I was completely thrown off when UN Drive was blocked because they were redoing the stretch between Center Street and Randal Street, no doubt the bumpiest road in Monrovia. It’s exciting to see this kind of progress. But what am I going to do when the roads here are all smooth and easy to drive down? I’m going to miss that third world feel I’ve come to love, splashing through puddles in an SUV and dodging pot holes on my motorcycle.
On the other side this only highlights how desperately Monrovia needs new roads. The problem is there is one main road, and when that’s blocked, traffic comes to a standstill everywhere. We need a city planning NGO to come to Liberia. Most of the roads already operate at or beyond capacity, buildings are built right up to the edge of the road and what’s left of the side walk is used by small vendors. People mostly walk in the road. I’m not sure there’s enough room to expand the roads in Monrovia even if they could. I kind of think they should just move town 5 miles south towards the airport and plan it out a little better. I’m sure the other utilities have similar problems dealing with the new demands of development and the old plague of misuse. I think it’d solve a lot of problems to just start all new constructions down the road. But that’s probably easier said than done.