My immediate boss, Dr. Michael Best, arrived in town last week with his boss, Dr. Bill Long, chair of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at GT. They came here to assess the situation on the ground, and bring me a new camera among other goodies. So this blog post has photos that I took. Just like the last time Dr. Best was in town we kicked off a whirl wind tour of ministries, commissions and institutions of higher learning. Our coolest meeting was with the Vice President, the Honorable Joseph Nyumah Boakai. I was really excited to have landed us this audience. He was a pretty nice guy. He listened to what we had to say and had some good feedback. He got us a follow up meeting with the minister of internal affairs, who really liked the kiosk, and even talked to me. I figured with a world famous leader in technology for development and the chair of a top tier research university’s international affairs school he’d want to talk to them. But he talked to me. I was busy taking notes when I heard him ask if I worked at the TRC. I looked up from my note taking to realize everyone was looking at me. So I told him I sat there, but also worked on other projects. It was nice to get to be a part of the conversation. Also, amongst our maelstroms of meetings was the Minister of Post and Telecommunications, the Minister of Information, the chairman of the Liberian Telecommunications Authority, the president of Cuttington University, Liberia’s premier private university, various members of the TRC, the Inter-Religious Council, the Liberia Media Center, and two separate meetings at the US Embassy. The pictures here were taking while we were at Cuttington University in Bong County, three hours out of Monrovia.
While at Cuttington Dr. Best and I watched the artsy-about-Africa-foreign-film Bamako on the kiosk. Clearly a good use of its 19” wide screen and built in speakers. The viewing experience was great, the movie was terribly boring. We both decided we’re not artsy enough for such films. I also got sick and threw up a few times. Despite my sickness I drove Dr. Best and Dr. Long to the airport in time to catch their flights home. We took the scenic route and passed through the Firestone plantation. It was really pretty on a rainy Liberian Saturday. The road was also in great quality. I guess that’s what you can do when you’re an exploitive multi-national.
So when I got home that night I was feeling a bit achy, so on the advice of a few friends and 50 Liberian dollars I got tested. Sure enough, I had malaria. It was 8pm so no doctors were available. So there was much debate on what course of action I should take next. Finally I decided upon the ACT treatment. It set me back 120 Liberian dollars. Who needs insurance with such prices? I was a little worried because everyone said the treatment would wear me out and I had a big day ahead of me tomorrow.
Thankfully I woke up Sunday feeling just slightly under the weather. So I decided to go for it and attend the Liberia vs. Senegal football match. Worrisome from the match two weeks ago, I arrived early and drove my motorcycle in case I needed to make a quick getaway. The first thing I noticed was that there was no traffic. This was in stark contrast to the crazy line of cars that formed in front of the stadium last time. A local branch of the Ministry of Youth and Sports even let me park my bike inside their compound. They were very nice. This picture to the left is of me and my apartment mate Gwen Heaner. We were all decked out for the game in our red white and blue.
The first thing that you noticed about this game was that your ticket not only had a gate number, but a row and a seat number. Kind of like a real sporting event. There were no crazy lines to get in the gate. I walked up, showed my ticket and was immediately let in. Everything was calm. There was no craziness at all. We walked in and found freshly painted seat numbers on every seat in the stadium. Lonestar Cell, Liberia’s largest GSM operator, sponsored the game and was handing out free water and cool aid, Liberian’s call it “juice.” This was to prevent the overheating and dehydration that caused deaths two weeks earlier. This was very much appreciated because Sunday was a very hot day.
Inside the stadium things were festive, but under control. Fans were drunk and singing 3 hours before the game but it never got out of hand. The stadium was almost empty. The cheapest seats were $5 USD which isn’t too expensive. The game was also broadcast on local television, so perhaps after the last debacle people thought it best just to watch on TV. Either way, it was all for the best because FIFA had observers at the match to ensure that Liberia could handle a FIFA sanctioned game. It would have been a terrible blow to Liberia for them to lose that privilege.
The Lone Stars, Liberia’s team, even played much better than last time. They were much better about passing the ball and held Senegal to a 2-2 draw. All the goals were scored in the last half of play.
This was unfortunate because I left after the 1st half to meet up with two friends on the Mercy Ship. Kim Robinson and Peter Fullerton were both leaving the ship, though Kim is coming back in August. They’ve both been really good friends to me and I’ve enjoyed their company immensely. Kim calls herself my African mom, which I’m fine with. We could use more moms in the world. She’s an amazing woman of Christ. I should be so lucky. We attend the evening service together then had Star Bucks coffee in the ships commons area.
On Monday the Malaria meds caught up with me. I felt absolutely worthless. My stomach hurt and I had no energy. I even had trouble concentrating and was completely unproductive, which might have been the worst of it for me. I hate feeling like I’m not doing stuff. What made it worse was that I was stuck at home with no electricity so there really wasn’t much I could do if I had felt up to it. Looking back on things I realized that I had felt really tired most of the week. I thought that I was just worn out from our busy schedule of meetings and things. So I was kind of glad that it wasn’t keeping up with two of my seniors that had worn me out, just malaria.
I was still pretty out of it on Tuesday. I also think that the medicine messed with my head. My thoughts would race a lot and I’d lie in bed thinking of the things I needed to be doing stressing out that I wasn’t getting stuff done and really worrying a lot. More than I would normally. I really wanted to go home. It was the most homesick I’ve been. I even kept telling myself that it was just the medicine, but it wasn’t much fun.
By Wednesday I felt a lot better. I had finished my ACT treatments and now had my head and my strength, but alas, the generator was out at the TRC. So I visited the supermarket and ran into my amputee soccer team friends. Rueben, the guy I talk with the most from the soccer team, wanted me to buy some tarpaulin for their “house”. It’s the rainy season and their house doesn’t have a roof. He said they need a roof so they didn’t get cold. I still don’t understand how they call it cold, I call comfortable, but that’s beside the point. So I let Rueben show me the house. It was a two room stick framed house with no roof. He said they had woven mats for the walls, but didn’t want to put them up without a roof to keep things from getting ruined.
So since I had a free day and the “I’m getting over malaria” excuse to not work, Rueben and I drove to the Red Light market to buy some tarpaulin. I hate Red Light market, it’s one perpetual traffic jam caused by bad planning, poorly enforced rules, and unregulated capitalism. As far as I know it’s the biggest market in all of Liberia. It’s just a mess. The ride there wasn’t as much fun as I had hoped it to be. It was awkward. Reuben’s a good guy, a bit pushy with the begging, but a good guy, we just have a hard time talking. His Liberian English and my American English don’t mix very well. But we did get to talk about his wife and two kids, and whether or not the Lone Stars would make it to South Africa in 2010, still a lot of awkward silence. So after waiting in traffic for an hour we pulled up to the spot where the tarpaulin guys were. There’s no way I was going to leave the car alone in this placed so I stayed in the car while Reuben got the goods. 15 minutes later he returned with the tarpaulin.
On the whole I felt pretty good. For $35 USD I had literally put a roof over someone’s head. In this case it was half of the soccer team’s heads. Reuben didn’t say much, but I could tell from the smile on his face he was excited. He had me drop him off were the guys lived who would help him put the roof on. I guess being an amputee you need some help with these kinds of things. I plan to go back and get some after shots of the house. I really hope this works out for them.