I thought I’d start this off with a picture of my apartment. This is what my room looks like. I’m especially proud of my painting on the wall there. For months I’ve been staying strong and resisting the urge to buy a cliche painting of an African woman drawing water or carrying something on her head. But then I saw this image and I had to have it. First of all the colors are uniquely Liberian and not just generic Africa. I like the kid in the painting because he reminds me of why I’m here. Also, on the wall is the map of Liberia with little post-its that mark where I’ve been. So far I’ve been to 13 out of the 15 counties.
Earlier this month I attended a Barack Obama fundraiser. It was a lot of fun, it was catered and the food was amazing. It was so good. The caterer has since been hired by other friends of mine. They also were strict on making sure that only US citizens were donating. Apparently that’d be illegal if someone from another country donated. The fundraiser was hosted by Jordan Ryan, deputy special representative something of something at UNMIL. Basically the number 2 person for the UN in Liberia. We watched the VP debates and played Palin bingo, you listened for words like “gosh darn”, “energy”, “renegade”, and “hockey mom.”
On the one hand it was really cool to see people so excited about American politics. It was also a very fun social event. At the same time it seemed a little ridiculous to be raising money for Obama here. So many people are in more dire need of money here, and it’s not like Obama is hurting for cash. His campaign budget is roughly half of the Liberian government’s annual budget. I’m told $7000 was raised for Obama that night. That could send 70 Liberian kids to school for a year. I guess the idea is that if Obama is elected USAID will be restored to its former glory and then aid money will flow in, in the millions. But I think the impact those 7000 dollars would have on Liberia is much greater than the impact they have on Obama’s campaign.
Speaking of Obama and helping Liberians, I’ve undertaken a small venture to capitalize on the Obama craze. Inspired by a t-shirt worn by David McCann on his visit over here, I committed some blatant copy right violations, and downloaded an Obama logo from the internet, added the ubiquitous Liberian phrase “trying small” (roughly, “we’re doing our best”) and had it printed on shirts. I then turned the shirts over to my “authorized retailers”, Mr. Smith and his friends. Keep this on the DL, but the shirts cost around $2.50 to make and I told Mr. Smith to sell them to expats for $10. I told him I want my initial investment back, and that he’s free to charge what he wants. Smith and his associates were outside the Obama fundraiser and sold quite a few shirts.
Despite the success the night of the fundraiser, the shirts haven’t been selling as well as I had hopped. I think I may have overestimated the number of liberal expats in Liberia (the folks here for mining and rubber are probably republicans). I also don’t think Mr. Smith has fully grasped the target demographic and how to best reach them. But we’re working on it.
In work related news, I… GT had a box built for the kiosk project, now called MOSES(MObile Story Exchange System). The box will house the MOSES computer when he’s not on the road at the TRC office on 9th street. If you’re in the neighborhood you should check it out. It’s been drawing a lot of attention and I hope to have some formal write-ups on this for the boys, and girls, in Atlanta soon. To the right you can see the box and the carpenters who worked on it.
Finally, Oct 7th was my birthday. I’m now 27. I can’t believe I’m this old. Late 20’s what happened? What do I have to show for all my years? I’m so close to 30 and still don’t think of myself as having a real job. Which I kinda like. I get to do a lot of coo stuff in Africa. So I’m pretty OK with that. It’s just gonna be a while before I can afford a wife and kids, or a mortgage, (not that any one else in America can afford a mortgage right now anyway), or retirement. A lot of people started asking me for my address right before my birthday. So far I’ve received nothing in the mail. So I hope you didn’t send anything important. I also haven’t received my absentee ballot which is a bit of a bummer.
My birthday was celebrated with a few friends at the newly opened Japanase Steak House. That’s the name of the place, “Japanse Steak House”. I’m hoping to have full write-up on it soon. It was good, but very Liberian (took forever, half of the menu wasn’t available, the bill was a mess, you know… the usual).
Oh yeah, and a new club opened up in Monrovia. De Javu is Liberia’s latest night club. I headed over there with the roommates and a few other people on opening night. I liked it. The music was at bearable levels, it wasn’t smoky, and the AC was up to par, I didn’t get sweaty or anything. The cover was $15 which is ridiculous. We talked them down to $10 and I would never do it again. I’m morally opposed to covers, especially in the 3rd world. But for opening night I made an exception. The place reminded me of the places I went when I was 18, but not 21. It was a little cheesy, but really good for Liberia.
Finally, I wanted to leave you with this picture from the balcony at the TRC office where I work. Just another day in paradise.