Liberia Day 9 – Mystery Solved and On the Way HomeJuly 17, 2013
Medical MarijuanaAugust 7, 2013
So, the trip was reversed, and home we came. Luckily, the long flight was overnight, so dinner, sleep, breakfast and our feet landed on U.S. soil. On the way home we chatted about interesting observations and experiences we had while in Liberia and I thought I would share them here. Suffice it to say, this is the most meaningful professional experience I have had to date and I can't wait to see what the future holds.
General Observations/Interesting Things Learned:
- There is no salt and pepper shaker on the table at the restaurant -- except for dinner meals.
- After you use the toilet, you throw the tissue in the wastebasket, not the toilet (to avoid clogging).
- There are hardly any older people (I asked this question and learned that 80% of the country's population is under the age of 30, due to war casualties).
- Liberians have never heard of the name Nzinga, and it is really hard for them to pronounce
- Monrovia is a cash system -- no credit or debit cards to be seen
- Monkey hand is a delicacy and if you find one in your soup that is an awesome surprise
- In Monrovia, taxis are harder to catch than in Manhattan. If a taxi slows down, you claim the seat by grabbing the car handle and running along with it until it comes to a stop. This doesn't mean that, when you open the door, someone won't nudge you out of the way and sneak into the seat. Also, a small four door sedan taxi typically carries 7-8 passengers (all strangers, but going the same direction)
- Like car taxis, motorcyle taxis maximize time and space. The most number of people I saw on one taxi was four grown men. Everyone takes motorcycle taxis -- including one of the only older people I saw (she appeared to be about 70 years old as she hiked up her leg to get on the back), and a one year old who was sandwiched between his mother and the driver.
- Men and Women in Liberia have an incredible sense of balance as evident by their ability to carry literally anything on their heads, and be a passenger on a motorcycle without holding on to anything
- Periodically, in the middle of the night someone steals all of the manhole covers as part of the black market for metal. This makes for a difficult commute to work
- Wheelbarrows are essential
- In a part of town by Redemption hospital, a group of boys had blue smudges of paint on their faces -- it was to signify that they were in mourning
- If you can afford a funeral and burial, you and your family bring a coffin to the morgue at the hospital and pick up the body. The funeral and procession starts immediately as soon as you bring the body out.
- If you can't afford a funeral and burial, or you killed someone, often you bring the body and dump it on the hospital grounds in the dead of night (unfortunately for the hospital worker who stumbles upon it the next morning)
- They actually call getting drunk getting "wet, charged, or blue." Those of you who read earlier blogs will appreciate the irony in the term BLUE
- Politics are politics no matter where you go. While we were there, the mayor resigned over a scandal, was reinstated and reconfirmed. As you can imagine, not everyone agrees with how everything turned out.
- The President of Liberia is a woman. The Mayor of Monrovia is a woman. Despite that, the country remains incredibly male dominated. For example, a woman has to get her husband's consent before she can get her tubes tied. And conversely, her husband can consent to her getting her tubes tied without her consent.
- Monrovians will carry anything on their heads. Despite the streets being busier than midtown manhanttan, no one EVER bumps into a person and knocks anything off the head. They walk at regular speed, and even look both ways before crossing the street -- and nothing ever topples off. Some interesting things I witnessed on top of people's heads with my own eyes: a tray of fruits and nuts, a large plastic garbage bag with unknown contents, a huge bucket of water, a large metal pipe of the sort you use for underground plumbing, donuts for sale, a jewelry/sunglasses kiosk, a case of energy drinks (she was selling them), a case of water bottles and the winner: a complete patio set that included 4 wicker chairs and 4 seat cushions. I promise, I am neither lying nor embellishing -- Endsley will corroborate this.
- Monrovians will carry anything on a motorcycle. Some of the interesting things I saw a passenger carrying (instead of holding on!) include a full stereo set including 5 speakers, a large piece of metal siding, a door. I was told that also spotted have been a glass window pane and two 5 gallon buckets of gasoline which burst into flames because of the heat from the muffler.
- Liberian fresh made donuts are in a dead heat deliciousness race with Puerto Rico's fresh made Mini Donas
- Liberian women love their weave and wigs as much, if not more, than American Black women. I saw every color and every style of hair imaginable
- Power surges and electrical fires are common during the rainy season (too bad I learned this on Sunday afternoon instead of Saturday afternoon)