Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sticker Shock

Today I needed to buy supplies. A dollar seventy-nine for a can of tuna that in the USA would be 69 cents and yet last night I spent thirty dollars on a meal for three at a local restaurant. Rather reasonable considering the cost in the US to feed three even at McDonalds. I wish I could tell you that I had an African dish but I didn't. Liberians are entranced by everything American. I had pork and French fries. I could have been at any outside patio restaurant in the US. The most uniquely Liberian part of the meal was the Liberian made beer and the pepper sauce. The liquid was a light amber and was cool and tasty. I drank a little more than usual to help me cool from the warm day. The pepper sauce was hot and delicious and made the barbacued pork truly tastey. I have been promised that I will soon dine on Liberian-African food.

My guide for the day once again took me through the streets of Monrovia and this time we walked. Young boys and men gathered around storefronts watching soccer on television. Women bathed their children and combed each others hair. Craftsman worked on cars, motorcycles, and to tell the truth on objects that I did not know. Children carried display boxes of candies and chewing gum roaming the streets and at traffic stops encouraging people to buy. Everywhere I saw children working. Most children work out of necessity and many cannot go to school because of work/poverty. Those who do go to school are fortunate.

The images that I carry with me today are of the many men who have limbs missing because of the civil war. The homes that are mere skeletons in which people work and live. The multiple ways that the Liberian people, young and old, work not only to survive but to reconstruct their country. The image that touched me most was that of a small child with her grandfather. The grandfather was blind and his hand rested on his grandaughter's shoulder. The grandaughter was four maybe five. He gave directions telling her which way to go while she acted as her grandfather's eyes as they walked through the maze of activity in the crowded streets.

As the day ends for me I am tired and thoughtful. Liberia is a complex country. Monday I begin my work on the project. These few days of orientation have helped prepare me for the project and helped me to see how much I will need to learn.


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