Friday, November 2, 2007

I Come and Go

Minneapolis, Chicago, Brussells, Monrovia, Gbarnga, Belefenai, ZorZor, Voinjama, Kolahun, Foya, Massabolahn, Zorzor, Gbarnga, Bellefini, Gbartalla, Monrovia, Brussells, Chicago, Minneapolis

In Liberia a common phrase is “I come and go.” Since being here I have come not only to like the phrase but to use it. Let me explain. Three to four hours a day bouncing over dirt roads and cruising through deep mud puddles jumbles my mind to the point that some days I forget if I am coming or going. So the phrase “I come and go” personally expresses quite well the rigors of travel in Liberia and my confused mind.

In the thesaurus “go” is to depart and “come” is to arrive. So the phrase “I come and go” means something like “I arrive and I depart.” The statement seems very hopeful. We are already envisioning our arrival even before we depart. This optimistic perspective seems very useful in a land were traveling is minimally an extreme sport and at times even dangerous.

There are very few paved roads in Liberia and many major routes our simply wide dirt trails dotted with small mud hut villages through the bush. My own experience of traveling through seven foot mud holes, seeing trucks full of people stuck for two, three or more days and the tales of my colleagues taking two or three days just to travel 70 miles helps me to understand why for many Liberians even before education and health care roads are seen as their number one priority.

The access to education and health care would be dramatically improved with better roads. The ability to easily come and go to the local community markets would improve the economic conditions of individuals while supporting the local market economy. New roads will not solve the problems of Liberia but the roads would be a start. In a conversation with a government official involved in the Community Development Action Committee the suggestion was made that in Liberia there was a need for a Roads for Humanity Project. He agreed. In the mean time the hope implied in the statement “I come and I go” or “I arrive and I depart” will need to suffice until the national will, energy, and resources become focused on building roads.

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