26 June 2006

busy busy busy

26 June 2006
0839 hrs

I have so much to say that it’s hard to know where to start. The last week or so has been crazily busy. I believe that I may now have seen Liberia at every hour of the day and night, except perhaps the hour between 5:30 and 6:30 am, unless I saw that one sometime when I was little. This feat was accomplished through a couple of early mornings last week and one really long night on Saturday, the kind of night where you are alone in a taxi at 4 am because one friend is stomach-sick at another friend’s house and a third friend is at the compound alone with no phone getting over a more serious stomach-sick and you have no way of knowing if friend 3 is okay so you have to go check since you are the only not-sick one. Fortunately we seem to have found the one of the only trustworthy taxi drivers in all of Monrovia (if you listen to what everyone tells us, which is “YOU WILL BE ROBBED” which turns out to be somewhat true, because some students from another law school were relieved of their wallets and deposited off on a side road only about a week after they came). So J the taxi driver and I went careening through Monrovia at 4 am, only to be locked out of the compound and spend thirty minutes pounding on the gate, calling to the guards, and honking the horn (strictly forbidden, but what can you do?). I had to lecture the guards when we got in. I don’t care if they sleep (all night guards sleep, whatever their contract says), but sleep by the gate, people, where you are at least wake-up-able.

I’ve started speaking a bit of Liberian English. I didn’t at first, being self-conscious, but then people at the office started finding out that I lived here before. One day C was trying to explain something about our visa/passport situation to a co-worker and he suddenly turned to me and said, “I’m not getting what she is saying. Explain it to me, Bassa girl.” So I did, in Liberian English. All were highly amused, although a bit of Bassa was an even bigger hit. I’ve been taking requests for the Lord’s Prayer in Bassa ever since, sometimes by people who don’t even work here; how they heard about the white girl who can speak a (tiny) bit of Bassa, I do not know. And I’ve had more chances to use Liberian English – with drivers, with guards while lecturing them, with kids at some orphanages we went to on Saturday (the missionary we went with said, “Do you put Liberian English on your resume? Because you should.”). At work I still stick mostly with US English because mostly everyone understands it.

It is warm and palpably muggy in Liberia these days, the air so thick that sometimes it feels like it wasn’t meant for breathing. You can almost reach out your hand and feel water collecting in it. Things don’t dry, and to get things dry I have started to use something that I generally scorn: air-conditioning. I can sleep comfortably in the temperature here – the air-conditioner makes me too cold. But I’m tired of slightly damp, musty-smelling clothes. So I’ve begun to use the air-conditioning strategically to dry clothes. Only at night, because we only have power at night. I keep getting cold, though, and turning the temperature higher, from 16C to 20C and now to 22C. But I found out (from a “store between these temperatures” label on a medicine bottle) that 25C is 77F, so I need to get it even higher. When the power goes out from 3:00 to 5:00am, though, the air-conditioner starts DRIPPING. On my feet. And when it starts up again, it blows air through and there is a loud whirring noise and bits of ice fly out of the air-conditioner all over me, so I have to duck under the sheets. It’s really a bit of a distraction from the business of sleeping.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I love your blog! I'm going to Liberia in August or maybe September (depending on visas, etc.) to teach for a year, so it's great to hear what it's like living there nowadays. I went last summer and the summer before, but I was a visitor then, not a resident, and I expect LIVING there is very different. Keep writing!

sarah.houston@yahoo.com