18 June 2006

liberia, baby!

So here I am, sitting on the steps of the office of our guest house, finally getting internet. Good times in Liberia. Spent the day at the beach, frolicking in the waves. I love frolicking in the waves. I can do it long after everyone else gives up. And the waves here are amazing.

Can't stay long. Here is an update I wrote on the way here but couldn't post...

Monday, 12 June 2006
1631 hrs

It would be boring if things went according to plan. That would mean getting to the airport on time and getting on the right plane and ending up in the place you expected to go at the scheduled time. Too easy.

Better to go to LaGuardia (in plenty of time, even with road construction, I’m proud to say), with virtually everything done (who needs a nail clipper?) and check in on time for your flight and sit at the gate waiting for it well ahead of time and then get a phone call from the automated service telling you that your flight to D.C. was cancelled, setting off a chain of events that involves lines x 5, the nice people in the baggage reclamation area (“Your bags were easy to find – the only ones going to Monrovia”), another airline, a car service, another airport and a now only 1h10m connection in Brussels tomorrow.

Estimated chance that I will make that connection: 75%

Estimated chance that my luggage will make that connection: 20%

So in the check-in line at JFK (airport no. 2), I opened up my bags and got an extra shirt and my sandals to stuff into my backpack so that I can make it until Thursday if my luggage doesn’t get to Liberia when I do.

In other travel news:

I have resigned myself to the pee on the floors in New York bathrooms. I’ve made peace with it. I feel a calm acceptance of the fact that my trouser legs are going to brush through pee on my way to the toilet. I just try never to touch the bottoms of my trousers. I’ve even accepted the failure to clean the bathrooms in anything like a reasonable length of time. I can handle the lack of water and soap and the paper towels scattered everywhere. Even pee on the seat I can handle. But please please do not make me attempt to accept the idea of used menstrual pads lying face-up on the floor of the stall. Because I can’t.

NB: in the second bathroom in JFK, there was another menstrual pad on the floor. How? How is this possible?

Ooh. Aeroflot plane passing by the window. Air Lingus. Air Tahiti something.

The green 3 terminal at JFK is nice. It has duty free and stuff. Like a food court. Unlike LaGuardia. This is good because it means you can eat for a reasonable price. Well, not reasonable really. But better than the non-food court places. On the way to Jamaica in March I wanted to buy a drink from a kiosk in the American terminal at JFK and it turned out to cost $4 instead of the normal $2. And when I said I didn’t want it, the lady said I had to buy it because she couldn’t cancel the sale. And I refused. And she insisted. And I refused. And then it turned out that she didn’t actually work there but was filling in for her friend who went on break and therefore she didn’t know how to run the machine and so when her friend came back he voided it. Not that I was going to pay, anyway.

Still three hours until my flight. I hope it doesn’t get cancelled, too. And I hope there actually is someone to pick me up at Robertsfield tomorrow when I arrive in Liberia.

14 June 2006
2049 hrs
Congotown, Monrovia

Raining. It’s June in Liberia.

I made it on my Monrovia flight. My luggage made it. My flight from the US got in early to Brussels, so I even had time to buy a new charger and adapter for my phone, whose charger I lost in Nairobi last summer. I was bitter for a while because the plane was less than half full and it seemed like everyone, even the people who had just gotten on in Brussels, people I knew were from Brussels because I talked to them in the line, had two or three seats to themselves and were stretched out sleeping while I, running on four hours of sleep in 58 hours, was scrunched up against the window next to a man who I couldn’t get past because he was diligently reading work papers and I felt bad asking him to move. So I finally got out and hid in the bathroom for a while and then I came out and got engrossed in the Chronicles of Narnia and then someone smoked in the bathroom and the staff started running up and down the aisle and I went back to my seat. And the guy next to me turned out to have worked in Rwanda at the same time as I was there (I thought he looked familiar). We had a nice chat.

Flying over, Liberia was green and verdant between the tall cloud formations. Far below us as we circled, I saw a little white helicopter scuttling around. We banked sharply over the sea, which is my favorite part of landing here, and landed in the rain. And brand new vans took us to the terminal. They even smelled new. I barely fit into the van with my backpack and managed to scratch my toe open, but at least I wasn’t soaked. And someone came to pick me up, with a little sign with my name and organization on it. Hurrah!

Liberia looks good. Houses are going up. Children in school uniforms run about underfoot. Teenage girls in tight jeans flirt with boys at the side of the road.

There is a 60% chance of rain every day, according to my fellow interns, who have apparently checked the weather. This means, apparently, that there is a 60% chance of it raining at any given moment (my theory). Or they just haven’t bothered to change the forecast in months (the other interns’ theory).

It’s rainy season, people. You can almost drink the air.

I like this place.

1 comment:

traci said...

ah! i'm so sad i missed your call. i hope we can catch up soon. so glad you made it. love and hugs. xoxoxo