19 June 2006

racing the internet failure

I finally FINALLY got internet at work to work on my computer, only for the power to go all wonky and the network to keep going out (this one is NOT wireless, by the way). Then an outlet just blew up - huge billows of smoke over in the corner. A computer might be ruined. Anyway, here we go with more pre-written updates:

15 June 2006
1328 hrs
Downtown Monrovia

Someone kept driving an exhaust smelling truck past the office this morning. There is almost nothing that makes me feel sicker than exhaust smell. I prefer garbage smell, even. This morning, we drove past an overflowing dumpster and got to wondering how the streets manage not to be full of garbage when there don’t appear to be any mechanisms for taking it away. Maybe there are wheelbarrows, though.

Last night there was a thunderstorm parked immediately above our house at about 1:30 am and I got up in the dark and stumbled around unplugging things obsessively. Then I had to get up again three hours later when I suddenly remembered that the fridge was unplugged. I don’t actually know if unplugging is as important during a thunderstorm when you are using generator power, but I worry, because once I fried someone’s tv during a thunderstorm in Rwanda. Oops.

But exhaust is a mere irritation and I’m amused by the stumbling about in the night. I have work to do and every time I look out the window I see a Liberian flag and smile.

15 June 2006

At lunch, we went to a grocery store (we were at one yesterday too, but a different one) and all my illusions about Liberia being the one place where you can’t get things were crushed underfoot. There are bigger supermarkets in Monrovia than in Kigali. Bizarre. Kigali, in fact, has no real supermarkets. Liberia does. I mean, supermarkets. With aisles of wine. Aisles of cookies. There are Spaghetti-Os. There are granola bars. I’m flabbergasted. I don’t even know what to say. You could buy everything you needed in one store, if you had a functional fridge, which we don’t (no power during the day) so we have to go to the second store to get the cheese that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. But other than that.

16 June 2006
1644 hrs

I still have not gotten to a decent internet. For all the wireless networks my computer can find, even here in the office (I see three), I can’t connect well to any of them. Ah, well. My computer is out to get me. I realized today that this is the first time I’ve taken it out of the US. So it is just undergoing a bit of culture shock. It will recover, I’m sure.

It’s raining right now like it can only rain in the tropics. Deafeningly, blindingly. Our work building was apparently on the front lines quite a bit during some rounds of fighting (1991 and 1996?) and half of it still doesn’t have a roof. Not the part we work in, of course. But the deluge is pouring into the un-roofed half, from which it drips constantly, even twelve or 24 hours after the rain has ended. I’m sure all that water contributes to the plants we see growing out of those rooms. We were joking today about how all offices have plants. Ours don’t grow in pots, but straight out of the floor.

We went out last night to the Royal Hotel, which is air-conditioned and downright cold (I was damp from rain when I went in and it felt freezing all night). We were supposed to watch Sweden play, erm, someone in the World Cup qualifiers, but the satellite doesn’t work so well in the deluge. So we watched a message saying, “No signal” instead. It was someone’s birthday, someone from Sweden, but he didn’t get to watch the game. We ate hummus with warm Lebanese bread and pretty decent pizza and after the game was over the signal came back and we saw the highlights. With no sound. But the only goal we saw go in during the highlights was Sweden, so all was well.

On the way home in the dark, I watched the lights flashing by. It could have been anywhere in Africa, but I knew it was Liberia and I was perfectly happy. Ever since I got here, I’ve been loving the chance to say, “Here” when people ask me things like, “Where have you been in Africa?” or “Where did you grow up?"

I grew up here.


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