10 July 2006

always in a hurry - still no internet at the office

8 July 2006
1457 hrs

I still get a jolt sometimes at the word “Liberia.” I see the word Liberia many times a day right now, but every once in a while I see it or hear it and the shock of it hits me in the belly. In a good way. Not like the food poisoning shock, which also happens occasionally here. The Liberia shock is mostly because for so many years I was the only one whose ears perked up when someone said, “Liberia.” I would rush to the tv or grab the newspaper and soak up the information. If I did that here, I would be darting from place to place every moment and so most of the time I remember that everyone here is interested in what happens to Liberia and just let it role on by, but sometimes it catches me unaware and then I still get the jolt.

Momentously, I am in Liberia. This is a fond joke among the interns in our office – we got a letter one day that included the line, “Momentously, I am a Liberian.” At first we weren’t really sure if momentously was a word, but even once we found out (thank you thesaurus) that it was a word (unlike morebesides, which seems to be common, but is not a word according to the computer unless you separate the two words), we still couldn’t figure out how it was momentous for someone living in Liberia to be a Liberian. It's great, but not particularly momentous. Every now and again, one of us will just, into the silence, say, “Momentously, I am a Liberian.” Language usage differences are so great. And being in Liberia does feel momentous.

I would just like to point out that I am still at work. On Saturday afternoon at 3 pm. The only good part about Saturdays is that some coworkers bring their kids in, so today the kids drew us pictures (only one of which included war, fortunately) and we hung them up on the wall. Approximately half the (young) guys in the office scoffed and demanded that they be taken down, but then two more senior people came through and thought it was great, so there they stayed until the fan blew them off the wall and they got trampled. The kids were gone by then, so no feelings were hurt.

Quote of the day (by C): “Is that a SABER?” We were driving past the old stadium on UN Drive and apparently the entire Nigerian army was heading into it, complete with ceremonial sabers. Hilarious.

For the first few weeks we all (the others and then me) were here, the sun conveniently shone on Saturday and Sunday after raining all week. Unfortunately, it has now switched to sunny Thursdays and Fridays, which does not bode well for the beach. Or the trip to Buchanan. Or the trip to Bong Mines.


10 July 2006
1642 hrs

Rain, rain go away… or stay, because you make it cooler. The unfortunate thing about rain is that it drives critters inside, so we have had two of the biggest possible non-tarantula spiders imaginable appear indoors lately. The attitudes toward the spiders predictably follow these lines:

J = “Let’s capture it and put it outside, alive.”
C = “We might need the bug spray.”
M = “Kill it NOW.”

Usually C has to gas them and watch them die, especially the one in my room, because I was running around in frantic circles outside the door. And if we didn’t know where it died, we might suddenly come upon it later, which would be bad because it might turn up alive in, say, my shoe. Most insects I can kill alone, until they get to the size where they might actually hold human beings hostage or carry us away kicking and screaming on their backs.

I got locked out of our compound on Saturday afternoon. I went for a walk down the back road, got lots of “Hey! White girl! Are you my friend?” comments (answer: I guess it depends on who you are, doesn’t it?) plus one completely random greeting in Bassa, which I knew how to answer but I don’t know how he knew I could answer, weird, and was just getting close as it started to pour rain. I took shelter in a yard with a man and woman for a while and then the man lent me an umbrella with political slogans on it, the carrying of which made me a bit nervous because of the political slogans, and I went down to the gate of our compound and tried to get in, only to find that despite the guard’s repeated assurances, he had locked me out. So I slogged back through two inch deep puddles to the same yard, gave the kind man his umbrella back, and settled in on the bench to wait for the rain to let up. We chatted about various things, including whether or not the rain would stop before dark and the saga of the workers building the new Chinese embassy, until the rain did stop. I tried the gate once more. Still locked. I tried wedging my hand in through the doors and pulling up the piece that goes into the ground, hoping that would give it enough motion to wrench the bar out. Unsuccessful, because the gate was PADLOCKED. Also painful, because I scraped up my hand and now boast a lovely raised black-and-blue bruise on the back of my hand. So the guard agreed not to close me out, and then proceeded to PADLOCK the gate. Communication about the back gate, which has had many a low, had reached a new one. An amusing new one, yes, because it was daylight and I don’t really mind the chaos – in fact, I enjoy sitting and talking – but a new one nonetheless.

I scrambled up through some yards, waving merrily to little kids and politely greeting old people, and came out on the front road next to our wall. I ran into the guard on the sidewalk, leaving for the night, and he insisted, exclaiming over my scraped hand, that it was the night guard who locked me out and that he protested but the man insisted. When I got to the gate, the night guard, of course, told me that he had not known that I was outside and thought I was sitting on the porch. “But we are two!” I said, “Two with the same color hair. Please ask next time if there is a question about one of us being outside the compound, because I did not enjoy being locked outside. My hand is even damaged.” And, as always, he laughed at me while I was saying this because the idea of a white girl speaking Liberian English is too, too funny. Ah, well. I can be a subject of unending amusement. It’s okay.

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