Kevin in Liberia

Its Purpose: to raise awareness of current social, political, ethical, and spiritual issues within a relief and development context in Liberia. Its effectiveness is simple: It relies on me, the author, to provide insightful, and often debate-sparking material that will encourage you, the reader to get engaged through comment contributions, emails, and promoting others to read, re-think, and respond to the important issues discussed.

I know not which is most profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, nor anything else in the world. That discernment is beyond the power of men or angels, and is hidden among the secrets of your Providence, which I adore, but do not seek to fathom. ~ a prayer by Blaise Pascal

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Yours Truly, Mrs. Bush...Nice legs Condoleeza Rice!
Posted by Kev-o-rama

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Liberia's Crowning of Their Lone Star

The time had been long-awaited by Liberians and the international community alike. The swearing in of the first female president in African history, the widow, The Iron Lady, her Excellency Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Knowing the historic impact of such an event I did all I could to get an invitation to the event, a task that proved to be not very easy, and in the end not very necessary. With the attendance of the likes of Laura Bush, Condoleeza Rice, many Africa heads of state, and various other delegates one would like to think that security would be at its highest. Well, think again! On the day of the inauguration the main road into Monrovia, Tubman Boulevard, was shut down completely, except to vehicles with passes to the inauguration ceremony. With members of the Liberian National Police (LNP) at every junction and UNMIL personnel at the larger junctions one would think that adherence to the strict protocol would be imperative. Well, we made it from our house to the office, about a 25 minute drive, with no pass whatsoever! Upon arriving at the venue, the Capital Building, scenes of waiting in line for a rock concert filled my mind…although the fans seemed to be dress a lot nicer at this specific show. Making our way through security check after security check we finally made it into the Capital Building grounds. It wasn’t until we were fully into the event that I realized that I didn’t have to show anybody my invitation to the event. They did stop me to look into my camera case but never did they ask to see who I was or whether I was supposed to be there in the first place. Its amazing what you can get away with in Liberia when you act like you belong somewhere. I’m sure it could have been because I was wearing a borrowed white 1970s polyester suit that made me look like The Price is Right’s host Bob Barker about 40 years ago, in his prime. On more than one occasion I was complimented by saying I looked like a game show host. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not but, hey, I was just happy to be there and have a chance to experience history.

One by one, as the proceedings developed, dignitary and delegate after dignitary and delegate walked down the red carpet toward the elaborately decorated podium, the only thing tainting the atmosphere, I thought, were the red, white, and blue flags strung overhead across the red stripe leading to the stage. Scenes of ’83 Cameros and ’86 Hyundai Ponies flashed through my mind. I was in my element, a used car lot! Wait! Snap out of it, this is a presidential inauguration ceremony. There were dignitaries, representatives, and heads of state from countries such as: Iceland, China, Japan, the United States (Laura Bush and Condoleeza Rice), Canada, Germany, Iceland, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Niger, Nigeria (and man was their main security guard massive), Cote d’Ivoire, and many others. Condoleeza Rice seemed to get the biggest applause from the audience, besides Madame Ellen of course, apparently because of her stint with the Peace Corps in Liberia. Don’t quote me on any of this…remember, I’m only a game show host/used car salesman! The ceremony proceeded with many of the African heads of state arriving either midway through the ceremony and some even after the Iron Lady was sworn is as President. Personally, I’m wondering what sort of message they wanted to send by arriving so late. I’m sorry, but things DO happen for a reason, I’m just trying to figure out what exactly that reason is or was.

Now it was time for Ellen to set the stage, and the next six years, with her inauguration speech; a piece of writing that, I believe, will go down in history for its genuinely caring and empathetic tone. There was not one Liberian whowas left out. She touched on her plans for every member of society, from civil servants to ex-combatants…from the ordinary village labourer to the Speaker of the House. Her way of getting the attention of certain individuals was impeccable. She singled out the Speaker of the House, Edwin Snow, my neighbour and third in the chain of command, about corruption as well as personally addressing those folks listening to her speech on radio in those remote locations in Liberia. Her words were something to the effect of “…to those common people listening on radio and watching on television across the country…listen up! I’m talking to you!” A speech that lasted approximately 43 minutes (I recorded the entire thing) sent shivers down my spine and I know I wasn’t alone. This is a lady that, I believe, genuinely cares about her country; a lady who was imprisoned and went into exile for opposing Charles Taylor’s regime. This is a lady who ran in an election against Charles Taylor and lost miserably, a loss which preceded the murder and inhumane treatment of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people. This is a lady who had the strength not to back down in the face of enormous odds. If President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf cannot pull Liberia out of dark and despair, God help us all!

Following the swearing in of the newly-elected President and Vice-President the focus shifted to a cocktail on the South Lawn of the Presidential Mansion. After bets of who could be the first one to get George Bush’s daughter’s phone number, something that never materialized, and pictures with Miss Liberia, I proceeded to sit down under one of many UN tents set up to provide shade to the estimated 4,000 attendees of the ceremony. The heads of state had a private cocktail on the upper floor of the mansion, one part of the ceremony that I bet would have Secret Service written all over it. The newly inaugurated President made an appearance on the South Lawn, heavily surrounded by security guards, but I made no attempt to document the happenings. At that point the ever-developing heat of wearing that hideous polyester suit of mine was taking over and devouring me. I was pretty much ready to go to the beach and surf the rest of the day away.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ranch Style Beans: Are you tired of those lonely Tuesday nights? Suffering from relapses of depression? This new multi-purpose, behaviour-changing snack food can set straight the best of us! Here is Marcel Koppejan demonstrating just what Ranch Style Beans are all about.
Posted by Kev-o-rama

Liberian Hieroglyphics
Posted by Kev-o-rama

A Hot Sunny Day at the Bong Mines - A Beautiful Landscape
Posted by Kev-o-rama

Redlight: The Outskirts of Monrovia
Posted by Kev-o-rama

Bong Mines: Hidden Paradise in the Middle of Liberia

It was another Saturday and our initial goal was to set out and find this illusive geocache that is apparently located somewhere in a mine shaft deep in the Bong Mines. As we made the two hour journey from Monrovia we gave praise to the hot season for drying up the mud along Bong Mines Road, a section of dirt road that comprises over an hour of our one-way trip to the bountiful land of iron ore. We also discussed our method of getting passed the security guards at the gates to the mining facility. One thing that you learn while in Liberia is that the best thing to do when you are going somewhere that you don’t belong is to pretend that you actually DO belong there. It seemed to work this time as the guard just opened the gate without us having to tell him anything. At last, we were free within the Bong Mine facilities.
Endless expanse of mountainous landscape serving as a playground for four young kids named Marcel, John Mark, Suzi, and yours truly. We drove past the place where I knew the geocache is supposed to be located and continued on down a long dirt road where we came upon open pit after open pit which have now turned into giant lakes that house who knows what kind of creatures. As we peered across this giant open pit mining lake we saw a lovely plateau across the lake that looked perfect for future camping outings. Driving along the side of the lake, we saw potential passage to this plateau and we continued along the dirt road until we drove right upon this desired destination. Standing on top of this plateau, looking down 30ft or so to the dark crystal blue water, getting scorched by the heat, there was only one option that we saw available to us at this time and that was to jump off this 30ft into the inviting water below. One by one, we launched ourselves off this cliff into the water below. Getting back up the cliff was the hardest part of all. There were times where I’d be up 8-10ft or so and then the rock I was using as a handhold would bust off and I would have to jump backwards back into the water. I spent so much energy on the climbing up the cliff that, combining that with the beating heat of the sun, once was enough for me. We decided that we are DEFINITELY going to be doing some camping there in the near future. Why didn’t we find out about this oasis earlier?! Enjoy the views!