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

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The "Not-so" Ordinary World


This blog entry is for you guys out there who have been begging for an update. It is going on three weeks since the last post and you know the kind of flak I would take for going a month without a post. I think there are two reasons, valid or not, why I haven’t posted as soon as some of you would have liked, but my philosophy is quality over quantity and maybe some of you have just been spoiled in the past! So, two reasons why I haven’t posted anything for a while:

1. The last two and a half weeks have been fairly hellish as far as the workload is concerned. There was a seven day stretch about a week and a half ago where I put in about 90-100 hours. Now let me tell you…I like to think of myself as a hard working guy who prides himself in giving it at least 85% effort while behind the desk; the other 15% is spent on the ride home from the office fighting Liberian drivers in all its madness. As far as driving someone to the point of burnout that seven day stretch almost did that. Somehow, thank God, I kept sanity enough to keep it going for another week. Just to give you “outsiders” an idea of just exactly what I deal with on a day-in/day-out, week-in/week-out, or month-to-month basis as Finance Manager I’ll explain. I think only Jonathan really knows what it feels like. So the seven day stretch of insanity started with four days in a row of 12-15 hour days of madness at the office…often staying at the office until 10pm only to get home and in bed by 11pm just to do it all over again the following day. So after four of those days I thought it might be nice to get to go up to Ganta for our monthly staff meeting. Little did I know that after a strenuous day at the office and thinking that I might be able to sleep on the four hour ride up to Ganta Dave had me drive about 85% of the way. I would have probably driven the entire trip if it wasn’t for me almost passing out at the wheel from exhaustion. I think I might have scared a few of our passengers after almost skidding into a UN Checkpoint after not seeing it as I approached. Upon arrival at 11:30am I proceeded to bed at around 12am. Waking up at 6am to start fixing payroll didn’t leave me with much time to sleep; but who needs sleep right? Our two-day staff meeting was squished into one and man was it busy. The day basically ended with our lights going off at around 10pm and myself with a giant migraine. The next morning I was back up at 6:30am and back at it finishing off our payroll and any other issues that had to be taken care of while up in Ganta. We ended up leaving Ganta at about 8pm that night to do the long drive back to Monrovia in the dark…always an interesting option. I actually got to sleep in the back of the Land Cruiser, in complete exhaustion, all the way back to Monrovia. We were testing out a new potential driver and I think I’m glad I was sleeping for most of the way. He ran over a small pig on the way back. Dinner for someone no doubt. We arrived back in Monrovia at 1am and that was on a Sunday night…just in time to go to bed and wake up for another week’s workload!
2. The second reason for not writing more on the blog is the fact that there really hasn’t been much to talk about or take pictures of recently. The only exciting thing that I can think of lately that I would like to mention (actually there are two incidents) and that I wish I had my camera for was firstly an incident I ran into on my way into the office one evening to put in some late hours. I was about 400ft shy of one of the craziest accidents I’ve ever witnessed in real life. It happened so fast and it was right in front of me that I didn’t really have time to react. Tire went flying, heads hit windshields and in the end a brand new Toyota 4Runner got t-boned and I would be surprised if anyone from the car that hit him survived. After swerving around debris I pulled over and phoned “355” or the Liberian version of “911”. In a panic I told them to send an ambulance to the location I was at. I told them that there was a serious accident and that I thought people were seriously injured. Now that I look back on the situation I don’t think Liberia has an ambulance service. Sure there are ambulances from ICRC or possibly other NGOs but I highly doubt that their “hotline” is coordinated with these NGOs. A coordination nightmare!

The second incident I ran into was a few days ago when Fredrick and I drove, or intended to drive, back to the ELWA campus to pick up one of our consultants in order to bring him for lunch. We ended up driving into a madhouse of people all going to the beach. I would estimate that there must have been like 30,000 people all going to the beach. It seemed like all of Monrovia had orders to go to the beach. Inner tubes and beers in hand they either walked or hitched rides with already packed taxis or taxibuses. For those who know their way around Monrovia, there were four lanes of traffic all heading towards Robertsfield International Airport from ELWA junction and no traffic coming the other direction. There was a bit of a bottleneck at the UN Checkpoint. Well, actually nobody was going anywhere and I don’t think the UN soldiers were really prepared for what they were facing. To make a long story way too short my day at the office was completely shot and after 2.5 hours of fighting our way through mud holes and back roads we were finally free. The infrastructure in Liberia is so limited that anything out of the ordinary like this happens nobody has any idea of what to do because there is just nowhere to go!

I would now like to take the time to mention/promote my buddy Luke’s website on Living in Liberia. You may also find a link on the right hand side of this blog site under the "Links" heading. For any new expat in Monrovia this website’s function is to give you an idea of where to eat or things to do…an online Liberian Chamber of Commerce if you will.