This past weekend I moved from the apartment in Sincor where I had stayed for two weeks to a new residence in the Mamba Point district of Monrovia. Before leaving the the Sincor neighborhood, I went for a stroll through the streets surrounding the JFK Hospital.
As I wandered from the compound gates towards the seaside, I met a young UNMIL soldier sitting under a palm tree shining his shoes. He was on duty for the morning, he remarked, but it had been a quiet day thus far. He asked about the work I was doing and where I was moving. This banter led to his description of his own home in Nigeria and the tours in which he had served as a UN peacekeeper. He also volunteered a comparison of his time spent in West Africa, which didn't fare favourably for Liberia:
"Ooh, it's so heavy here," referring, I presumed, to the humidity of the rainy season.
"And it gets so hot," I found this comment surprising, given he'd lived all his life within the region.
"But, most of all, the city is so sad. Freetown, in Freetown, there is much to do." I'd heard this observation made many times before. The capital of Sierra Leone is rumored to be much more developed (better roads, more reliable utilities) and recreation-friendly (the options for R&R in Monrovia are limited, with fewer local/international hang outs that other capital cities).
"But, I found him here, and that makes me happy." With this, the solider nodded to a small german shepard which, to this point, had been lounging in the shade nearby. I don't typically use names in this blog, but in this case, I asked special permission of this new friend to share this detail.
"His name is Peace, because that's what I bring."
"That's an excellent name," I responded, offering the solidier my own name, "and what is yours?"
Maybe Merit was being poetic, or maybe he just enjoyed injecting irony into conversation.
Or, maybe, Merit really did find Peace in Monrovia, and they're keeping careful watch over a compound in Sincor.