Thursday, January 10, 2008

2008 in Liberia

For a NH native so engrossed by American politics it takes quite a bit of motivation to leave the state two days before US primary elections. But, on Sunday evening, I pulled myself away from campaign-hysteria and slid down to Logan International to catch a flight back to Monrovia – hoping to find the unpredictable, ever-entertaining scene I’d left on Dec 17th.

Monrovia did not disappoint. In fact, random, bizarre hilarity began with the flight we took to Monrovia. As Gatwick’s moving sidewalk accelerated my walk towards the departure gate, my peripheral vision caught the glimpse of a Nordic-looking figure on the tail of a plane. At a full stare, the plane read “Iron Maiden: the 2008 Tour”. Check it out:

Of course, this was our plane from Gatwick to Monrovia. Iron Maiden, we learned, was going on tour the following month (not in Liberia, incidentally). The lead singer, furthermore, is a certified pilot. Who knows.

We landed on time – in stark contrast to our flight departing Monrovia, which was 7 hours late. We stalled on the runway for about 15 minutes, before the flight attendants informed us that the rolling staircase was not attaching to the plane, and we should subsequently mind the gap.

Heeding the stewardess's warning, I stepped onto the platform (the “gap” couldn’t have been six inches wide) to the immediate stench of burning rubber. I hadn’t forgotten how heavily the air in Liberia sits in the lungs, but I wasn’t really prepared for the smell. Quite honestly, I didn’t recognize the new odor; my roommate identified it later that evening.

I’d had a long vacation – but Monrovia appeared to have made more progress that I’d expected. Blocks and blocks of Tubman Boulevard had been repaved and dumpsters had been distributed throughout the city. Where piles of rubbish used to steam, there now sat enormous, yellow dumpsters. I was thrilled to see (and smell) this improvement. Every morning I jog by a pile of trash, which at least, now is elevated above nose level.

Ironically enough, while jogging this morning I noticed two teenage girls emptying the trash. It looked like they were sorting – for what, exactly, I’m unsure. It was early morning, though, so they’d have all day to sell their findings. The image seemed to capture both that Liberia the speed at which Liberia is changing and raise the question as how the changes will effect the lives of average citizens.

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