Sunday, December 12, 2010

Friends, Simplicity and Beauty

I left Zwedru on Friday and it already seems like a thing of the distant past. I was so busy my last few days- saying good-byes, packing, eating my last plate of rice and pepper soup, washing clothes by hand for the last time, taking my last cold bucket bath, and waiting for the generator to turn on for the last time- I haven’t really had a chance to think about leaving until now.
It's all bittersweet, actually. Sure, I look forward to hot showers and Italian subs and 24 hr electricity, but I am also sad to leave behind such great friends, simplicity, and the natural beauty of Africa.
Liberia has not been an easy place to live or work. I have struggled with understanding the structure of a post-conflict country, the role of NGOs and the UN in reconstruction, the line between helping people and doing things for people, and personally, the challenge of separating my experiences in Liberia from my memories of Zambia.
But, Liberia has also been a very intense learning experience; filled with excitement, frustration, success, sadness, and love. Excitement of new places, people, foods, culture. Frustration over the pace of development, the lack of initiative and the dependence on aid. Success in making a difference (even if it was REALLY small), integrating into the community, and making friends. Sadness when I had to say good-bye. And, the love of Africa and everything it has taught me, the memories it has given me, and the ways it has helped me grow as a person.
I am thankful everyday for having come here, having the best colleagues anyone could ask for, living with the coolest site mates in Peace Corps, eating hot peppers, listening to the rain fall in buckets, watching the sunset, and getting a small taste of the village life I missed. Liberia has been difficult but it has helped me to appreciate my time in Zambia more than I could ever imagine. And for this I am most thankful.
As I close this chapter of my life, I will keep the memories I have made, the lessons I have learned and the people I have met close to my heart.

Until the 3rd Scoop (Triple Dip anyone?)……..

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Ok, not really retirement, but it is my last day of work at WFP. To be honest, I'm not feeling too sad. Time is up here. I've learned a lot from working with a UN agency (e.g. I will never work for one again) but am ready to move on (so if you know someone hiring let me know).
I got into work this morning, did some final paper work and then left for one last meeting at the hospital. I think it was a trick to send me off with a real TIA feeling... the meeting started late, lasted WAAAYYYY too long, it was HOT, people talked in circles most of the time (just to be heard), and I had to take minutes. Yes, TIA. I will miss you, but only after I'm gone!

The view from my desk for the past 5 months (I know I'll miss those palm trees when the snow starts falling on me at home):

Monday, November 29, 2010

Already time to start saying good-bye?!

Im leaving Zwedru in less than 2 weeks! It really snuck up on me. And it really hit home at my going away party this weekend. WFP put together a little gathering to send me off.
We spent the day preparing the food.... Spicy goat soup. We got the goat from a village about an hour from here. Apparently the village was SO excited to get rid of this goat because it was a real trouble maker. We were happy to take it off of their hands.
It was delicious!
We all had a great time together!

The party actually carried on until the next day...
with some taking part more than others!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Top Twenty-Fives

I have exactly 2 weeks left in Zwedru. It's finally hit me that I am leaving soon. This has stirred up a lot of feelings that I am just now able to begin sorting through. I've started the process by making a list of what I will most most about Zwedru (in an attempt to remind myself not to take the day to day things for granted in my last days here) and a list of what I can't wait to get home to (in an attempt to not take these things for granted once I get home!).

Top 25 things I am going to miss about Zwedru (in no particular order)…
1. Food. Pepper soup, palm butter, potato greens, cassava leaf, papaya, acheke, fried plantains, sweet potatoes with pepper stew on top, fufu, jollof rice!!
2. The feeling of my mouth being on fire after eating the above foods
3. Going for egg sandwiches (2 eggs, one cup oil, a few pieces of onion, and a squirt of mayo) and a cup of coffee (1/3 cup Nescafe, 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk) on Sunday mornings
4. Knowing 75% of the people who pass by while I am eating my egg sandwich on Sunday morning
5. My friends and colleagues
6. Florida Fridays with the other NGO workers
7. Pasta Saturdays
8. Weekend afternoons at Cash bar with the WFP drivers to watch football and drink cold ones
9. Eating donuts or bread with mayo for breakfast everyday. And not feeling bad about it
10. Watching bad reality TV with my housemate after a long day at work
11. Sitting outside with Ruthia on Saturday afternoons, reading a book, drinking pineapple juice and eating popcorn
12. Walking to work in the morning with all the cute (and sometimes utterly annoying) little kids on their way to school
13. Walking to Ruthia’s in the mid-day sun
14. Market shopping with friends on the weekend
15. Bargaining for everything
16. BBC news and Network Africa from 7-8 am
17. West African music on cassette tapes, repeated for hours on end while in the vehicle
18. The sky, scenery, and the smell of the jungle. Palm trees, sunrises and sunsets. Storm clouds, thunder, lightening and rain.
19. Driving through the mud. Its like being at Hershey Park and riding on the Comet in a bumper car
20. Standing out in a crowd
21. Taking pictures of weird things
22. The full moon
23. Being congratulated for gaining weight
24. Having a personal tailor
25. Buying random food items in small plastic bags

Top 25 things I can’t wait to get home to (in no particular order)…
1. A HUGE deli sandwich, with a bowl of chowder and potato chips
2. Family and friends
3. Wearing socks (I haven’t worn a pair since July)
4. A real pillow: one not made of cut up pieces of foam stuffed it into a pillow case
5. REAL coffee. Brewed. With unlimited refills
6. A different outfit (I’ve been wearing the same 5-6 outfits for 5 months)
7. A comfortable couch, bed, and chair
8. Convenience
9. Diner breakfasts
10. Fruit. In any form: fresh fruit, fruit juice, fruit salad
11. Not wearing flip flops in the shower
12. Hot running water
13. Paved roads
14. Fast internet
15. Drinking tap water
16. Beer on tap and wine
17. Sleeping without the sound of a generator running (imagine a lawn mower outside of your window all night)
18. Blending in
19. Sidewalk cafes
20. 24-hour electricity
21. Ice cubes
22. Traffic patterns that make sense
23. Working out and going to the gym
24. Fountain soda
25. A washer and dryer

Thursday, November 25, 2010

SPF 30, coconuts, and fishnets

I had a Peace Corps meeting on Monday so I decided to go down to Monrovia a few days early. I needed a break from Zwedru and our friends from the Indian bat. invited us to Robertsport on Sunday. Robertsport is known for being one of the best surfing areas on the West Coast of Africa. I certainly wasn't going to go surfing but thought it would be fun to take a road trip (as if going to Greenville and back and then down to Monrovia wasn't enough) and just relax in the sun for a day. It took about 2 hours to get there. We packed a picnic, our bathing suits and suntan lotion. It was really all we needed.
We drank fresh coconut water, went swimming, and ate some curry.

We were also able to see the local fishermen bring in their evening catch. I wasn't thrilled to see what had been swimming around with me all afternoon, but it was interesting to see the guys working so hard to pull the fish in and then watch all the market women come in and divide everything up for sale.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Impromptu Party

It started as an afterwork Happy Hour at 3pm. It ended as a late night dance party at 11pm.

We have half-days on Friday and usually spend the free afternoon napping, reading, doing laundry or just sitting around. Yesterday that changed. A bunch of us met at a local bar/restaurant for lunch and a quick drink. As more and more people joined us, the quick drink turned out to be not so quick.

I have to start out by saying that my colleagues and friends here are such wonderful people. We have so much fun hanging out in and out of work. We laugh, share stories and make fun of each other. One thing that I have come to realize is that the relationships I have with my Liberian friends are so much different than the relationships I had with my Zambian friends. I owe that to the different level of work I am doing, the different living situation I am in, and the different culture here. I enjoy each of these experiences (in Liberia and in Zambia) in their own way. Both will hold a special place in me forever!

So, back to the party...
We sat around drinking for a while and then the dancing began!
We couldn't sit down- the music kept playing and the beers kept flowing!

As time went by, the crowd watching us from the sidewalk grew from zero, to about 10, to about 50. I can't blame them. White people dancing IS pretty exciting.

We had a great time although the 11 hour car ride to Monrovia the next morning really sucked...

...and almost didn't make it back.

I had such high hopes for the trip back to Zwedru. A few hours in and those hopes were dashed. We got stuck. And I don't mean stuck, I mean STUCK. And our winch was broken.

After admitting defeat, our driver sent someone to the closest village to recruit people to come help. For 3 hours we (...other people) shoveled the mud and jacked up the car and revved the engine and pushed forward and pulled backward. After all that, all that was accomplished was that the hole we were stuck in got deeper and the mud around the car got muddier. And I got to take more pictures from the sidelines. I offered to help, but honestly think I would've just been in the way!
Finally, as the sun was setting and the thunder started rolling, a huge truck came by and pulled us out.


The End.