I love the weekend.
After riding in the car all day on Friday (with big pieces of warm bush meat), I was ready for some R & R with Ruthia, one of the other volunteers here in Zwedru. We met up at the local restaurant, “Florida,” and binged on pizza, cold beer and fried plantains. As if that wasn’t good enough, as we were getting ready to leave someone walked in with a cup of soft serve ICE CREAM. IICCEE CCRREEAAMMMMMM. Now, I’m not one to go out of my way for ice cream, but it looked so delicious! Where did it come from???? Low and behold, across the street, there was a small sign with two ice cream cones on it. Ruthia couldn’t resist-she went right over and soon came back with a brown/white (if you ask what flavors they have, they will say “brown, white and pink” instead of “chocolate, vanilla and strawberry”) swirled soft serve ice cream CONE! Even though she said it wasn’t that good and tasted like frozen powdered milk, I think it will do the trick on a hot day. There’s something to be said for having low standards for things like pizza and ice cream in third world countries, let alone small towns in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, it was a great way to start the weekend.
We met back up on Saturday to browse around town and do some shopping. We started in the Lebanese shop which ended up being a good choice. We walked in and there on the counter was a cardboard box over flowing with LETTUCE. LLEETTUUCCEE!!!!!!!! CRISPY CRUNCHY LETTUCE!! We literally shrieked with joy but were immediately interrupted by a Liberian guy telling us that they were not for sale. After seeing our complete disappointment the Lebanese store owner laughed and said go ahead and take some (for free!)… we did without hesitation. My first green crunchy leaf since July 8th…. but, who’s keeping track? To go along with our lettuce, I bought a can of cold pineapple juice (complete with Vitamins A,C, and E!), prepackaged rice (a stellar find because the local rice is full of dirt and rocks that need to be cleaned off and sorted through before eating), green bananas, 2 new chitenges (wrap skirts), pasta , canned tomatoes, tomato paste and coffee. The afternoon shopping trip was a huge success! I even found a shoe repairman to sew the heels of my favorite shoes back on for $1.00. We came back to my house and cooked a pasta dinner (with a package of the Knorr pesto mix that Ruthia brought from home), complete with garlic bread and A LETTUCE SALAD. We were in heaven. I ate more in that meal than I had all week.
After dinner we decided to go back into town and check out what goes on at night in Zwedru. Much to our surprise, we found that at night the town triangle (where the playground is) turns into an outdoor bar and dance club with huge speakers blasting the latest West African hits. As if that wasn’t enough, across the street is a competing bar called “CASH bar and restaurant.” We decided to take up a table in the triangle and watch the nightlife go by. Here I am, sitting in Zwedru, in the middle of nowhere, hours from the next town, with no electricity and barely running water, watching girls smoke and drink beer while men in the latest fashions dance behind them. What is this place? We sat in our chairs thoroughly confused (and slightly humored) about what was going on around us. Where is the money coming from to buy beer (but not food to feed the children who are malnourished and need to receive food rations from WFP)? What do they do all day? I haven’t seen much in the way of employment around here (at least outside of the UN). There are the men and women who sell things in the market or out of a little shop, a few tailors, a few beauty salons, and some small restaurants. I can’t imagine that’s enough to sustain a night life!
We couldn’t stay for too long. I had a hard time figuring out how I was going to sit there watching this unfold (which could potentially seem like condoning: “the white girl hangs out at CASH bar and likes to dance and drink beer!”) and then go the clinic the next day to teach about family planning, STI prevention, teenage pregnancy, and malnutrition prevention and treatment.
We ended the evening deciding that we could make a pretty good reality show (“Zwedru Town”) about what goes on around here. It would be much better than the Jersey Shore.