Monday, September 27, 2010

It's Monday again! I haven't had even a second to really sit down and think since I last wrote. Here's why:
Thankfully, I ended up getting a nice ride to Monrovia last week! A friend called at about 5pm (just as a HUGE thunderstorm rolled in) on Monday night and said there was an NGO vehicle going down on Tuesday (they were supposed to be heading to Greenville, but the roads were so bad they had to turn around and come back to Zwedru). I really did NOT want to have to take a taxi and swim across this:

Have I mentioned before my undying love for Land Cruisers?
I made it safely to Monrovia around 6pm (it only took 11 hours!) and met the other volunteers for a nice meal... which didn't stay in me for too long.... Oh, cheese, how I love you and hate you all at the same time.

After dinner we settled in at the Convent guesthouse. This convent is the cheapest place in the city AND it sells beer and ice cream. Yes. I said the convent sells beer and ice cream. It also has some great sheets for the bed... which one of you sent these Hulk sheets to the Salvation Army? Rest assured they are being used here in Liberia.

Our meeting on Wednesday ended up being a day full of surprises. To quickly sum it up, we met with the UNICEF staff (who provided mid-morning snacks and coffee!!!!!!!!!!) and got a run down of what UNICEF does so we can start thinking about how we can incorporate their goals into our work plan. Then we met with WFP to discuss how things were going and let them know our plans for the next few months. The afternoon was the "logistical" session. It turns out Peace Corps, WFP and UNICEF really don't know how they want us to work together (and had to schedule a second meeting without us to figure it all out). What is clear is that 1) WFP wants UNICEF to take care of some of the costs (transport for our work activties etc.), 2) WFP wants us to start looking for a new house (which we will conveniently delay on finding) and 3) Peace Corps just sort of sits there and says take care of out vols so we don't have to. At least thats what it felt like.
We left deciding that work will carry on as usual, but we have to turn in our UN IDs and start looking for housing. My final thought to the 3 organizations was that they should really figure out what they want from Peace Corps Response Volunteers so that when the next group comes in January, they have a clearly defined job description, a place to live that is conducive to their work situation and the support of all involved partners to provide the necessary resources to carry out their work plan.
That evening I found heaven. Heaven is actually located in Monrovia on UN Drive in Mamba Point. It's just behind the walls of the American Embassy. Last time I was in Monrovia I met a guy, Filiberto, working for USAID. I decided to see if he had time to meet with me to talk about job hunting etc. on this trip. He invited me for coffee. In Heaven.
I met him at the gate of the Embassy. When we entered the gate, we actually left Monrovia. Immediately, a golf cart pulled up asking us if we needed a ride. Wait, what? a ride? Filiberto said sure, but we are just going down to the tennis courts. Wait, tennis courts? To get to the tennis courts you have to take this WELL PAVED trail, lined with green manicured bushes and flowers. Butterflies were actually flying around and I am sure if I looked hard enough I would've seen the end of a rainbow here. At the tennis courts, we hopped out and he took me to see the USAID office.... aircon, flat screen TVs, coffee machine (what used to be my office nightmare). After a quick tour, we walked over to the pool, where they spend their Saturday afternoons. Then we passed the sand volleyball court where they play on Sundays. Wait, swimming pools and sand volleyball? From here we made our way to the cafeteria, which actually has a bar OVER LOOKING THE SUNSET OVER THE OCEAN. I'm sorry about the caps, but thats HOW AMAZING IT WAS. That's where Filiberto eats his lunch (my lunch spot overlooks the taxi parking station) . You can see the gym from here, but he said he would show me that next time. When we left the cafeteria we ran into some people taking their dogs (from America) for a walk along the trail that runs parallel to the ocean. We eventually (reluctantly) made our way out of the Embassy and went across the street to his apartment. The place is bigger than the WFP guest house. He asked what I wanted to drink but I couldn't decide because there were too many choices (red wine, white wine, sparkling water, regular water, beer, 4 different types of sodas, juice). I settled on a Diet Coke. As an Embassy worker he gets to send over 2,500 lbs of consumable goods from America. The place was stocked with Kroger brands, and Kelloggs, and everything else delicious. We got a bowl of mixed nuts and spent the next hour discussing development aid work. I had to leave heaven around 7:30 to meet friends for dinner, but I am already looking forward to my next trip in October. Ruthia and I will pass on the convent and stay at his place.
On Thursday, 5 of us got taxi and headed back to site. We made it to Ganta (where the paved road stops) and found a WFP vehicle to take us to Saclapea. We had to spend the night there because it was late and the nearby river had flooded the road. The river had not receded by Friday, but we went for it anyways. If I had been in a taxi, I would've had to stop here, get out and swim:

While this guy would put my bags on his "boat" and float them across.
We actually passed this vehicle when going down on Tuesday. Everyone was busy digging it out, but on Friday, it was still there. All the goods have been emptied out and the "diggers" have given up.
WFP was gracious enough to carry us all the way back to Zwedru. Or I may still be in Saclapea.
The weekend was a restful one. Sort of. 4 volunteers from neighboring towns came in for a visit. They stayed at Ruthia's, but we made dinner at the compound on Saturday.
It's been soooo hot these last few days. My laundry is actually dry.
They started the renovations of the guesthouse and then decided to stop mid-way through. I shouldn't act surprised, cause I'm not. I moved my stuff back into my old room. Its just a plywood floor that is already being eaten by termites. The screws that hold the bed frame together went "missing", so I've decided to put the matress on the floor and set up my AMAZING rei bug net, which turned out to be a great idea because I mistook a cockroach for a mouse last night... thats how big it was. The mouseroach was running from the nest of babyroaches it left in my wall. What do they say? It's all part of the experience? Yes, that sounds right. My house mate is back from the states and as we were watching this all unfold: a bed that can't be put back together no matter how hard we tried, termites, mouseroaches and even a frog in the dining room, we couldn't help but laugh and drink a cold beer.
I love this continent.

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