Monday, May 19, 2008

Around Monrovia

Weather: Rain more frequently now, especially in the evenings, at least every third night. Last night we got about .75 inches in a couple hours. Day time is humid as ever with temps in the 80's. Night times are cooler now, and we are chilly with in house temps dipping to 79F.

Now that we are fully back into the Liberian soup, I thought a little tour of the streets of Monrovia might be in order. We live outside the city, and while some of our work is miles away, both Renita and I find our work centers in Monrovia.

Monrovia is really the only true "city" in the country, all the others amounting to villages of varying sizes, none much more than 20,000 in population. The civil war caused Monrovia’s population to double, as displaced people streamed into the relative security of the capital. Today, the city cannot support all of its residents, so many wander the streets, some begging, some stealing, everyone looking for any opportunity to get some cash. Estimates are Monrovia now holds over a million people, or over a third of the population of the country. It is not a pretty city, for over fifteen years of neglect has left it scarred and dirty. Not yet fully supplied with the electricity it enjoyed before the war, with a poor water supply and meager sanitation, with insufficient and roads constantly needing repair, the city struggles to clean its act up. In the four years since we first visited, we have seen real progress. The administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has worked hard against a tradition of corner-cutting, skimming off the top, extortion and every other type of corruption invented by man. She deserves a Nobel Prize.

Anyway, join Renita and I on a trip literally around this town, which like "Tobacco Road," may be despised because it’s filthy, but loved because its home. If you look close, you'll see signs of hope everywhere.

Not far from home, the Chinese have consructed an asphault and concrete-making factory as it supervises road repair throughout the country. Heading North.

Our first major intersection as we appoach the city-- this is ELWA junction. Turn (bend) to the left to head into the city.

One of the several new used buses for much needed public transportation. Monrovia needs a lot more!

As we head into the city, we pass UNMIL headquarters-- UNMIL stands for the United Nations Mission in Liberia. Still one of the largest in the world, with thousands Peacekeepers. They will be leaving a little at a time, begininng this fall.

The Capitol Building--being refurbished with the help of USAID-- the good people of the USA. And directly across the street-- the President's building, called the White House. Oddly, signs on the gate state "Photography Strictly Forbidden." Not sure what that means, but since I got this photo online, they can't bust me. I hope.

Downtown Monrovia-- this is Center Street.

Leaving downtown, nearing an area called Red Light-- thousands of little roadside shops. Heading East.

How you like the ride so far? No spitting out the windows!

After circling the city, this checkpoint is on the east side. This during the dusty dry season.

A very common sight-- not only grossly overloaded vehicles, but this one with bags of charcoal for cooking on coal pots. The coal is made in the interior and trucked in. Now heading Southwest.

On the way back, this is a side road to our friends' house-- we need to be in 4WD to make it.

Finally home, the journey 'round Monrovia over. Eastman waits by the big gate.