Friday, December 22, 2006

Back From Liberia

December 22, 2006

I arrived in Monrovia just after the sun had gone down, leaving a thick yolk-yellow band of color all across the horizon with a midnight blue mottled sky above and nothing but blackness below: orange, midnight blue and black. The colors of Africa. Next came the smell: a strong musky odor made up of sweat, heat, fumes, spice, and the acrid smoke from a hundred burning coal fires. It hits you like a slap as soon as you walk down the ladder, an almost suffocating odor from which there is no escape.

The city is almost completely trashed, the buildings looted and ransacked with even the wires having been ripped from the walls. People live in ramshackle huts with tin roofs held up by crooked beams. I saw a family of wild pigs including the boar rutting in an empty field right across from the American Embassy. I saw men sleeping in wheelbarrows. I saw turds rolling in the surf and a boy wiping his behind the morning I walked on the beach. There are very few roads in the whole country, no sewage system, no trash collection, no clean running water. Liberia can hardly be called a country, in fact. And yet, in spite of all this, I have never met more magnificent human beings in my life.

More later.

Thanks for caring.


Friday, December 01, 2006

And now....Liberia!

Friday, Nov. 30,2006

If you were listening closely during my program with Swanee Hunt on Nov. 20, you might have heard her say, "I'm going to Liberia with some women in a couple of weeks...would you like to come?"

Well, acting on the premise that the postman only knocks once, I'm flying to Brussels on Dec. 7 and from there on to Monrovia via Dakar. Yikes.

I will be with a delegation of some 27 women, a number of them from WAPP, Swanee's Women and Public Policy Center at The Kennedy School. We will be meeting with Liberia's new president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as well as the women in the market who got her elected. I like that span. Ms. President happens to be a UW-alum, which is just nifty. While there we will also visit a UN refugee camp and travel by helicopter in-country to a community center that's entirely women-run. Now, would you say no?

I'll tell you all about it when I get back on Dec. 18.

Thanks for reading this. It would be very encouraging to see a few messages posted when I check again. I promise I'll figure out how to write back.