Last week, JP left last week to spend the summer in Monrovia, Liberia researching for his Masters thesis. He will be guest posting about his travels over the summer, and so I wanted to give you all a background on the West African city I was fortunate to call home a while back.
Although not officially “colonized,” Liberia as we know it now was originally settled by freed slaves from the United States. As a result, there are many similarities between the countries – the national language, driving on the right side of the street, the tripartite structure of government. There is also a huge Lebanese population in Monrovia, many who were born and raised there and stayed through the 20 year civil war.
The war – wow. I’ve read the books, watched the movies, and heard the stories from the people who lived through it. But there’s nothing quite like seeing the effects of the war every single waking moment there – young people with a life-long gap in their education, electricity from generators, otherwise beautiful beaches used as toilets and landfills, and so much more.
JP spent some time up-country close to the border with Guinea (the other two bordering countries are Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire). It’s a totally different universe outside of the city – In Monrovia, there is an extremely large population of “ex-pats” – people from all over the world working for places like the European Union, USAID, the United Nations, or a non-governmental organization – living in the city in compounds and apartments surrounded by high walls topped with razor-wire, shopping at the Lebanese-owned restaurants and stores, but living life with friends and family just as if they had always been there.
And soon, we all forgot that in other places electricity stays on more than 18 hours per day (if the generator is working), movies aren’t all Chinese bootlegged copies sold by street vendors, and the people you spend your day with are from at least 10 different countries and speak at least 10 more languages. I’d do it again in a heart-beat 🙂