Road to Zwedru

Wow…I have never in my life driven across more serrated terrain than that of the road leading from Monrovia to Zwedru. Because of the war that started in 1990 and ended in 2003, the roads in Liberia have been utterly destroyed and sorely neglected. I am suspicious that they were not in good shape to begin with, but now it’s like they hardly ever existed…miles and miles of rutted, potholed jungle road. To say the least, there was no working on the laptop or reading a book. All I could do is fasten my seatbelt and hang on for dear life! I could not believe how fast our driver flew over the bumps and dents along the way, not to mention dodging random cows, goats, chickens and children.

BUT, we made it.

Would love to post pictures of this new place…that’ll have to wait until we return to Monrovia and I can download a few. Until then, cheers.

 

Coconuts

Tomorrow, we leave Monrovia and travel to Zwedru or “the bush” as Stan says. Who is Stan, you ask? Stanislas Bmanenande is our Swedish Rwandan housemate. He is SFL’s senior engineer and our new best friend…hopefully. Stan has been living in “the bush” for the past four months. Zwedru is a remote area of southeastern Liberia where we will be setting up for SFL’s microfinance program.

It is about 200 miles of bumpy, gravel road from Monrovia to Zwedru. Stan said we should expect about a 9-10 hour car ride tomorrow. I have charged my kindle, ipod and laptop in preparation for our journey.

On a completely separate note, I love coconut, which is great because they are everywhere. Both men and women carry baskets of coconut on their head. All I have to do is get their attention and for 20 Liberian dollars (about 30 cents US), they’ll lop of the top and I can drink the water inside.

Why Liberia?

For those of you who may not know, we are in Liberia working for an organization called Shelter for Life (if you’re interested, go to www.shelter.org for a thorough explanation of all they are doing across the globe). SFL is an international Christian humanitarian organization whose mission is to enable poor and suffering people devastated by conflict and disaster to rebuild their communities and restore their lives through appropriate infrastructure improvement and community development programs. Liberia is recovering after 13-year civil war lasting from 1990 to 2003. During that time the country’s infrastructure was almost completely neglected or destroyed.

Tim is SFL’s Community Development Manager and will manage a microfinance project aimed at improving the capacity of agricultural markets in and around Zwedru, Liberia.  I will volunteer in assisting him with financial reporting, documentation and the composing of beneficiary impact stories. I’m hoping to take pictures to publish with each story, but internet is still sketchy so posting pictures requires getting up in the middle of the night when the internet traffic is lighter. We’ll do the best we can.

We anticipate being abroad for a year or so. There is much more to tell, but this gives a general overview of where we will be and what we will be doing. We would value your prayers as we move and settle into a new life in Africa.  We hope to blog regularly after arriving and getting settled in Zwedru.

The Beach

I have only been in Liberia for 2 full weeks and have already been to two of the most stunning, sandy beaches I’ve ever seen…the kind of beach where there is nothing but fine, golden sand as far out as you can swim. Tim and I had a blast after an intense week of work just rolling along with the waves. We’re suffering from a mild sunburn after too many hours of fun in the sun, but it was worth it.

West Point

Our first several days have been spent familiarizing ourselves with Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. Although, we will not be living here, we have been exploring the city, trying to gain better understanding of the people and their most critical needs. These shots were taken at West Point, Monrovia’s largest slum.

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Hello world!

Warm salutations from the coast of West Africa. We have arrived in Liberia and are managing to fumble through our initial first days here without any major catastrophes. The internet connection is quite slow so you’ll have to excuse the delayed postings. I will keep you up to date as much as possible.

1.) February 7, 2011

This morning I woke up to the smell of Africa…not a bad scent necessarily, just unusual. I’ll try to articulate that a bit more as figure out what the smell is made of.

After 28 grueling hours of airplanes, layovers and delays, we have made our way to the SFL guesthouse in Monrovia. We arrived after dark so my initial impressions and observations are based mostly on scent and sounds. I can hear horns honking, goats bleating, flip-flops scuttling, people talking in what, I am sure, cannot be English. I smell exhaust, dust, urine and of course, body odor…mine unfortunately.

All in all, we are good spirits. The house we are staying in is beautiful. All of our luggage arrived in one piece and with minimal damage. Our bedroom has an AC and the toilet flushes. Can’t complain.