Liberian with an Asterisk: Maiden Voyage to My Mother’s Home

“When I finish dealing with you, you will know.” – The Sun

I’m finally in Liberia, perhaps this is the first step towards having my “Liberian-ness” no longer questioned. Born in Washington D.C., this is my first trip to my mother’s country and I am thrilled to finally be here.

The perpetual jabs or slick remarks about my degree of African-ness due to the location of my birth is really old. Particularly when most of the people who have self-identified as the “real Liberian” police don’t do anything for the country of which they are so passionately defensive.

I digress, however, I’m here and I love this country and promote it as much as anyone else who happened to have been born here.

The airport is small, unsophisticated and crowded, but it’s the quickest debarkation I have ever completed – mostly due to the fact that my travel companion is the daughter of a “big man” in Liberia. No, customs check, no questions asked, no bag inspection, they did take my temperature for the Ebola screening, however.

Less than 20 minutes we had deplaned and left the airport.  Upon walking out, the heat embraced me like a long-lost friend, meeting my acquaintance each day when the sun came up and only bidding farewell once the sunset.

My friend Godfrey and his cousin Sam pick me up from the airport and I am super excited to see them. Both of them, being too cool for school, play it super chill. “Hey, Amelia.” Whatever, I thought. After 17 hours of travel, three planes and no cell service, I am glad to finally reach my destination.

We leave the airport and after driving down Robertsfield highway for 10 minutes, we see people in makeshift roadside markets selling – basically any and everything. Selling in buckets from their heads, carrying goods in wheelbarrows, holding palm wine and bamboo worms, cold water and petrol by the jar.

I arrived at my host’s house by around 3 p.m. local time after stopping for a SIM card and data purchase for my local phone – apparently, Verizon is useless on the continent.  The house where I am staying is in the VOA community, off Robertsfield Highway, way off – an eight-minute drive by car and a 20-minute walk to the main road from the house.

The home sits at the end of a long uneven dirt/sand road surrounded by a 15-foot cement wall with glass shards cemented into the top of the wall as a security measure. Inside the compound is a large square area that is almost fully paved with cement pressed pavers.

Along the interior perimeter of the property is a variety of foliage and fruit trees including coconut trees, mango trees, and papaya trees. Approaching the home, there is a large yellow security gate which is manned around the clock. Once inside, the welcome chickens approach you boldly unaware of their likely future fate in a soup.

I’m exhausted, but as much as I’d like to sit down and take a nap, I know it would be best for me to press through the day to help me better adjust to the time difference.  The house staff (for lack of a better description) is very generous and accommodating. Food has been prepared for my arrival although I hardly have an appetite, so I thank the cook and tell her I’ll eat the meal she has prepared in a bit once I unpack a few things.

After Godfrey and Sam drop me off, one of the house staff and a friend of his took me to go and see my mother’s land. It was about a 30-minute walk or so from the house where we were staying, but I figured it would be a distraction from me potentially wanting to take a nap so off we went.

While I knew prior to my arrival that Liberia had a sanitation issue, particularly with garbage, I was not prepared for the magnitude of the problem. Predictably enough, I got the impression that the citizens don’t see it as much of an issue. Trash is EVERYWHERE.

We arrive at my mother’s land which is being looked after by my uncle in a small nondescript home that currently sits on the property. Uncle is not there, so we greet the lady manning a small market operating from the house then we head to our next stop – the beach.

Another 30-minute walk back across the main road through small communities past a soccer field and limitless half-constructed homes, we arrive at the ocean. The mighty Atlantic. Surf at this part of the beach is way too strong for me to attempt wandering into, but there are a few brave souls in the water. Besides the handful of beachgoers and the ever-present trash (even at the beach people?…I digress), the beach was pretty calming and very picturesque.

Upon leaving the beach, we head up the sand ridge to start making the trek back to the house. Unfortunately, once we reached the top of the mound, we walked upon someone defecating in the sand.

Right there, in the open, he was just taking a squat to shit… can’t say I was really ready for that.

By the time we arrive back to the house, I’m totally ready to eat. It goes without saying that rice is on the menu, prepared with cassava fish and pepper gravy it was absolutely delicious, and the cook was very mindful not to kill me with the pepper.

About an hour later my friend Godfrey comes back to pick me up to go out for a few hours. We walk to the main road and take a pen-pen to Tropicana Beach seaside restaurant, very beautiful with a lackluster menu. After wolfing down a vegetarian pizza and Fanta, my friend’s cousin picked us up, dropped me off and I shut it down for the evening.

Daily Thought: How do you improve the sanitation in Liberia?

Featured photo by Amelia Bangura

Amelia is a Contributor and the Content Curator with The Bush Chicken. She graduated from Temple University and is completing a Master of Art in Teaching at Mercer University. Amelia currently works in the insurance industry for a company based in Atlanta, GA.

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