Greetings friends. We’ve just had another two days of action filled adventure in and around Monrovia. Early in the morning on Wednesday, January 31, we had the opportunity to stretch our legs a visit a bit of Monrovia. We started by heading to Mamba point, which is section of Monrovia, located on a hill, that juts out over the Atlantic Ocean. After our driver and guide – Rolland Perry – talked to some guards at the bottom of the hill, we were allowed to proceed to see Ducor Palace, which was once a five star intercontinental hotel. Now, after mmm about two decades of war, the hotel is only the skeleton of what it once was. Luckily the guards in front of the hotel itself were kind enough to give us a full on tour of the space, allowing us to walk to the roof, where we were able to take in beautiful views of Monrovia. As all the native Liberians, who accompanied us explained, in 2 years time, Ducor Palace will be restored to it’s 5 star rating. Apparently some Libyan investors have stepped in and leased the hotel and surronding property from the Liberian government. The Libyans will then make all the necessary renovations and manage the hotel until some unknown point in the future.
Now to New Years Eve. Even thye Lonley Planet guide will tell you that New years is a big, religious holiday in Liberia. And it did not disappoint. We went to UCA to hear Eddie preach at the church held in the schol’s auditorium. It was a Pentecostal mass, which meant some people got the holy spirit in them and went a little crazy. Sister Alison was asked to do a solo, which she wowed us all with…highly enteraining, and she really stepped up to the plate. At 12 we headed out into the night for a crazy dance party in the school yard, where we got down as everyone chanted in Vai…Happy New Years, we no die!!!…..Vai is Eddie’s native language…one of 12 here in Liberia. It was a pretty amazing New YEar’s celebration. Christine was in full form, really breaking it down with the LIberian women.
We got home late that night, only to wake up early the next morning to prepare for our New Year’s party for the students of UCA. We were super excited for this party, as were the kids. After the car arrived an hour or so late for us (Oh Africa time) we arrived at Swaggart Island, and of course quickly had a parade of children following the “white people in the car!” We had to keep them out of the auditorium so we could decorate the area with streamers, balloons, etc. We were trying our best to get a generator to get electricity to get our awesome playlist on sean’s ipod going. Finally we got one, but unfortunately the speakers weren’t loud enough and the kids weren’t able to enjoy James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” Oh well- maybe next time. Anywho, the kids filed in and took their seats. We then started handing out bags and bags and bags of popcorn. After awhile, the kids started coming back for more- pretending that they hadn’t gotten any yet. Officer Katie took charge though, frisking the children while looking for hidden bags in clothing, haha.
After the popcorn, we all headed outside for a Limbo tournament! Let me tell you- it was quite the sight to see. These kids could dip it low! It was then time to whip out Bill the Burro, our beloved pinata that came with us all the way from target in columbia heights. It actually only took 3 tries for the kids to break him open, and soon candy was flying everywhere. Eddie’s sister, Ciatta, used her handbag to try to shoo the kids away while I (Ali) went to go look for the rest of our candy. I looked to Eddie for advice on how to hand out the candy to the kids, and I took his advice of just throwing it out in handfuls for the kids to pick up. Needless to say, mass chaos ensued. Katie, Sean, and Christine immediately went on child control- scooping up small children who’d fallen in the sand amidst the chaos. This didn’t keep me from taking my job of candy throwing seriously though. There was candy to be given out! We have this unbelievably hilarious picture that perfeclty depicts this situation- my hand high in the air..a joyous look on my face..candy flying through the air, all while christine is on all fours in the sand scooping up children. Yes, it was priceless.
After the fun-filled and ultra-sweaty party with the children at UCA, there was only one thing we really wanted to do (other than check into an air-conditioned hotel room and order up some cosmopolitans): jump into the ocean. So thats exactly what we did. We asked our awesome driver Salif to take us to the nearest beach, and we ran with our clothes on straight into the ocean. The salty warm water felt amazing! At one point, Alison found that her skirt pockets were full of sand, so Christine decided to help out by empyting her pockets. Unfortunately the waves were strong and Christine ended up grabbing Alison by her underpants, pulling her under multiple times, which resulted in very sandy underpants. The futbol team that was having practice got a kick out of our clothed swimming session, and we, in turn, got a kick out of the Europeans from the UN who strutted by in their teeny tiny speedos. We made sure to get a not-so-inconspicuous photo of the speedos.
Today, we made sure to stop by the Monrovia Rotary Club gathering at La Pointe restaurant in Mamba Pointe (the comfort zone for white people – where the US embassy, UN and nice hotels are). It was a great meeting, and they were generous in the time they offered us to speak and take questions. We were surprised that some of the members didn’t really seem to be aware of the lack of educational facilities outside of Monrovia, but they insisted that they would be eager to partner with the Peoria Rotary Club (of which me and Alison’s father is a part) to help in our effort.
We are heading to Messima village first thing in the morning where we will dedicate the Messima school. After the dedication, we will head to Robertsport via a 2 hour boat ride and spend the night in Robertsport. We plan to meet with some folks there and return to Monrovia on Sunday afternoon.