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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 12, 2011 Bats in the belfry. Lizards on the wall.

I find that when I sit down at my computer to write this journal I am overwhelmed. There is so much that has happened to me in such a brief time, but these numerous events are relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. I’ll still record them, though, in hopes that my experiences might somehow help another visitor to Liberia navigate his/her way around.

Friday night was deemed a “community building night.” What that translated to in real life is a night of drinking and going out to the local nightclubs. We had heard that there was a band on Friday nights at the Palm Springs, so that was our intended destination.

The Palm Springs is a hotel with a few shops, a small casino, a bar, and a restaurant. The d├ęcor of the place reminded me of a 1980s cruise ship. Bless their hearts, the Liberians do try to make ex-pat hangouts chic. (Expat is short for expatriate, which is someone who has left their home country to live abroad.)

Adisa, Albert, and I took the school car to the place and met up with Ed, our director, who was already dining on the property with Javier and Lisa. Lisa, from Seattle, works for WHO (World Health Organization), teaching about polio and its prevention. Javier, from Colombia, works for the American Embassy as a financial officer. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite people in Liberia for two reasons. First, he is actually volunteering his time to help out AISM and its staff; it isn’t one of his official embassy duties. Second, he’s a get-it-done person. If you need something, he either does it, will help you do it, or has a contact for it. Javier is an invaluable source of information and resources.

We quickly realized that the band wasn’t going to play at Palm Springs, so we each had one drink (shots of Jack Daniels are $7 there and cans of Coke are $2) before heading to Groovies, where a local band was definitely playing.

The band had a Caribbean feel and played from a repertoire of Bob Marley and Marley-esque songs. Culturally, the club was very different from any American club I’ve been to. First, I was one of very few white people. By the end of the night, I was the only white person in the club, and I never felt awkward or singled out because of it. Second, the men are the ones that were dominating the dance floor! Those guys didn’t care if there were girls or not; they danced with each other, marching and singing and swaying to the Rasta beat.

I got a particular kick out of one dancing man. His face and smile reminded me of a thin, young Louis Armstrong. His dance style was something akin to the drum major of Morehouse College – animated, energetic, and unabashed. He danced in a circle, for the majority of the night, with two other guys, one of who was wearing a coat with tails and silver sequined accents.

Ed and Javier had forewarned me that I would get a lot of attention in the club – not because I was white, but because I am new. If there were eyes on me, I didn’t feel them. However, I watched the interactions between men and women. What I discovered is that both sexes are very straight-forward and equally assertive.

When we returned home, several bats were flying in the hallway. I had seen them one at a time over the past week, but this was a bit much. They are flying into a room whose windows are missing across the hall from our apartments. I’m told they won’t bother me, which I have trouble believing. But, they kill mosquitoes and that makes a bat’s present somewhat tolerable

When I walked into my room, I saw two larger geckos – Irving Sr. and his wife. Irving Jr. made his appearance in my bedroom. Talk about going to bed with creepy crawlies on the brain!

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