Liberia is the only place that I was a little nervous about visiting this trip because of the conflict that was so recent and so violent. You can see remnants of the war everywhere and the former child soldiers make up a good amount of the touts and beggars on the streets of Monrovia as they haven’t been able to readjust back into society. It’s a very sad thing. However, Monrovia for all its faults and sadness is actually a decent little city with many restaurants and bars often frequented by the tons of UN workers in the city. It’s not the kind of place you would want to move to or anything but it was interesting to see and dispell some misconceptions I had going into it.
I stayed at the favorite UN hotel called the Mamba Point Hotel right next to the US Embassy and across from the ugly beach. Ironically, in my whole life of travelling I had never actually visited a US Embassy and never had a reason to but they do not accept credit cards anywhere in Liberia; you cannot get cash advances anywhere; I don’t have a Western Union account; and there are no foreign exchange places anywhere and I didn’t have any dollars which is the preferred currency in Liberia. Thus, I went to the embassy because it was next door thinking perhaps they would have an ATM or could do a credit card advance or something for an American citizen. It seemed like a logical thought.
Not even close. First, it was almost impossible to get into the embassy as it was not during consular hours which were ridiculously between 2 and 5 as I was there at 9am and needed cash to get a flight to Abidjan that night or I would be stuck there until Friday and be very nonplussed about it. Basically, after talking my way in, I was able to see a really helpful American security guy who was also from New York and he pulled a string to get me in to see the consular people. They were very nice once I got in there but they couldn’t help me. They basically said to wake someone up in the States and have them wire to Western Union which I didn’t want to do. I explained to them that I needed to get that Brussels Air flight that night and they said that Brussels Air is the only vendor in the whole country that takes cards-I was relieved and got my ticket and was happy that at least I got into see the consular people, even through the beaurocratic stuff.
By the way, you know how in government offices they have pictures of the President and VP: well they did at the embassy and the Cheney picture was of him with this awful smirk looking so arrogant, it’s no wonder the rest of the world hates this administration so much if thats the image we are projecting even in pictures. Also, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned so far in my blog but the Africans are as or even more excited about Obama taking office than Americans. It’s really refreshing to see them and the rest of the world so excited about the US again…its been a while and I am excited to watch the inauguration from Africa, I think it’ll be a unique experience and everyone here will be watching it.
I did finally get out Monrovia and am here in Abidjan, Cote D’ivoire or Ivory Coast and heading up to Mali late tonight. Hopefully Liberia can keep this fragile peace they have and put their country back together again as the people seem very upbeat about it. Check back soon for my Ivory Coast entry.