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Glimpses of Liberia

February 16, 2010

Disclaimer:  Yes, this is a blog primarily about food, and no, this post does not have anything to do with food.  Just some nice pictures and (hopefully) moderately interesting writing.

Liberia is an interesting, beautiful and complex country.  A long string of civil wars finally ended in 2003, and Libera is now working on rebuilding itself, largely with the help of the United Nations and foreign aid (yours truly included).  Twenty-five year-old former combatants are back in school in the 9th grade, those that fled during the war have repatriated, citizens are being encouraged to pay their taxes and vote, and in 2005 Liberia was the first African nation to elect a female president.  And at least 42% of all people admitted to the hospital with malaria die. 

We traveled to a number of small communities and villages to do mosquito catches for our training (the ultimate goal of which is to decrease malaria by decreasing mosquito populations) and those trips were my favorite part.  You never get to actually see a country by staying in the capital city; it is in the villages where you get to see how people really live.  Children would follow me around, shouting something that sounded like “why woah-mah!!” and “tay ma pee-sha!!” (which turned out to be “white woman” and “take my picture”).  The villagers would smile and nod “good morning” and were usually more than happy to accommodate our strange request of wanting to catch mosquitoes.

That right there is me holding a petri dish full of about 100 mosquitoes (primarily Culex, if you’re interested, which do not transmit malaria, but there were no Anopheles to be found and sometimes you have to take what you can get.)

Oh, and there are beautiful beaches in Liberia.  Beautiful.  My hotel is actually right on the beach, but I’ve been advised to not to go swimming at this beach because (as happens with most urban beaches in developing countries), people use the water for a number of activities that make the water less-than-clean.  Plus apparently if I went to that beach my stuff would get stolen.  The picture below was actually taken at one of our training facilities, which was right on the water.  Needless to say, I was very sad when we changed venues after the first week to accomodate the laboratory portion of the training.

My next stop is Ghana, where I will be in Accra for a couple of days and then heading up north to Tamale (prounounced “ta-ma-LEE”).  Then, towards the end of the month, I’m returning home!!  And I hope there is still some snow.

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