The last time I was in Liberia was four months before my wedding in DC. I arrived the morning of my 28th birthday and celebrated later that evening at Anglers . It was the start of raining season and Libassa -- a new beautiful, rainforest ecolodge in Marshall had just opened where I spent an afternoon lounging with girlfriends. I also made a day trip to Wulki Farms to spend some time with my big cousin.
It was a short yet wonderful week, I knew when I returned again the following year, it would be with my husband, Rob. Except it took four years, the tragedy of Ebola long-delayed my return.
My return to Liberia would include a book tour to promote Janjay and it would also be my husband's first visit. Not exactly the most ideal time to come, I have to admit. Even though dry season is right around the corner, September can bring some of the hardest rainfall and with only three weeks shy of the next presidential election, traffic is heavier than usual and tensions are high. I was in the midst of it all five days before Rob came to join the circus.
The political season caused me to reflect on the current administration's success and failures. Given the billions Liberia have received within the last 12 years, it was really hard for me to ignore the blatant failures because they far outweigh the successes. Reoccurring expenses to include giant salaries of government officials, corruption and nepotism, and the vast majority of Liberians left with 85% unemployment, no running water, infrastructure, electricity, or reliable healthcare. It's disheartening. I remember when I supported Africa's first democratically elected female head of state. I was wrong. Or I should say rather I'm disappointed. The international community have painted her in high-regard ignoring her obvious blunders. What do they care? So long as she plays ball and serve their agenda. I had the opportunity to join the campaign trail with one of the major parties. I listened and saw the people suffering. Again, my heart broke.
The highlight of my trip was promoting Janjay. I visited several schools and interviewed on a few radio stations. I was humbled by how many Liberians had heard about the book. During casual introductions, people would say, "Wow you wrote that book!" I met some of the smartest students who were really engaged. Even adults were impressed and eager to have a Liberian story for their children to read.
We took a trip to Marshall to find land we purchased three years prior. What an adventure. And of course the daily politicking with friends and family (new and old).
Rob also loved Liberia. Despite not having the time to take him to all the hottest spots, he enjoyed just the day to day interaction with the people. He favored Vicky's Fingers---a local grilled fish and kabob restaurant owned by my aunt and uncle and burgers from Ma Jue's---Liberia's newest fast food joint owned by young Liberian entrepreneurs (part owned by my cousin) that includes a menu of traditional West African cuisine and American-style burgers. My personal favorite is the veggie burger.
Cuisines from Ma Ju's & The Burger Spot
Tugborghee Stew, White Rice, and Fried Sweet Plantain (top); Veggie Burger (Middle) and Strawberry Milkshake (Bottom)
Before we knew it, our time in Liberia had come to an end. A stressful check-in experience at the decrepit international airport back to London. The rebuilding of a new airport in the shadows as we took-off. On the flight, we laughed at the fun times of our trip and predicted the outcome of the upcoming elections. Then we reflected on our five-year-plan to return home again permanently.