Thursday, 13 November 2014

Marooned in Monrovia

'Marooned in Monrovia'



The deserted beaches in Monrovia.

I should open with an admission. The last post, 'Freetown Food Basket Delivery', with nearly 1,000 viewings is a difficult act to follow. This post lacks the power and punch of last time out. 

Yep, stuck in Liberia. Came for 4 days. Looks likely now 11. Perhaps longer. Every child should know a couple of good jokes for school, and to occasionally entertain us adults. Postscript at the end... using the word 'marooned'...

Let's begin with good news. In Liberia the rate of new Ebola infections appears to be declining. The death toll from the outbreak had remained under 5,000 for quite some time, relatively speaking. However, as I put the finishing touches to this post, it has risen to 5,160. Exponential increases have at least stopped, for now... 

Liberia has been the most affected country. Nearly half the cases. Nearly half the deaths. Thankfully, the recent numbers are far better than the projections of a few weeks back. 

As a result there's quiet optimism, here in Monrovia, at this downward trend across different parts of the country. No one is claiming this particular war is won. A false dawn? A turning point? Time will tell...



My heartfelt thanks to those who've pledged. Even greater thanks to those who've both pledged and donated. Talking of donations...

Where many of you are sat, in great comfort, maybe with a glass of chilled wine, some nibbles, flicking through 100 channels complaining there's never anything on, having a snooze on the lazy boy after a hard day at the office, newspaper across your lap... maybe you're relaxing in bed with your iPad or Kindle...

Darling? Have you sent our pledge? 

I've tried honey, doesn't work on line, what's with this MoneyGrab thing? It's not straightforward sending money to West Africa. The bank is sending verification emails. Africaland is full of crooks. I bet they all have the same mobile number. Africa 419419.... a complete pain...

Darling, calm down; Mark says you have to persevere, it's actually easier taking cash to an outlet. Somewhere like a Post Office. 

Honey, a post what, a post box... why can't we do this on-line, or bank to bank, don't they have internet banking out there?

Darling, you're right of course. But, just for once... take the cash to the MoneyGram outlet, say the recipient is Mark Reading. He's in Freetown, Sierra Leone. They'll convert the cash to Leones. They'll give you a code which we'll email to Mark. He'll need it when he collects the money. Darling, one more thing...

Yes Honey...

Darling, I love you even more when you're all hot and bothered, put that iPad down...

Sorry readers. Becoming carried away. Come on, in all seriousness, get sending. More than half of you have worked through it, everyone can. I've collected nearly 20 MoneyGrams. The system works. Johnny A... you can pull your finger out as well...



Liberia's largest treatment centre.

Funny how most global crises attract celebrities. None here yet, that's if you discount Julia Greening, and Philip Hammond. I know, Julia who... 

Photo ops aren't exactly plentiful. Who looks good wearing a zombie suit? We've had... no Hollywood types. No world leaders. No George C. No David B. No Bozo. None of the usual suspects. As some say in Ireland, what's the difference between God and Bono? God doesn't wander around Dublin thinking he's Bono. 

Come on world leaders, let's have someone here who can help give this more oxygen. It's slowly disappearing from the news again. However, some leaders do deserve a mention. President Obama - take a bow. You've been a voice of reason. David Cameron and the UK - slow, but you're making up for it. Bill Gates Foundation - brilliant. Bill Clinton Foundation - same. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg - outstanding. China - reasonable effort. Russia - do you ever do anything on the world stage. Mainland Europe - where have most of you been? France being a notable exception. 

Special mention time. Lifetime achievement award. Goes to Cuba. What they've done in areas that really matter should be recognised. Thank you Havanna. Their contribution has been real, and greatly appreciated.  

Celebrities do though have a modern way of inserting themselves into a crisis. Like it actually matters what they think. There's 2 ends of this scale. There's the 21 year old singer telling his followers on Twitter his thoughts on Ebola, someone who couldn't find these countries on a map. At the other end of the scale there's buffoons like Donald Trump. He tweeted in early August, "The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected back. People that go to faraway places to help out are great - but they must suffer the consequences!" 

I did meet a real local celebrity, the former mayor of Monrovia; a celebrity, no question. Mary T Broh. Aka, 'The General'. Mary is worth numerous Hollywood types. Fantastic character who really shook up Monrovia during her tenure. She had allies. She made enemies. Look her up on-line. Africa needs more people like Mary. Fight the status quo. Fight the good fight. Fight vested interests. Make a difference. She did all that and more. Two hours in her company was priceless. Some love her. Some not so. But so, so passionate and energetic...



This was my second visit to Liberia. The idea of the blog was founded here in Jan this year. Post No 1 was Monrovia. In the past 30 days I've spent 10 days in Guinea, 9 days in Sierra Leone, and 11 in Liberia. The ultimate trip through Ebolastan. 

I like Liberia. I walked near my hotel at the weekend and passed someone who called over, "Hey, White Dog, whatsup?" In these situations, what do you do? He had plenty of bling and looked fairly sharp. He joined me on my walk. He was about "5.6". I asked him what he did. Basketball player came the reply. Shouldn't basket players be tall? He told me he had a great spring. He demonstrated along the roadside with an imaginary basketball. Whilst no salmon, he did get up high. Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you Vincent. 



He asked where I was going. I told him to take a few snaps for my blog. I'd been out for a run earlier from my hotel in Paynesville. The Golden Key. I now wanted to capture Liberia's largest Ebola treatment centre, and then the national stadium. I had run to both and around the local area earlier. Vincent was now my guide. He told me he was also a gospel singer who wrote his own music. Sing me a song I suggested. Vincent wasn't the bashful type. Actually he had a pretty good voice. Then out of the blue he demonstrated his leap again. When the camera came out, it was difficult to get him out of shot. He's in most photos. Liberia isn't short of characters. 'White Dog' enjoyed his company. We've been in touch since by email. He wants to sell me some diamonds... Vincent was high on life, or perhaps Peruvian marching powder...    



The photo of Vince was taken at Samuel K Doe Stadium. A pitch that George Weah would have graced a while back.The stadium has seen better days, but fortunately I had Vince to light it up. Samuel Doe was a former President of Liberia. He gained power in a military coup in 1980. He killed the then incumbent President Tolbert, and later had 13 member of Tolbert's cabinet paraded naked through Monrovia before they were executed by firing squad on the beach. 

What happened to Doe? Well, not unsurprisingly he lived by the sword, he died the same way. He was overthrown in a coup in 1990. He was stripped, tortured and died in the custody of Prince Johnson, a factional rebel leader allied to Charles Taylor. The torture included cutting off his ears and fingers. During which Johnson was famously filmed drinking a can of Budweiser and being fanned by his aides. Remarkably Prince Johnson rehabilitated whilst in exile in Nigeria came back and ran for election in 2011. He finished third. He's currently a serving senator in Nimba County.  

Let's get back on track to the 'Food Basket Appeal'. The amount pledged is nearly $9k. A major delivery is taking place tomorrow, hence the need to push this post out (managed to depart Monrovia after 11 days last Thurs). $4,000 has been spent from the fund this week. We are heading to Marampa Chiefdom with a truck and 2 cars early tomorrow. This effort is huge compared to Freetown. We'll also be catching up with Yaya the young Ebola survivor mentioned in a recent post from Conakry.

Postscript: The joke for kids. There was a purple family who decided to take a purple holiday. They embarked on a purple boat across the purple sea. The purple boat sank. They were washed up on a purple island. The purple dad walked along the purple sand in the purple sunrise... he looked up at the purple sky and shrieked... we've been marooned...

See you again soon in Marampa Chiefdom...

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