Hello friends! The past few months have been jam-packed, but things are starting to return to normal, if only for a short while. There is much to tell you about, but in this post I want to focus on a trip I recently took to visit a friend and fellow volunteer in a neighboring village, not too far outside of our city.
The trip begins with a visit to parking – a big dirt lot filled with crowded and overpacked cars, vans, and trucks, as well as dozens of motorbikes, with a bevy of drivers waiting to transport customers wherever they need to go. Thankfully my trip is a short one, under an hour along a bush road that is not passable by car. It takes only 5 minutes to secure a fair price (under $4 US) and strap down my bag to the back of the motorbike.
We leave parking, and soon turn off the main road of my site on to a dirt path. The route through the forest is stunning to behold, and I regret that I do not have pictures to show you. Riding on the back of a motorbike is not the most secure way to travel, so I am not able to get my phone out during the ride. After a brief stop at a checkpoint where a young man is being berated for carrying a ‘protected’ monkey with him, we continue riding along the lush jungle path that reminds me of the scenery from Lord of the Rings, and we reach the village of my fellow volunteer.
The place seems strange to me – I am not accustomed to a small village environment. My driver has stopped in the center of town, which I could walk across in about 30 seconds. Even in America, I can hardly remember being in a town so small. I pay the driver, and look for a sign of my friend. When I don’t see him, I ask a Liberian nearby if he knows where the Peace Corps lives. The man is able to walk me right up to my friend’s front door. I should point out that I am not able to call my friend to tell him that I’ve arrived, as there is no phone signal in this town. I don’t mean that the signal is weak or spotty, I mean there is none at all.
Upon entering, my friend and I talk for a while, then decide to go on walkabout and grab some food for dinner. It doesn’t take me long to realize that my friend is know by, and knows, virtually every single person in this town. It makes progress slow, because he is expected to greet every person he passes – some in English, some in Krahn, the local dialect in this region of the southeast.
As we work to acquire the foods we need, I notice the limited options – this town only has their market open on Saturdays, and today is not Saturday. Thus, we are confined to what is available, being sold out of small shops and off of people’s porches. We find potatoes, onions, spaghetti noodles, and a handful of plantains – this appears to be the extent of the food that is being sold today.
One of the shops we stop into has a monkey baby living there. His name is Jack, and I can tell immediately that he is petrified of me. The children find this amusing, so one of them grabs him and places him on me. For a moment, Jack grasps the fabric of my shirt, afraid to let go because he will fall, but equally afraid to be so close to me. I carefully place my hand on his perch (which is the top of a door) and allow him to climb up my shirt and run across my arm to safety. The Ma who owns him explains that she buys baby monkeys, raises them for a few months, then sells them as pets when they reach adulthood (for about 4x the price).
We get back to the house to drop off the food, and then continue the walkabout. My friend points out his school, about 200 yards from his back door. This makes me envious, as my walk to school is considerably farther.
We continue walking towards ‘the bush,’ meaning away from town into a heavily wooded area. Being from the city as I am, I’d heard lots about the bush, so I wanted to see it. I’ve heard stories about wild pigs, great big monkeys, and massive snakes, so I am eager to check it out. We don’t spot any impressive wildlife such as this, only bugs. Again though, I am struck by the beauty of this landscape.
After returning and eating dinner, it is time for bed. I notice the eerie quiet of this town at night. My site is noisy all night long, with motorbikes racing by, late night (and very raucous) religious services, and people who are out late. In this village, though, the only noise at night comes from one of the cows who wanders, unsupervised, a bit too close to the house. Mooing is surprisingly loud from right outside the window.
Overall, it is a fantastic experience to visit another volunteer’s site. It drives home the point for me that, while all of us volunteers go through many of the same things, our experiences can be totally different. We’re all in it together, but our lives in-country are unique.
Until next time,
P.S. The title of the post is a reference to a belief that is common at my friend’s site. In our community, snakes are mobbed and killed as soon as they are spotted (Amy and I appreciate this approach when the snake is outside the house). In his town, snakes are not killed – this seems unusual compared with my own observations in this country.