The final leg of the flight to Monrovia went very quickly and we arrived 30 minutes early. Upon landing and “deplaning” (I never understood that term…are we no longer “planing”?) we walked down the stairs and onto the rain-soaked tarmac, loaded into a bus, and drove to the terminal. Before entering, all passengers were greeted by the ongoing efforts to maintain Liberia’s status as “Ebola free” by requiring everyone to wash hands under a spigot coming from a barrel with bleach water, have our temperatures taken with forehead scanners, and pass by a thermal imaging camera adjacent to the baggage claim area. My bags (including the over sized well pump) arrived in one piece. After going through a brief moment in customs questioning my well pump without documentation, I was released after explaining it was for a school in Gbarnga.
I was greeted by a small sign held by Albert Samah (LCL staff member whose title is “expediter” since he’s responsible for all shipments into Liberia…I guess I’m considered cargo). He winded me through the chaos that is Roberts International Airport, over the pothole-ridden parking area with my luggage cart, and into the Toyota Hilux 4rWD extended cab pickup truck (these details are for my father, Dick, who probably knows of the truck’s length from memory). With the rain, I was lucky he had the extra cab space to put all my stuff to keep it dry. It took about an hour and forty-five minutes to get to the LCL compound where I am staying.
When I settled into my room, I was summoned by Stuart (one of the guesthouse keepers) to go upstairs because they had prepared food for me. I wasn’t ready for a meal at 9pm, just bed, but I courteously accepted rice and chicken made by Evelyn and went to bed It felt good to get under the mosquito netting and go horizontal after sitting for 24 hours plus, however the air conditioning I was looking forward to didn’t function so I acquiesced and fell asleep after a bit of tossing.
Morning came faster than I expected. Typically Liberian time means anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours later than the scheduled time, but this morning I got a tap at my door and a “breakfast is ready Mr. Jon” at 7:50am. Breakfast of rolls, PB&J, an omelet-like egg, and a banana started the day well (my mainstay OJ will be missed for the duration-dare I go to the dark side and drink coffee?). I joined a gentleman from Germany, Reinhard, who will be doing training sessions all week on “sustainable development”. He is a former head of the Lutheran World Federation, lived in Liberia for 5 years, and now consults. I picked his brain a bit about making our school sustainable, fostering community ownership, and microfinancing but, frankly, felt like I received generalizations that I already knew and no concrete answers about how to go about doing it. I hope he’s more specific with his Liberian seminar attendees.