The day I interviewed my husband in order to write this blog post, I had watched an episode of the documentary series, Chef’s Table, a relevant point in my opinion because it made me realize the drastic contrast between passions, worries, and pastimes in the developed world versus a place like Liberia. I mean, here I was watching a film about a famous Italian chef experimenting with Parmigiano-Reggiano in his 3 Michelin star restaurant, while my husband was telling me about his first-hand experiences of quite the opposite.
When I asked him about Liberian cuisine, the first point he made was about cravings, which took me by surprise. He said that he realized in Liberia it is best not to entertain the thought of cravings. If you see a commercial for a burger or something chocolaty, there is no convenient or inexpensive way to fulfill that desire. One must learn to not feel like having something sweet after every meal. There’s a huge difference between eating something good and eating to survive. “I am only visiting, but for people that live here, fulfilling cravings like sweets, ice cream etc. is difficult to do,” he said. One day, he was craving pizza, so he and the people he is staying with made a curry out of peas, carrots, and corn over tortilla bread instead to fulfill the craving.
About local delicacies, he said there is a dish called, ‘potato greens’. It’s made of mashed up leaves, a bit like spinach, but it actually has no potato in it. So, why is it called potato greens? Beats me haha.
Now, I know what you all are really wondering. What was the most delicious meal he has had on his trip? “There was this woman on the side of the road barbecuing fish on the top part of a fan rack. It was very spicy and had a lot of flavor. Locals eat the whole fish including the eyeballs, but I didn't obviously,” he added. Another special delicacy is pickled chili peppers, perhaps spelled, Pepe, pronounced (pay-pay).
|A fish dinner with a side of pepe.|
|Chili peppers used to make pepe.|
|Fresh coconut juice, straight from the tree.|
A banana tree! Do you see them growing on there?
CAN’T BEAT THE HEAT:
Despite the fact that the power goes out often, by the grace of God, he has a fan where he is staying at the moment. He told me that it is so hot, even at night that you cannot simply flip your pillow over or move around on your bed to cool down. Everything is just always hot. When the power goes out, it is hard to fall asleep. You have to sleep on your back so none of your body parts are touching each other, otherwise it feels sticky and too hot.
|Lots and lots of palm trees!|
|School children playing sports against the sunset.|
“One of the first things I realized when I got off the plane was the smell of the city. It was a very deep musky heavy smell. It smells like petroleum, humidity, and gas emissions,” he said. Over time, he realized that this is the normal smell of Monrovia. The air is so heavy that when he would go home at the end of the day and wash his face, the water would turn black because of how much dirt came off his face.
The aftermath of a five star hotel after the civil war which ended in 2004. There also used to be a lot of elephants and monkeys, but they got eaten up because of famine after the civil war. Now these animals can only be found deep in the jungle.
|The inside of a mosque.|
|An Ahmadiyya school in Monrovia, Liberia's capitol city.|
The majority of the roads, with the exception of the capitol city of Monrovia, are unpaved. As a result, they are also very bumpy and not comfortable to travel on. There are many potholes in the roads, some so deep that if you accidentally drove over one, you could get stuck or even seriously injured. When driving, you do see motorists that have gotten stuck in potholes. Also, the monsoon season destroys the poorly made pavement and especially the unpaved roads. In Bomi County, some villages he visited had roads so terrible that he walked alongside the truck instead of riding in it. The ride is slow and bumpy. The scariest part for me, he said there are manholes everywhere without lids, so you could literally just fall in, especially as a pedestrian at night. Luckily, he never goes out at night.
|A motorcycle ride into a village.|
|An unpaved road.|
|Crossing a flooded area in a makeshift boat.|
|A blocked road? I'm not sure, I forgot to ask.|
PEOPLE WITH BIG HEARTS:
His favorite aspect of Liberia are the Liberian people. “They are amazingly selfless. They will go out of their way to help you. If your car gets stuck, they will run to your car and help you out, smiling while doing it,” he said. He went to a village where the chief woman of the village gifted him a chicken, which is a big deal over there. He repeated that the people give him much love and that everywhere he went, people were extremely generous despite having so little.
|A gifted chicken :)|
|Some kiddies :)|
|Some kids playing with balloons.|
|My husband with some locals.|
THE BEAUTY OF LIBERIA:
First of all, there are palm trees everywhere. When he told me this, I was all ears because palm trees are one my favorite things in the world. Many houses are also made of mud with roofs made of palm tree leaves. He also visited a place called Tubmanburg. It is an incredibly green and beautiful area. There are rolling hills full of palm trees and lush jungles so dense that you can’t see further than a foot into them.
He hiked to the Blue Lake in Tubmanburg, which has beautiful clear blue water. The lake is actually a quarry that used to be a mine, but had to be deserted during the civil war. It is basically a man-made body of water within a huge mountain originally created to dig for various metals. During the civil war, the mining machinery was left behind. The lake is about 300 feet deep in certain parts, full of cool fish, and machinery abandoned deep in the water. He knows this firsthand from swimming in the lake, I am supposed to add haha.
|A pretty beach.|
|A shot of the water taken while swimming in it.|
ADVICE FOR THOSE PREPARING TO VISIT:
Each country in Africa is different, so he can only speak for Liberia. He said that all those things that people tell you to bring, they are futile. He took all the precautions for repelling bugs, but has gotten bit many times. Bug sprays and mosquito repellent did not work. He found that after-bite ointment worked best out of all the products he took with him. It cools the area after a bite and provides the most relief. Also, ant bites are way worse than mosquitoes because they bite more times. “Sometimes when walking, you have to be very aware of your surroundings because there are streams of ants and if you accidentally step on one, they crawl up your legs in groups so quickly and bite that the only way to get rid of them is to take your clothes off or jump in water,” he said.
He also said that the sandals he bought before traveling saved him on the trip. There are a lot of rocky and bumpy places that are hard to walk on without a proper shoe sole. It never ever gets cool enough for a sweater. These days during the monsoon season, it rains a lot and very hard. An umbrella is basically useless because it will get destroyed and not work. He says you could wear a raincoat or rain boots, but no one uses them here, so you would probably just look funny. No matter when you go, thin clothing is best. You will also need a lot of packaged water because the local water is not safe for foreigners to drink. Well water will make you sick. And of course, it is very important to stay hydrated because you will sweat a lot throughout the day.
I left out two scary stories because a) my intention is not to paint a negative picture in any way and b) this post is already 1400 words long and most of you have probably stopped reading by now. If not, holler at me in the comments below ;)
Thank you for reading. Take it easy.