As I awaken from my groggy slumber I realize just how close we are. The plane banks to the right and I see the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, with white sandy beaches punctuating the coast line. The rest is lush jungle and rainforest.
Touch down. Country number fifty. The landing is smooth and the first sight is of a large UN helicopter on the tarmac. Aside from the Kenya Airways plane and a fueling truck, the runway in Monrovia is pretty quiet.
The airport, or lack there of, reminds me distinctively of Kabul. I consider reaching for my headscarf and then realize that isn’t necessary. I plod along through customs listening to chitchat of missionaries here for a couple of a days, and then am thankful once again that I still manage to travel for six weeks with only carry-on luggage.
A driver and one of my staff is there to pick me for the 45 minute drive back into Monrovia.
The first sign I notice is one against sexual violence, still widely common after the war. Reminding passersby that no means no. Followed shortly after with a billboard of the Statue of Liberty covered in Heineken advertisements.
What really blows me away is the site of a woman carrying a bundle of fish traps. These were the identical style of fish traps that I learned to weave in my village in Ghana. Some things just take you back.
Other sites that were pointed out was the JFK Hospital that was started by Kennedy, as well as the former house of Charles Taylor and the home of the current President Ellen Shirleaf. I would think that a former dictator that destroyed an entire nation would have had a nicer house.
This evening I got the tour of the city. There doesn’t seem much to it. A couple of long streets, lots of UN and NGOs. Tons of billboards against corruption and reminding people of the need for their tax dollars to develop the nation. Even more mobile phone ads.
Things are better after the war, but they are slow in coming. It is sad to see a once thriving city struggling back to life. Another example of how civil war does no one any good.