Posts Tagged ‘liberia

01
Dec
14

the ducor hotel

Even the smallest capital cities in Africa will have an outrageously opulent five-star hotel, but few command the highest point in the city like the Ducor Hotel in Monrovia – even while it sits in total dilapidation, a shell of a building where not even squatters are allowed. For ten bucks though you can enter the Ducor’s ruins and climb stairs to the top, getting superb ocean views  on one side and the whole city stretching down the coast on the other. Wikipedia’s entry for the Ducor is informative and mentions how the hotel was closed in 1989 prior to the civil war. It was then damaged by the fighting and heavily looted before displaced persons moved in to squat. In 2007, the government cleared out the building, and in 2010, there were plans from the Libyan government to refurbish it into a luxury hotel once again. That plan died when Gaddafi fell and the gutted remains have remained in the same miserable shape ever since, even though plants pushing through the cracks add vibrant color. Here is a quick visual tour:

2014_11_23_Ducor-1 2014_11_23_Ducor-2 2014_11_23_Ducor-3 2014_11_23_Ducor-4 2014_11_23_Ducor-5 2014_11_23_Ducor-6 2014_11_23_Ducor-7 2014_11_23_Ducor-8 2014_11_23_Ducor-9 2014_11_23_Ducor-112014_11_23_Ducor-10  2014_11_23_Ducor-13 2014_11_23_Ducor-122014_11_23_Ducor-14 2014_11_23_Ducor-15 2014_11_23_Ducor-162014_11_23_Ducor-17 2014_11_23_Ducor-192014_11_23_Ducor-182014_11_23_Ducor-212014_11_23_Ducor-20

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18
Nov
14

the duke

Meet Duke Appleton, an illustrator who works regularly with UNICEF. On the sleepy Sunday after I arrived in Liberia, I saw him working on this mural, so I stopped and said hello to him and his assistant. It’s a mural that tells the story of an Ebola infection and tries to raise awareness about its phases and outcomes. Here’s the Duke at work:

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08
Nov
14

day 1 of about 200 in liberia

November 8, 2014

I arrived last night and spent my first day getting to know the team, organizing my stuff and generally ambling around town, observing. And it occurred to me that the main drag of Monrovia looked familiar. Not just from my time in East Africa, but it also looked remarkably similar to roads in parts of India, where I was last month. In fact, they all have a selfsame feel in the way that shops displayed their wares, a single asphalt track fell away on both sides to reveal dirt lots buffering shop fronts. The fixtures, the architecture, the shop names – they all had a vague resemblance, despite the countries’ vast differences. I recognized the feeling and what was causing it: we are, in some way, at the end of the world here. i don’t mean physically or even metaphysically, and certainly not judgmentally. This isn’t the end of a normalized civilization or an otherworldly universe. It’s something else: it’s a supply chain issue. The pattern I picked up was that Liberia and other developing countries sometimes don’t attract big brand names or household items. Their markets and shops draw from a hodgepodge of vendors from abroad, many of whom are small-scale or produce knock-off products that they slap Japanese-sounding names on.

Here are a few I noticed today:

1. When you don’t have big box marts around and you need blankets or curtains, you run the risk of creating color schemes that might show up at a classy brothel. The point of being on these sub-branches of the supply chain is you just don’t really have a choice.

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2. And sometimes you risk getting a blanket that says (in French): “a cloud floats in the sky” while underneath, a lamb floats in the sky with a bird.

IMG_32663. I wasn’t daring enough to try one, but I am intensely curious about a “Heineken Mexicano”. Please tell me you know what that is.

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So yes, we are here for a very specific focused task, and we will be throwing everything we have at ending this outbreak. But there’s lots going on here, too, that doesn’t have to do with Ebola. Liberia has a fascinating past and hopefully a strong future. For now, I’m here, and I’d like to show you as much as possible from that experience of simply being here.