Friday, 11 August 2017

Liberia Nature Talk

I attended the First Liberia Nature Talk with Haresh and a few other friends. The talk was held at the University of Liberia Auditorium, organised by Society for the Conservation of Nature. The lecture was given by Dr Annika Hillers. 

I really enjoyed learning about the unique hotspot that is Liberia which has the last remaining concentration of the Upper Guinea Rainforest. While the forests in Ghana, Ivory Coast and even Sierra Leone have gone, the majority of Liberia's landmass is under forest cover. 

The rain forest in Liberia has unique species that can only be found in this part of the world.

Scientific exploration of the Liberian rainforests only started in the 80s and was unfortunately halted because of the war. Scientific study and conservation re-started in 2010 or 2011 in the post war era. 

There is a vibrant community of international and local organisations involved in conservation. 

The FDA has technical support and assistance but still not enough resources to monitor, educate and implement the laws. The laws are good and unequivocally ban the hunting and killing of wildlife; keeping wildlife as pets, etc. But law enforcement and the technical agencies lack resources, manpower, training to actually implement the laws. Therefore, we see the unabashed sale of bushmeat and animals. It's even illegal to keep the grey parrot as a pet! 

Dr Hillers told us about some of the unique species that exist in Liberia including the Nimba Toad, Pygmy Hippo, etc. The Nimba Toad is unique to the Nimba Mountain range and in fact, only lives in 12 square kilometre area. It gives live birth and gestates for 9 months! 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

A misty Sunday and a visit to the Ducor Hotel hill

After brunch at the Royal Hotel in Sinkor (a regular feature of Sundays since I've lived in Monrovia), I asked Haresh to drive us up to the Ducor Hotel hill to see the misty views on this rainy, cool Sunday. 

It's rewarding to become a tourist in the city one lives in. I encourage friends (especially expats who pass through the city for their job postings) to connect with Monrovia by walking through its streets, closely inspecting it's old buildings, and get a sense of the rhythm and flow, evident by the zig zagging keke's, sellers, pedestrians and traffic. 

Monrovia doesn't enjoy a reputation for being a particularly beautiful or exciting city because of too few restaurants, caf├ęs, cinema houses, museums, public spaces, etc. But Monrovia has a very rich and fascinating history and, I find the city to be extremely beautiful. It just takes a walk around town to help one appreciate its layers. 

Monrovia is photogenic and striking. One can find old, crumbling colonial buildings next to brand new constructions. One can find peeling paint all over town, creating interesting texture. One can find half constructed buildings, started in President Doe's time. Streets in central Monrovia are well laid out, like a grid. Its streets are actually named after some of the first settlers who arrived from United States. And, because they are so narrow, the result is a dense sense of colourful, similar and different buildings from various eras. 

And, don't forget to greet everyone when you take a walk. 

Monday, 3 July 2017

Evening walk

Kavita and I took a leisurely walk in central Monrovia. We walked past the cemetery on Centre Street. They have recently re-fenced the cemetery and I think it looks better, now. 

I remember when I was with UNDP Liberia, our organisation received a tranche of funds from the World Bank under the heading of Transitional Support Funding (TSF) and, this funding was used for a range of activities: reconstruction of schools, clinics, road repairs, etc. At this time, one of my colleagues (and now a very close friend), the head of procurement, was handling the contracts for these projects and, I remember she said she directly managed the construction of the walls at the cemetery. 

So, these walls have been since broken and, this new fencing has replaced that UNDP-World-Bank wall. 

I remember always hearing that this cemetery was full of druggies and criminals who sleep amongst these graves. 

Even when we walked past the cemetery, someone told us not to linger here! 

I clicked a photograph of a grave and, was astonished to see the details. The person had been buried back in the early 20th century:

Mary Antoinettee Bernice Padmore
Born January 26, 1893
Died August 29, 1919

"Ours is an unending love
Higher than the heights above
Deeper than the depths beneath
Lasting ever, even in death"

It is such a beautiful loving epitaph. In case a family member reads this, please know I am only writing about this here because I was so moved by the sense of history, through this one tomb stone. 

To think I've lived in this city for so long and still find new things which surprise me. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Weekly Round Up

See some of the articles I have read and shared on Facebook:

Donald Trump ushers in a new era of kakistocracy: government by the worst people BY MEHDI HASAN 20 January in the New Statesman:

“Do Trump’s cabinet picks want to run the government – or dismantle it?” asked a headline in the Chicago Tribune in December. That’s one rather polite way of putting it. Another would be to note, as the Online Etymology Dictionary does, that kakistocracy comes from kakistos, the Greek word for “worst”, which is a superlative of kakos, or “bad”, which “is related to the general Indo-European word for ‘defecate’”.

AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by David Remnick, November 9, 2016 in The New Yorker. See the opening lines: 
The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit—and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.

Evening walk