Thursday, 19 July 2012

Evening Tea on the Terrace and Two Versions of a Mugging

Here are some pictures of sham ki chai yesterday evening. These pictures were taken by my new Nokia x2 which takes decent pictures,  I must say,  provided my hand is steady. Why am I taking pictures with my mobile phone?

It's a long story. Firstly, my Nikon Coolpix L110,  quite a decent camera,  got buggered. I left in the batteries and apparently,  the cell fuel has leaked into the camera and damaged it permanently. I did not bother getting it repaired until now but maybe I should give it a shot.

Secondly,  the reason I am using the Nokia x2 to take pictures is that my Q-Mobile phone was stolen while Haresh and I were taking our regular evening walk last week. We took the wrong turn in a bad neighbourhood. Haresh summarised it really well on his Facebook profile and I shall reproduce it below. 

He posted this status first: "Do not take a walk, after dark, with your wife, on the waterside bridge...." 

Of course,  it solicited many comments and concerned questions. In turn,  he explained the following:  

Well well... We were on our routine evening walk which starts on Randall Street,  goes throught UN drive,  passing the UL,  Byepass,  and at Broad/Johnson street we divert up Johnson Street to take Ashmun street,  all the way up to the end and then cross over to Benson street and then up the Masonic Hill and then through the Old US Embassy and Coconut plantation,  ending back at where we began. This is a 2 hour nice pleasant walk which we have been doing 3 times a week for a very long time.
That day was specially abnormal and when we reached Johnson street and Ashmun street Junction it was about 7:30 already and we were still very energetic so i came up with the "stupid" idea that we continue our walk over the Gabriel Tucker Bridge to Vai town and then cross over the new Chinese Built bridge to waterside and then on to Mamba point. On getting on to the new Chinese bridge we were accosted by 3 knive weilding hoodlums!! I dont know what came into my mind at that moment... I just went ballistic and started kicking and boxing at two of them while the 3rd one kept threatening Farzana with his knife.
"Fortunately",  my right foot got stuck in the bridge railing during the struggle,  which lasted for less than a minute,  and Farzana's telephone fell off my grip,  on the floor.... They grabbed on the phone and jumped over the bridge railing into the darkness,  leaving me bruised and scratched up and Farzana sceaming and screeching at the top of her voice...
Then a good friendly Nigeria man appeared and helped me get my foot out of the railing,  and escorted us over the bridge and helped us into a taxi. The next morning when i mentioned this incident to our staff at the office,  they all said that we were very lucky and that there have been instances where people have been found murdered under the same bridge every now and then!!
I know you are absolutely right,  it took me 3 years of living,  hearing,  reading stories of these armed robbers (and not taking any of them seriously) until now,  now that it has actually happened to me. It was definately purile on my part,  but alls well that ends well. We played a nice friendly game of Catan that evening and guess what i was rewarded for my braveness and won the game!! ;) [In response to a comment:  "I am touched that it took you what - four years ? - of being in love in Monrovia to find that out ;o)."]

My take on the incident would be slightly different and a short version of it would go something like this:

During a regular evening walk,  Haresh suggested we change our route and go through the new Chinese bridge and go up to Ashmun Street via Waterside. He actually challenged me whether I was too tired and wouldn't mind extending the walk a bit. Foolishly,  I told him,  I wasn't tired. I knew thought that it was a mistake to take this route since it was quite dark. I even told Haresh to turn around at one point and that I didn't want to die that that night. He said,  nothing would happen as long as I was with him. Lo and behold,  we got attacked by three 'rogues' and Haresh started fighting them. I was super angry that he was trying to be a hero and thought he was hurt. I didn't realise his foot was stuck and he couldn't perform a flying kick on their heads. Thankfully,  a Nigerian guy started hurtling rocks at them and they ran off with my Q-Mobile. One dodgy looking guy who I had initially seen walking behind me smoking something else from a cigarette asked us,  "WHAT are you guys doing here?" I told him,   "my man brought me here." The Nigerian man was the only guy around us who was a hero and helped us. I gratefully thanked him and he said,  "Of course, we are all visitors here and need to help each other out." 
We reached a police car which was empty and forgot about trying to report this incident. We got a taxi and reached Haresh's cousin's place. I asked for some Dettol and cotton to clean a few of Haresh's scrapes while Haresh excitedly told everyone what happened. Thankfully,  Amit and his wife told him he should not have tried to fight them in case he got accidentally hurt. We proceeded to play a game of Catan which he won since I helped him with the last few resources he needed. I'm also glad Haresh finally put the word "purile" to good use.

Here are the pictures of our beautiful rooftop garden.

This has become our favourite place to hang out after a long day at work. We have a magnificent view of central Monrovia: Ducor Hotel, the new American Embassy, the Masonic temple, Ministry of Finance, and the Newport Street Mosque. It's really nice to be right in the middle of the city.

Moreover, Randall Street has really quietened down. Around three years ago, we used to have a night club across the street which blasted music all night long, even on weekdays. Now, it's just the frogs.

The nighttime view is also quite marvelous and the city is really quite quiet, except if there's a football match going on.

Most of the plants were bought from nurseries in Sinkor and some of these have been with me for quite a long time. I water them regularly and ask a good gardener that I have befriended to come and take care of them, including spraying them with anti pesticide. I have also tried to multiply some of the plants by cutting off shoots and re-planting them. I have also succeeded in growing some herbs and flowers.

Liberia has got excellent climate for growing a garden, especially tropical plants, but they need care and constant attention just like anywhere else. Lack of water, too much water, lack of sunshine, or too much sunshine, or accidentally pouring used generator fuel into the soil can kill your plants.

I sometimes feel that potted gardening like this is trying to tame the jungle. I've seen most of my potted plants growing in the bush, wildly, freely but here in the potted plants they look quite tame. I have plants in nutella jars, coffee cans, wine bottles and even cement blocks! It seems it is about trying to bring in the jungle into one's terrace and domesticating it.

Me: "Haresh, is that your smoldering look?'
Haresh's smoldering look gives way to giggles. 

Look how we made use of an old wheelbarrow

The plant coming out of the jam jar is - according to me - an orange tree. I bought some itris Mitis Calamondin-Minature Orange Tree seeds on and I believe one of the seeds has sprouted. I showed it to Ben the gardener and he burst out laughing and said, "if you say so."  He said it was a common grass. I am not sure I agree with him since this has also flowered. Let's see who will prevail. 

I have been drinking a lot of coffee since last year and decided to make good use of the empty cans. 

We even have a hammock in our hanging gardens of Monrovia

The walk way and the patio was ingeniously designed by Haresh from left over wood chips and planks from our office floor. 

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