Thursday, 28 March 2013

For the love of Obama (Not)

Does Obama command the same love, respect and hope as when he first arrived on the world stage? Did he ever deserve that Nobel Peace Prize?

Move over Obama, everyone is in love with the Pope

Obama is no longer the same object of worship and adoration as he was when he first came into our global consciousness, and needs to move over since there seems to be a new figure we are all in love with. Guess who? The new Pope of the big bad Catholic Church. 

And, here are only some of the articles being shared on my Newsfeed on Facebook:
  1. Pope Francis: A symbol of change?
  2. Pope Francis' Old Colleagues Recall Pragmatic Streak
  3. Pope Francis's book reveals a radical progressive in the making
The moment itself when the new Pope was going to make an entrance on the balcony was fraught with curious anxiety. Is the new Pope going to be European? Is the new Pope possibly going to be black? It seems we are constantly anticipating whether the world and power structures are becoming less white. 

But when he did appear (like a 'nayee navelee dhulhan'), there was already a sense of change. For one thing, the new Pope from Latin America took the name of Saint Francis, who is synonymous with poverty and service. Given there aren't any Roman Numerals after his new name, I can't believe that no other pope in a history of more than a thousand years has chosen to name himself after a Saint who represents humility and simplicity. Gee, wow! 

Apparently Pope Francis really is true to his title and, has distanced himself from all the bling and luxury:
After his blessing last night to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square and to the world, Vatican aides told the pope a limousine was waiting to take him to his temporary quarters in the Vatican’s residence building. The new pope said he’d rather take the bus back with the cardinals – and he did. 
This morning, the pope’s first act was to leave the Vatican for an impromptu visit to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in central Rome. No doubt someone told him: “But Holy Father, we need time to plan these visits very carefully.” He wisely didn’t listen. Yes, his presence snarled traffic and caused a major stir, but the Romans loved it.
The above is an excerpt from John Thavis' blog post "Pope Francis' first 24 hours: Doing it his way."

More recently, he was washing and kissing feet of prisoners: "Pope Francis' gestures strike fire in our
On Thursday, he washed the feet of young juvenile offenders at a detention center in Rome. Among them were two women; one of them was a Muslim. Let Catholics around the world take note. 
It looks like we have a socialist pope. 

It is fascinating to see how much the new Pope is being appreciated for his new style of Pope-ism. Moreover, it seems he is genuine and sincere. Not to mention he actually looks like the Good Pope, too at least compared to Pope Ratzinger.  

I have recently realised that I find the big bad Catholic Church to be one of the most interesting institutions. Its history is full of bloodshed, conspiracies, orgies, mad popes, wealth, secrecy and awesome power.  It is a living and breathing house of power, intrigue and je ne se quoi

Let's continue to watch with absolute wonder the machinations of the big bad Catholic Church.

Good luck, Pope Francis in trying to change it!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Flat tire and still made it to a meeting

I excitedly got ready this morning for my first client meeting in five months. I even wore my pumps, blow dried my hair, and had two cups of sugary and milky tea before I left. I took so much time to prepare that I didn't have time to give the baby a bath. Haresh gave her a 'Wipes Bath.' And off we went!

We were making excellent time until we reached Congo Town and our car got a flat tire! Yikes. I telephoned the client to tell them that we could be 10-15 minutes late. Thankfully, he was in a good mood and was glad I notified him I might be late. 

Meanwhile, our driver had a spare tire but not the tools - he kept saying 'they must have fallen off while he was driving.' So, Haresh went off to borrow a jack and the other thing (what's it called?). He found a taxi which was being stopped by an elderly policeman but it took him forever to convince him to lend us his tools. He kept saying, 'It is good to help another human being in need.' The elderly policeman also strolled over and encouraged the other fellow to lend us his tools. 

Thankfully, my baby slept throughout the little episode (and all during my meeting). 

In no time the tire was replaced and we were off! And guess what, we made it in time - 5 minutes early, in fact. 

Patience, our admin officer with an added role of baby sitter, looked after the baby while we were in the meeting, actually. Thank God, since it was quite an intense meeting. 

I'm so glad to be back in the swing of things - drinking truck loads of tea, holding staff meetings every 5 minutes,  yelling 'what do you mean you don't know," popping blood vessels because agreed procedures and rules are not being followed any more, fine combing and nit picking everything, demanding reports and updates, updating my company blog every day, setting weekly targets and rushing off to meetings. 

Liberia is not an easy place to live and work. Even after 10 years, it has not got that much easier. In fact, every time I am back from somewhere else, I almost have to talk myself in to it again:

  1. "Normal is subjective and relative. Liberia is just as normal as any other country."
  2. "Poor basic infrastructure is a norm for most of the world's population therefore, stop complaining. You are still better off than most."
  3. "Liberia has some of the sweetest pineapple in the world."
  4. "You are having a unique life time experience: you get to be part of a society that is slowly coming back from almost 2 decades of conflict and total breakdown." 
  5. "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere."
  6. "At least people are friendly here."
  7. "You don't have to wash your own plates or clothes. You can hire someone to do it for you."
  8. "You own and run your own business. You get to interact with an impressive international clientele. You have set yourself an amazing challenge and you will make it." 
  9. "You have the most beautiful office in Monrovia."
  10. " You have a small but hardworking and loyal team of Liberians working for you."
  11. "You have a great husband and business partner by your side."
And, indeed thanks to the fact that I have my own business and office, I can bring my baby to work every day and enjoy being boss as well as a mother. And, I have so many people to help me for which I am grateful. 

And, here's a few photos of us posing at the office at the end of the day.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

What'd I miss?

My peanut, the peanut's father and I have been back in Liberia since mid February. 

I went to America with considerable anxiety, wondering how'd I'd pass my time and concerned about missing the day-to-day activities of my business. I knew I was just worried and eventually, I'd settle in and the day would come I'd be sad to leave. And of course, the day came when I was utterly overwhelmed by feelings of nostalgia, humility, gratitude, and sadness. 

had a really good time in Chicago, exploring and photographing it. I got myself a Chicago City Pass and saw some famous sights like the Art Institute and the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower). I shopped on State Street. Lunched at the elegant Walnut Room at the State Street Macy's during the Christmas season. Strolled along the river downtown. Learned the difference between the "L" and " the Loop" and "CTA." Whined and moaned about the CTA.  Blew some money on boutiques in Southport. Bought a lot of souvenir mugs: almost one from every museum, Julius Meinl, Intelligentsia before I realised that unless I stop, I'll end up with as many mugs as socks I have. Every friggin' place now has The Mug, The T-Shirt, The Fridge Magnet, The Key Chain and The Coaster.  Even places that are trying to be cool. Coffeehouses I get, the rest I don't. Obliged and "liked" the relevant Facebook pages.  Got coffee-drunk on countless caramel frappuccino's, hot chocolates and "holiday drinks." And, even though it was apparently a mild winter, experienced some of the Windy City's icy cold on my face and loved it!

On the flight back, while missing Chicago, Chipo and feeling all misty, I happened to watch the new Anthony Bourdain TV programme, "Layover." And guess which city AB was layover-ing in? Chicago. And, it looks like I didn't even see half the cool spots. Well, we'll surely be back to see our friend Chipo who we miss so much and want to see this beautiful iconic city in the summer. 

We bought a whole tin of Garett's popcorn at the O'hare Airport (cool airport, loved the replica of Sue) before boarding our Chicago-Brussels flight. Every night we have some in our Monrovia apartment and get all misty remembering Chicago and Chipo. She's actually the one who loves popcorn. 

So, what'd I miss in Monrovia since I've been gone?

1) Apparently there's a new bakery in town: 

L'oven Bakery
UN Drive
05/990 000

2) The Chinese restaurant has moved again from Palm hotel. For all the years I've been here, that Chinese restaurant has changed chefs, floors and been in and out of the hotel. I hear it's moved out again and is now located on Broad Street. Can't wait to go and check it out soon.

3) Royal hotel finally had its grand opening. Apparently, even the President attended the opening. Does the President show up for everything?  Is her show-up fee really that small? Would she show up for the new paint job at our office?

4) Fuschia disappeared! One of my favourite gift shops in town, it no longer exists. The places has been torn down to make way for a new building. We later met the owner who explained that the landlord wants to put up a new building.

Owners seem to be 'waking up' and re-claiming their property, driving up rents, and/or investing in new construction since stability and a relative economic boom has returned to the country. I've seen that there is usually several layers of leases until one can reach the so-called 'mother lease.' One of the main reasons for this confusion is that only 'citizens' can own property.

5) A high level conference was held sometime in February which was attended by David Cameron of all people. Apparently, a new set of MDGs was discussed. 

This star conference was so concerned with discussing poverty and other dire issues that they overlooked what impact such a high-security and delicate conference would have on a small, congested city like Monrovia. Apparently, Tubman Boulevard was blocked and traffic became a nightmare. While we were in Chicago, our staff demanded an extra transportation allowance for the duration of the conference so they could take motorcycle taxis instead of the ordinary taxis. 

Suchigh publicity stunts keep proving over and over again that Sirleaf's government is really all about looking good, pandering to the international propaganda and hollow rhetoric and is entirely without substance. 

6) There are some new traffic lights! But no report on whether it has improved traffic. 

7) The Google Expats Group has become a most bizarre and random forum reminding one that Liberia's mix of expatriate NGO and UN types, local business types and locals is unique and entertaining. 

I actually go through the list to entertain and remind myself that I really live in a place where most people who have means and brains are actually a fleeting lot, here for short-term stays, trying to save the world and businesses here are vying for their attention. 

And here are some highlights:

  1. "She must be very attractive" I am sending this urgent vacancy publication on behalf to my company POWERLINE INC. Office Secretary needed below the qualification and responsibilities. Female applicants strongly needed. Excellent English oral and written communication skills. 1 year of experience. She must be very attractive.   
  2. One of  the funny responses to above: "Looks like Powerline has foot in mouth disease. Way to objectify women!"
  3. Another one: "This must surely be a joke..."
  4. I want to make a tattoo. Can anyone recommend someone with experience or a place in Monrovia where I can do it?
  5. "her dry rice and grilled fish is the bomb dot com" Hi guys-- I just wrote a new post about my favorite restaurant in Liberia called Vicky's Fingers. This isn't an advertisement, her dry rice and grilled fish is the bomb dot com, and I just wanted to show a hard working woman a little love! Let me know if you want to check it out with me this weekend! She's located in a little nook on the Old Road.
  6. None of your beeswax Does anyone know who might be interested in purchasing beeswax?
  7. Want to quit smoking and can't get a hold of my hair dresser - help! "Hi All, 1)      I have been smoking for more than 40 years. ( Sixty a day in recent years) For no particular reason I woke up the other morning and decided to give it up. Having searched some pharmacies all I can find is some nicotine chewing gum. Does anyone know where I can get patches or/and the give up smoking tablets? All advice is will be very welcome as I am suffering. 2)      Sandy the Hairdresser could you ring me? I just can’t get through on your number . Thanks
  8. I am looking for a reliable and honest House Boy for hire. Would appreciate any recommendations from the forum. I may be contacted on telephone number or by return email.
  9. If you've been looking for a Church that  is definitely not church as usual in Liberia, then Trinity Chapel Monrovia (TCM) is the Church for you. TCM is the latest church plant of Nairobi Chapel in Kenya, and it's meant to be different. As a Church we believe in meeting people where they are, and not criticizing on judging. We believe God has called us to serve the professional community of Liberia whose needs are often overlooked.
  10. Looking for a good part time gardener who have experience working with flowers and fruits that are know to grow in countries such as Kenya, Holland, and South Africa.
  11. Need to do silent meditation somewhere between..."Does anybody know if there is a silent meditation group here? I like Buddhist teachings, but am not a Buddhist. Somewhere between Sinkor and Mamba point would be ideal."
  12. Have you found any house boy yet? I have one recommendation for you.
  13. Well, I give up!  I think the information about a hairdresser called Sandy is fictitious LOL.  I have been trying to call her with no luck at all.  As I have to travel into Monrovia from the Buchanan area I need a reliable point of contact.  I am getting close to needing some serious attention to my there anyone out there who has the expertise or will mysterious Sandy appear?  
  14. Sandy is still on vacation. Should be back next week.
  15. "Hi all and happy new year!!! I'm back in liberia and ready for your hair! For appointments or details, plz contact me by message or call. Cheers sandy

Saturday, 2 March 2013

My orange balcony

And, here I am enjoying my orange balcony with my little peanut since I got back to Liberia. This was on a Saturday after we got back from the office and, I was enjoying that special we-work-only-half-days-on-Saturday feeling.