|Bendu with her daughter, Mercy, and son, Lamin.|
Bendu has been my friend for years: her little tea shop is situated right below Wesley's former office. I used to merely pass by her and utter a cursory "hello." After Wesley's death, I really got to know her. When I had just returned to Monrovia after news of his murder, I was up there in Wesley's office, trying to organise his funeral and, had already half decided to try my hand at running an IT company. She used to send me tea and coke.
Our friendship deepened over time and, I used to escape to her shop for a coke and a chat. She would refuse to take money for anything! I would sit with her, sip coke, and ask her "How's business?" And she would ask me the same.
I do not do it as much as before but it was fun to watch Randall Street go by. It gave me a teeny tiny peek into life in Monrovia. There is a law firm right next to her building and, it was interesting to see a lawyer come by her place, buy a $ 25 LD soft drink and a $ 10 LD sweet bread. And, that was lunch! There were the cigarette smokers who would buy singles for $ 10 LD.
I would also observe the various traders selling all kinds of goods from baskets balanced on their heads or on their arms: perfumes, rat poison, medicines, toiletries, shoes, or hand towels. Then there are the fellows who go around painting toe and finger nails!
As Bendu and many other small businesses will explain to you, business slows down in the rainy season quite a bit. So, while I enjoy the much cooler temperatures, every day life is more of a struggle for ordinary Liberians. Cold water and soft drinks do not sell so much. With the kind of torrential rain we get here in Liberia combined with a lack of public transportation and congested roads, going to and fro is even more of a nightmare. Structures in poorer communities often get washed away.
She's unconditionally supported me during my business stresses, including when 4 staff committed mutiny and tried to take me to the Ministry of Labour. In fact, a much older friend of mine, took my staff's side and, tried to accommodate their nonsensical behaviour. It is nice to have a friend who supports you.
Another thing I really love about our relationship is how if I am ever going out of country, Bendu sends me a bucket of sweets to take as gifts for family and friends. She makes this tasty peanut brittle and sesame seed brittle which make for delicious tea time snacks.
Right now Bendu's tea shop is wedged in an alley between two buildings. The shop is pretty much exposed to the elements, especially in the rainy season. I have offered her to help her with rent if she finds a suitable shop. Until then, I'm hoping to help her spruce up this space itself. So, watch this space until then.