Thursday, 30 March 2017

Family portraits

Kavita often hangs out at my International Alert office after school. She's been making some nice family portraits as an after school activity. 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Embassy of the Republic of Cuba 🇨🇺

Embassy of the Republic of Cuba 🇨🇺, right next to Kavita's school in Congo Town. How fortunate!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The school of education

Now that I've started a new day job at International Alert, I finally decided to start Kavita's educational career. 

For quite a while, I've been resisting school. One never gives these things much thought until one is faced with the situation itself. I remember when Kavita was hardly a year old, some ladies I met with children the same age as Kavita were looking for day care centres. I suppose I was a little judgement al with these ladies because they were "housewives" and I thought if they aren't out of the house, then the child should stay with the mother. Their rationale wasn't clear but at least one person I met said she wanted her child to learn socialisation which I found rather odd. 

I've also heard that because the zamana is so different and "fast" that children need to start early. This was the most irritating rationale for starting school early. What the heck can a 1 year old child learn that you think will help them win the human rat race? 

Kavita has grown up at the office. She used to sleep right on my desk next to my calculator at NATC. She has grown up going every day to the office and, coming back home with me in the evening. I baby-fied my office and, kept adapting my space to her: crib, toys, a special dresser for extra clothes and nappies, crayons, and even a tent. 

I did not realise how confident, well spoken and mature a child Kavita was until I would meet other children who were terrified of strangers. Kavita has been so easy around adults although she's very shy of kids.

And, since I had the privilege of running my own company, Kavita and I have been inseparable. This hasn't forced me to think about the challenges working women face in bearing children and then coming back to work. Putting Kavita in school wasn't my priority until she was of an age I remembered I was at when I started kindergarten.

Kavita has briefly experienced a formal school setting: while I was at Mercy Corps Liberia in 2015, she was in a day care for a couple of months. Then last year in 2016 she attended the month-long summer camp at the Cachelle Arts Center.

Most times I've been busy reacting haughtily to children with iPads and phones and, preaching about my idyllic and simple childhood. Mostly, I go on and on about how schooling is so commercialised. That there aren't any good public schools (either in Pakistan or Liberia) and there's class issue when it comes to equal and good education. That because private schools are just out there to make money, upper middle classes have no problem in increasingly reducing the age in which a baby is dumped in day care or pre school. Then, I would vaguely reference articles I had read about how fantastic the Finn school system is and, in fact, they are so progressive and have learned that children should start school at 7 and, should learn by play rather than rote.

I was quite smug in my little world where Kavita was learning about life, the world through her time at our family business, her life in Monrovia, and, my attention.

When I started my new stint at International Alert, Haresh and I decided to start Kavita's school at Kid's Nest, which is 2 minutes away from my office in Congo Town.

So, Kavita started school and guess what, she loves it? Children want to be with other children. 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Good evening 🌜

A warm sunny evening walk. The first photographs were taken by Haresh from the car as he was driving home from the office (opposite Harbel Supermarket) to the house (above Auto Run). 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A collection of vintage Mercedes cars in Congo Town

It's been a month and a half since I started my new stint at International Alert. It's even further away than the former Mercy Corps office I worked at in 2015 for six months. 

I travel from Randall Street to Congo Town every morning. The International Alert office is located within the Finn Church Aid compound. Thankfully, the trip is against the traffic. There is only one main road connecting the suburbs and other parts of Monrovia to central Monrovia. It's the famous 2-lane Tubman Boulevard which stretches from 1st Street Sinkor to the furthest reaches of Congo Town, all the way to ELWA junction from where you can branch out to Robertsfield Highway and Paynesville. 

So, there I am being driven by International Alert's driver to Congo Town on the empty side of the lane while incoming traffic is moving at a snail's speed, the great daily migration of Landcruisers, taxis, vans, and trucks. 

Kavita finally started school. She gets dropped at Kid's Nest (2 minutes away from my office) en route to my day job. She, then, often spends the afternoon at my office at Alert. A kid who's grown up at the office, she's very comfortable at my other office. She makes impressive murals on my Whiteboard, erasing all my carefully marked Things to Do. She's made friends with my colleagues and the security guards. She's planned a garden party in the compound. Often times, I've put on cartoons on YouTube for her, after we run out of things for her to do. 

This day, I went for a short walk with her to the Total gas station next door to buy a chocolate and on the way we stopped at Classic Rental to check out an astounding collection of vintage Mercedes Benz. I've noticed the collection before but never stopped to take a look. We entered the parking lot of Classic Rental. 

I looked around for someone in charge and noticed a man sitting on a chair in between one of the cars writing some notes in a notebook. I told him I wanted to see and photograph the beautiful cars. He didn't mind. He was a mechanic and, apparently had been hired to fix these cars for rental. The business idea was to rent out the cars. I asked how the owner acquired such a magnificent collection but he didn't seem to know. 

I don't know anything about cars or models but one could see that so many different decades were represented in the collection, starting at least from the 50s. And, there are some beautiful colours too: red, maroon, cream, metallic grey, blue and black. 

I really enjoyed looking at these cars and, wondering about the history of each one. I imagined state officials and glamorous types driving them. 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Shopping for antiques on Camp Johnson Road

I have started exploring Camp Johnson Road a little bit more on the weekends recently to scour for antiques.

Camp Johnson Road is full of shops selling second hand goods and, I've never given the Street much thought. I've gone to Camp Johnson Road to do some souvenir shopping at Mango Rags or Bosh Bosh but never paid much attention to the shops on the street, because it's a particularly shabby street.

Haresh told me that in the good old days, Camp Johnson Road was full of Indian-owned shops and used to be lit up like Diwali at night, every night.

In my rummaging amongst the shops, I have found some interesting things. Since I bought an antique camera in Saddar in Karachi last year, I went looking for a typewriter and indeed found one. As I looked in the shops, I found second hand items like crockery, furniture, and even books.

I realised that the flea market that is Camp Johnson is full of things imported from the US. The things have stories and a history but unfortunately, not rooted here in Monrovia. Other than that, it's fun to look through the shops.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Upside down pineapple cake 🍍

I managed to make a pretty good pineapple cake following a recipe. Liberia has the world's sweetest pineapples and, it's a real pleasure and delight to be able to make this cake. 

Good evening 🌜