We arrived in Monrovia at about 10 PM with the new resumed KLM service. It was really nice to pass through Schipol Airport, one of the most modern and stylish-but-understated airports. The KLM flight itself was comfortable with crew that were extremely friendly and smiled with sincere smiles, quite a stark contrast to the Emirates experience. In fact, 5 passengers didn't show up for the Amsterdam-Freetown flight and, the pilot kept us informed every 5 minutes and, in fact, the bags of the defected passengers were offloaded in 10 minutes. Talk about efficiency. It was also a very chatty flight with folks from Liberia and Sierra Leone who were socialising through out the flight making one feel like was in a restaurant or bar. I bumped into my best friend's cousin on the flight. I overheard project plans about a medical project or assessment in Monrovia. And, the passengers clapped each time the flight landed in Freetown and Monrovia. We landed in a dark air strip and, could smell rubber right after we got out of the plane. I've usually landed at RIA during the day time so I was quite struck by the smell of rubber. One person on the bus to the terminal told me the smell of the rubber is emanating from Firestone. The folks on the bus were very chatty and, joked about the heat and, why they had to be on a 1-minute bus ride. Pretty soon we were at the terminal that became the scene of friendly hugs and loud chatter. While arriving at the airport in London or in Chicago was such a subdued and hushed hushed affair - folks exhausted with the endless immigration queues and anxiety over the grilling and interviews of why they had decided to come - coming through RIA is a pure chaotic family affair. An immigration lady who we knew took our passports while we waited in the small rackety baggage hall to collect our bags. It was humid, hot and the baggage belt croaked and shrieked. Lo and behold, one passenger started screaming that his iPad and Laptop were stolen and he jumped over the baggage belt to throttle the ground crew while another one started making a huge racket. I started to worry whether our stuff would also get pilfered. After 20 minutes, we collected our bags and went outside to our welcome party: the New Africa Technology Company friends driver and our nanny. They helped us load the car and off we went on a dark highway back to Monrovia (the same dark highway I drove along when I first arrived in Liberia in September 2003, picked up by a WFP driver who impressed me with his knowledge of Benazir Bhutto). The moon was really a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas and, Haresh and I wondered about the stark contrast to our comfortable time in London (although Haresh will complain about the dry weather in London which gives him sore bleeding lips) and the stresses and headaches of running a business and our daily concerns over light, water and security. We were informed that despite best efforts, our house generator was still not giving output to the house and the LEC meter was still not replaced. We made a quick decision to crash at a hotel in town. Our nanny and driver took our suitcases back to our apartment on Randall Street and we slept quietly with our thoughts in a freezing room in Boulevard Palace. I dreamt Kavita and I were mistaken for terrorists by the CIA in Afghanistan.
Good afternoon Monrovia!