While my fellowship in Liberia had its share of challenges, there were also many good memories. As I reflect upon my summer here, as I prepare for departure, I want to highlight some of those best and worst memories.
-dealing with clothes that seem to constantly have a mildewy odor since it is difficult for clothes to air dry effectively during the rainy season
-serving as the catalyst for a domestic dispute
-arriving at work, on several occasions, being soaked as a result of the sudden downpours that are common here during the rainy season
-getting into an argument with an immigration official over a ‘mandatory’ $20 fee-all in order to get a stamp in my passport
-finding my backpack chewed through as a result of mice and then, trying unsuccessfully, to keep them out of my room
-riding on the back of Sekou’s motorcycle to eight villages in and around the North Loma rainforest in Lofa County
-drinking palm wine and eating cola nuts with various town chiefs and community members as I was welcomed to the various villages
-interacting with the children in Konia during my stay at the guesthouse
-sitting with my friends Joscee and Karpo at the ocean-side drinking spot in Congo Town reflecting upon life while seated under a palm-thatch umbrella and a full moon
-eating fresh mangos, bananas, coconut and pineapple
I have come to realize that my worst experiences were often mere annoyances to most Liberians who deal with these challenges on an almost daily basis. And thus, I cannot call them bad experiences but rather, learning opportunities. Having heard many stories from Liberian friends about the atrocities they witnessed during the war-from beheadings to rape, it seems that while there are still numerous daily struggles, most people are happy that there is no war and are optimistic about the future.
The greatest lesson I have come to learn is of the dire need for education. Whether from seeing university students who still have trouble reading at the level of an average American 5th grader or learning of the lack of awareness of the importance of forest conservation despite the fact that, according to the Forest Development Authority, 90% of Liberians depend on the forests for their livelihoods, education is key to Liberia’s future development.
Whether teaching mothers about the potential health effects of drinking alcohol while breast feeding or teaching men and women about how to sustainably harvest non-timber forest products, as opposed to cutting down entire trees for a one-time benefit, my summer has helped me to learn of the need for improved educational systems and infrastructure. I hope that our ongoing collaboration to develop and implement an environmental and conservation education program will be a modest investment in that effort.
Posted By Adam Welti
Posted Aug 14th, 2009