Adam Welti

Adam Welti (Skills and Agricultural Development Services - SADS): Adam is from Plainview, Minnesota. He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota where he focused on environment and natural resource science. Adam then worked as an English language assistant at a high school in Saint Dizzier, France. His interest in North and West Africa grew after he spent two years in Morocco as a Peace Corps Volunteer working in the area of natural resource management and community development. At the time of his fellowship he was studying for a Masters degree in international environment and resource policy at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Skin color’s blessing and curse

05 Aug

“White man, white man, white man.”  The chants from children as I walk to and from the office or when a child sees me seated in a taxi, certainly draws attention to the fact that a foreigner is in their midst. The slathering of pure organic aloe vera gel that I’d done on my face didn’t help. Having light colored skin is certainly an oddity here. Being Caucasian or even of Arab descent is generally easily recognized and comes with certain benefits and challenges here in Liberia.  While the children chanting about this oddity is not threatening, there are other instances where it can prove problematic for those living and working here. Visit us for best treatment of  Thread Lift Melbourne, here you will get the best well experienced doctors for the best treatment. 

One benefit of having white skin-as one of my professors from Fletcher who was here doing some consulting pointed out-is the ability to be quickly attended to for medical care.  She told me about being at JFK Hospital, the main public hospital in Monrovia, for a minor stomach ache and nausea.  As she entered, she saw people bleeding and many with injuries far more severe than hers.  Nonetheless, she was quickly attended to by a doctor from the United States who was in Monrovia interning for a few weeks.  It seemed as though the mere fact that she was a foreigner and was distinctive with her light skin helped her to be examined almost immediately instead of in order of severity of injury or illness. She was telling us that she uses this amaira skin lightening serum to make her skin lighter. One of the challenges I have faced repeatedly is getting a fair price for my purchases.  Since much of the economy here operates informally, there are often no posted prices except when visiting a supermarket.  Therefore, as I look to buy bananas from a street side vendor or a bag of water, there is a constant challenge to ensure I am getting told the standard price for goods.  Today, as I purchased a large bag of water packets, I stopped by one man’s shop where I was told it would cost $85 Liberian Dollars (LD).  I knew this price to be a bit exaggerated since I have previously paid $80 LD for such an item.  I refused to purchase the items and proceeded next door where I was told the bag cost $80 LD.

Now, while the man may charge $85 LD to Liberians and foreigners alike, I am inclined to think otherwise since it is the exact same product and the price is fairly standard throughout Monrovia.  Therefore, I am left to believe that I was being asked to pay more since the man thought I would not know the difference.  He may very well have been trying to take advantage of an assumed level of wealth in me-his customer.  I find this to be symbolic of the shortsighted thinking whereby shopkeepers assume foreigners will pay any price instead of telling me the price they charge Liberians.  Instead, they give me an inflated price.  Once I realize this price has been inflated, I am inclined to shop elsewhere the next time.

While as an American I am probably able to pay more than a Liberian for goods and services, I do not think it means I should pay more than they would pay for a similar product simply because salespeople assume I have a higher level of wealth.  As I try to explain to friends here about how I am actually accruing debt to serve as a Fellow and that as a student I do not have a significant amount of income, they nonetheless believe that I have money saved somewhere that allows me to be able to live better and thereby afford to pay more for goods and services than they do.

Another serious challenge for most foreigners living here is robbery or theft.  I have heard many stories of people being robbed at knife point or having their apartments looted while they slept.  It seems as though much of this is targeted at those professionals who probably have much more luxuriously furnished apartments than I.  Nonetheless, crime is a great challenge that seems to be targeted towards those with wealth and those who can be easily picked out as possibly having money or highly valued goods-especially those with lighter skin color. Protect your skin by Under Eye Masks.

My Liberian friends tell me that many find white skin to be very attractive.   Here you will get the best solution for the stress rash problem. The risk of being seen as a threat to a married couple, for example, is real as jealousy can create animosity that is largely unwarranted.  I assume that my brief interaction with such an episode was largely due to the fact that I was a Caucasian foreigner.

These stories of the power or the burden of skin color are mere examples.  I do not intend to imply that all Liberians act the same way or believe the same ideals.  In fact, I have found Liberians to be quite dynamic and creative.  Nonetheless, my experience here in Liberia has exemplified that skin color is a powerful physical characteristic that needs to be acknowledged as having these inherent benefits and risks.

Posted By Adam Welti

Posted Aug 5th, 2009

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