Healthy Soul

So long Monrovia, hello Harper

Wear a skirt. Bring toilet paper. Don’t have a lot in your stomach. Wrap your luggage in a large trash bag. The words of advice kept coming. In a nutshell they all referred to sanitary conditions along the journey as well as the dust we would be engulfed in. All the plants along the side of the road were red with dust. It didn’t matter if the windows were up or down the dust found its way in and before I know everything I touched was covered with thick layers of dust – even my hair.

Abraham, our driver, fixing flat tire so we can continue our journey to Harper.

Abraham, our driver, fixing flat tire so we can continue our journey to Harper.

Thankfully, there was only one incident – a flat tire – which Abraham, our driver, easily fixed. I should note that no one seems to drive him/herself. For example we are in a “chartered” car that comes with a driver.  Within the fleet management division of the university there are several drivers on staff. The president and vice-presidents each have an assigned driver. The deans share both cars and drivers.

A glimpse at some of the vehicles sharing the Monrovia to Harper Highway with us.

A glimpse at some of the vehicles sharing the Monrovia to Harper Highway with us.

Abraham is from Harper so knows the roads intimately. The 21 hour drive was an exercise in snaking from one side of the road to the other avoiding potholes and oncoming traffic. My colleagues Jerome, Tim, and Lillian were constantly reminding me how much the roads have improved. They also told scary stories about vehicles being stuck in inches and inches of mud for days, during the rainy season. And of course they stressed the importance of only the four of us travelling in a charted taxi instead of being in the bush taxis with six or seven other passengers.

Tappita Hospital, one example of the partnerships between the governments of China and Liberia.

Tappita Hospital, one example of the partnerships between the governments of China and Liberia.

We started out at 6:00 a.m. Friday morning to beat the rush hour traffic. There is only one way to get from Monrovia to Harper by road, and it takes you through the interior. On a map, the shortest distance would be due south along the coastline, but there five large rivers traversing the country, all emptying into the Atlantic Ocean, none of are bridged for vehicular traffic. So we start out going north to Ganta, then south to Tappita, and then southeast through Swedru and Plebo, before arriving in Harper.

There is a major emphasis on public health, specifically sanitation, across the country. There are lots of billboards about putting trash in the appropriate receptacles, washing hands, and proper disposal of bodily wastes.

There is a major emphasis on public health, specifically sanitation, across the country. There are lots of billboards about putting trash in the appropriate receptacles, washing hands, and proper disposal of bodily wastes.

The mid-morning and evening meal stops are in Ganta and Swedru. Two hours are spent in Tappita to patch the inner tube of the tire that went flat and the check the spare tire – just in case something happens again. There are one or two bathroom breaks along the way, and yes, wearing a skirt was the most sensible thing to have done, because it was an adventure with nature.

From Ganta we headed south to Tappita then southeast to Zwedru before getting to Harper.

From Ganta we headed south to Tappita then southeast to Zwedru before getting to Harper.

It was 2:30 a.m. on Saturday morning when we pulled up to the faculty and staff residences on the campus. There is rolling electricity across the campus. It was scheduled to go off in the residences at 3:30 a.m. and come back on at 6 a.m. I quickly made my bed with sheets bought in Monrovia, took a cold shower and retired for the night.

Faculty and Staff residences, Tubman University.

Faculty and Staff residences, Tubman University.

The next day was spent getting things for my studio apartment: a fan, buckets to store water for those times when there is not running water, mats for the floor, and a mirror for the wall. Everyone is so helpful and welcoming, providing more tips for settling in comfortably and becoming a member of the Tubman University family. The wife of one of the deans donated a mosquito net as mine has not yet arrived.

The mural on the marker in downtown Harper is one of several around the city that were created by residents and youth.

The mural on the market in downtown Harper is one of several around the city that were created by residents and youth.

Breakfast of fresh pineapple, papaya, and bananas was shared with my new colleagues. Finally, the day ended with a party hosted by Dr. Lucky, Dean, College of Health Sciences.

Dr. Lucky's party.

Dr. Lucky's party.

I’ve arrived in Harper. Finally.

Welcome to Harper City.

Welcome to Harper City.

How about you? Anything you’ve been moving toward? Where are you on that journey?

 

3 Comments

  1. Wow Jen..what an adventure. The Road to Harper truly was an experience on it’s own. Glad you are settling in. I gather you had to go by car as airplane was not working out for you. Looking forward to your ongoing journey …

    • Hey Van – I’ve managed to surface from under many layers of dust. Wheew! I am always being amazed at how simple life can be and yet be constantly chasing internet access. There are also challenges with 24-7 electricity and running water. Mostly is okay.

  2. Thanks

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