Healthy Soul

Weekend activities in Harper, Maryland County, Liberia

No taxis here. If you want to go into town, and you don’t want to plan your day around the every hour or so university bus, then your options are walk the two miles of dusty partially paved road or take a motor bike. Several faculty members own bikes, readily offering rides to colleagues.

The farming community of Philadelphia, about a ten minute ride from the university, is on the way to Pleebo, the only other major city in Maryland County.

The farming community of Philadelphia, about a ten minute ride from the university, is on the way to Pleebo, the only other major city in Maryland County.

From the entrance gates you can go left toward Pleebo, a one-hour ride through the farming community of Philadelphia, or right for the 15 minute ride into the town of Harper.

The United Nations Mission in Liberia purifies water from one of the rivers and then trucks the water to its local headquarters and the residences of its troops. The processing plant is next door to the Tubman campus.

The United Nations Mission in Liberia purifies water from one of the rivers and then trucks the water to its local headquarters and the residences of its troops. The processing plant is next door to the Tubman campus.

If you are not a Liberian going into town to the market is an opportunity to have all prices immediately raised by 200-300%. Very few places offer prepared food for sale. I’ve heard talk about a place called The Front Porch where you can get grilled fish and rice (everything comes with large servings of white rice), and listen to music on a Friday night. So far my only restaurant experience is at the Pakistani Kitchen that daily offers an all you can eat buffet for US$2.00. It caters for the Pakistani battalion of UNMIL but “guests” are welcomed.

Harper's museum was decimated during the wars. The building has been renovated and is being used as the headquarters for the United Nations Mission in Liberia.

Harper's museum was decimated during the wars. The building has been renovated and is being used as the headquarters for the United Nations Mission in Liberia.

From the shells of the buildings I can tell that Harper, as the capital of Maryland, was a very prosperous city. Dr. Davis-Russell, president of the university, and many of my colleagues are the third and fourth generations of Harper residents. There are prominent families like the Tubmans and the Andersons who owned large parcels of land and several homes with enviable locations overlooking the Cape Palmas area on the Atlantic Ocean. I’m looking forward to learning and sharing more about them.

William V. S. Tubman served as President of Liberia from 1944 - 1971 when he died in a London hospital. His family owned several homes in Harper.  In varying stages of disrepair, all the properties are inhabited by people not necessarily related to, or in a financial arrangement with the Tubman family. Here Iona Thomas-Conner, chair, Health Sciences program, introduces me to one of the residents. The rear of the building overlooks Cape Palmas on the Atlantic Ocean.

William V. S. Tubman served as President of Liberia from 1944 - 1971 when he died in a London hospital. His family owned several homes in Harper. In varying stages of disrepair, all the properties are inhabited by people not necessarily related to, or in a financial arrangement with the Tubman family. Here Iona Thomas-Conner, chair, Health Sciences program, introduces me to one of the residents. The rear of the building overlooks Cape Palmas on the Atlantic Ocean.

When the urge to stay close to home is very strong, or when it promises to rain (the rainy season seems to be coming earlier this year, they say) the place to be is the tea shop. Do not think of Starbucks. There is coffee, one flavor, instant. There are sandwiches, usually fried egg on bread or sardines with onions (prepared on the coal pot behind the teashop), and a wide variety of cookies. Everyone hangs out there. You might even get to watch a Nigerian movie on someone’s DVD player. When the three wooden green benches across the one long side and two short sides of the rectangular counter are all filled late comers just stand around and join the conversation until someone relinquishes a seat.

The Tea Shop is the hangout spot. It is directly across the street from the campus and in addition to sandwiches, tea, coffee, Ovaltine, cookies and bread you can also purchase phone cards (remember there are no landlines nor pay-as-you-go cell phone service here) and gasoline in gallon or quart jars.

The Tea Shop is the hangout spot. It is directly across the street from the campus and in addition to sandwiches, tea, coffee, Ovaltine, cookies and bread you can also purchase phone cards (remember there are no landlines nor pay-as-you-go cell phone service here) and gasoline in gallon or quart jars.

 

My favorite thing to order is fante bread with hot Ovaltine. There are two communities of many generations of the Fante peoples from Ghana and the Fulani peoples from Guinea. These peoples along with the Kru, who are believed to have migrated from Ghana eons ago, are the ones who fish. Each group makes a bread very similar in shape to a hotdog bun but more doughy and, to the discerning palate, has some variations in texture.  Snack, stimulating conversation, and possible entertainment for LD$100.00, less than US$2.00. Awesome!

Cape Palmas, Harper, seen from former residence of President William V. S. Tubman.

Cape Palmas, Harper, seen from the former residence of President William V. S. Tubman.

So I did some exploration and “lounged” at the teashop this weekend, without breaking the bank. What did you do? What was the dent in your cash reserves?

 

5 Comments

  1. I am fixated on your updates.

  2. Awesome! I am living every minute with you and loving it! Thanks for sharing

  3. Nice to see your explorations about Liberia especially Harper! I’ve recently arrived at Harper for peacekeeping tasks. Wanted to invite your suggestions for improvement of Pakistani Kitchen in Harper, since we’re planning to improve its services.

    Regards!

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