Healthy Soul

The Harper-Pleebo road

Yesterday’s destination was Pleebo. It was the journey rather than the destination that shaped the memories, however. Emmanuel Dioh, a student in the College of Engineering and Technology and son of Dr. Anthony Dioh, Dean of Student Affairs is one of the few individuals with a privately owned working car. So in exchange for gas money and a “small-small something” he took me to Pleebo.

Pleebo is the largest city/district in Maryland County.

Pleebo is the largest city/district in Maryland County.

In response to a greeting of “How are you today?” I always get “I’m trying!” If I ask how much something costs, I’ll hear “a small-small something” then two or three go-arounds later the starting price is revealed. Another two or three go-arounds we’ll get to the “last price.” It’s a dance, a very artful dance, which I’m learning quickly so that I don’t end up paying too much more than a Liberian would be paying. Emmanuel’s “small-small something” was very affordable: US$20.00 or LRD$1,400.00.

Sis Davis beauty salon, Pleebo. What services do you need?

Sis Davis beauty salon, Pleebo. What services do you need?

Although Harper is the capital of Maryland County, it is not the largest city. Pleebo, with a population of 56,600 has 20,500 more residents than Harper. The political and administrative structure here is complicated. I am still working at figuring it out. Administratively, the County is led by a Superintendent appointed by the President of the country.

Welcome to Pleebo, Maryland County, Republic of Liberia.

Welcome to Pleebo, Maryland County, Republic of Liberia.

There are seven administrative districts, four electoral districts, and 47 townships all led by commissioners also appointed by the President. There are four cities, including Harper, with an elected mayor. Then there are the Chiefs within the traditional leadership structure. There are Paramount Chiefs, General Town Chiefs, and Town Chiefs for the 15 chiefdoms and 26 clans. Harper is an administrative district, an electoral district, and has its own elected mayor.

Children collect wood to make charcoal. They walk miles each way every week.

Children collect wood to make charcoal. They walk miles each way every week.

Plying the Harper to Pleebo road were women on their way to the market to sell fresh fruit and produce. They will stop at the tea shop if someone there wants to buy something they are selling. Many of the Tubman employees do that rather than try to find transportation to get into town. There were also several small groupings of youth transporting wood, on their heads, that would be burned to make charcoal for selling. Like the women, the youth sometimes walk miles each way.

Cavalla Rubber Corporation, exporter of raw latex, is the largest employer in Pleebo.

Cavalla Rubber Corporation, exporter of raw latex, is the largest employer in Pleebo.

Cavalla Rubber Corporation (CRC) is the major employer in the area. According to the Maryland County’s 2008 Community Development Agenda, the CRC has about 1,700 employees and more than sixty percent of them are tappers. Rubber is the major revenue producer in the county followed by agriculture (oil palm and rice) and fishing.

There are acres and acres of rubber trees with the buckets for collecting sap.

There are acres and acres of rubber trees with the buckets for collecting sap.

We passed through Barriken Town where I was again reminded that some basic conditions for sanitation are not being provided by the county/district/city/township, and are proudly advertised when they are available. Villages rely on wells for water because there is no running water. No sewage systems are provided. Outdoor toilets are provided in strategic locations because many business do not have indoor plumbing. In fact, at the Lone Star office in Pleebo several of us waited for quite a while to purchase our phone cards because the cashier had to leave the building to use the bathroom. Yes, it was public knowledge!

Progress in Barriken Town is broadcasted to all passersby.

Progress in Barriken Town is broadcasted to all passersby.

Along the way I was also reminded that many villagers build their homes using palm fronds and banana/plantain leaves for roofing. I am squeamish when parts of this “live” environment, like a lizard, some gnats, or insects that I cannot name visit. Each night the perimeter of every window and door is sprayed profusely to keep all visitors away. At those times I am definitely not thinking that a few miles down the road the very materials used for the construction of the home are elements of the natural habitat for those lizards, gnats and insects.

Residents of the village will live in their homes while it is being built.

Residents of the village will live in their homes while it is being built.

I’m slowly moving away from making comparisons to what life in other places could be and just doing what I need to do to make it work here. For example, this morning Lillian, Iona and I just started walking to church until two motorbikes came along to take us the rest of the way.

Motorbike taxi or walk - the options to get to church.

Motorbike taxi or walk - the options to get to church.

Each day living gets easier as I let go and simply enjoy what is being offered to me. That’s my epiphany today. What’s yours?

 

8 Comments

  1. Adjust to the environment. good move.

  2. Seems like quite an expierence!

    • Dear Veronica – I had no idea what I was getting into. There are wonderful surprises as well as teeth-gritting ones. I’m learning to go with the flow. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Checkout details on John Brown Russwurm – Jamaican born in Port Antonio was documented as the first person of color to graduate from an American College/Univesity – however, recently I read where he is the third one so research must have found 2 others who preceeded him. However, he moved from the States to Liberia – Monrovia – Maryland County and married a Liberian – check it out .

  4. Hi Dr. Beaumont,

    Here I am on my day off surfing the web and I come across your article. :)
    Cool info..

    • Thanks, Emmanuel. I was unable to add posts the past few months because of inconsistent internet access, but thankfully I back online again. Please keep reading and sending comments.

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