It’s nearly dark upon my flights arrival into Monrovia.
A small international airport set about an hours drive from the city. Not unlike most developing countries that I’ve been in there is a myriad of others standing at the airport exit calling out and hoping to charm me into their car for the trip into the city. My driver Alpha is there as planned with a sign and a smile and a small wave of relief comes over me.
The drive is simple, one main road from the airport to the city with a couple of turns until we arrive at the expat apartment that Dr. Rob (as Alpha refers to him) has set up for me. The road is well paved and I attempt to gaze at the darkened surroundings as we weave in and out of traffic and around the many pedestrians waiting for taxi’s on the side of the road or casually walking to their destinations.
Along the ride, Alpha and I talk about our families and other simple subjects. After hearing that I’ve never been to Africa before, Alpha comments that ‘black’ people surround me. I’m learning the dialect and catch only part of what he is expressing but I think he is concerned either for my safety or my comfort in being one of only a few ‘white’ people. He expresses how he would be uncomfortable surrounded by only ‘white’ people if the situation were reversed. We laugh together about how drastically I stand out in the crowd.
The arrival at the apartment
It’s a bit uncomfortable…this is someone else’s home and I’m here alone. The current resident is likely ‘in the bush’ and I’ve been unable to call him (as Dr Rob recommended) because the phone that is left for me is uncharged.
I’m thankful that I saved the sandwich from the flight for my dinner as it’s full darkness, I am tired and I’ve been told that it isn’t safe to wander from the apartment on foot after dark. My first concern is the water…is it safe to drink the tap water? I haven’t gotten any bottled water other than the small amount that is left over from my flight. Finding an empty water bottle in the cabinet, I fill it and add one of the water purification tablets that I’ve brought with me. It takes 4 hours before it’s safe to drink so I shower and climb into bed to read.
The first morning after my arrival is beautiful.
The sun sits low in the sky and the heat and humidity are tolerable. I manage to make a cup of coffee and sit on the deck to take in the surroundings. I’m staying in an ‘expat’ apartment. It’s air-conditioned and very nice. The apartment complex consists of 16 units and is fully gated with a local ‘manning’ the gate to allow residents in/out.
As I sit on the balcony drinking my coffee and having my last granola bar for breakfast, the locals are beginning their daily work; a housekeeper arrives at the apartment across from me and begins sweeping, a young boy cleans one of the cars from a small bucket of water and another young boy tends to the plants, watering them. The activities put me mildly at ease…it’s all very normal.