Sunday, March 25, 2007

Heart of Brightness

Good evening, Intrepid Readers! Greetings from London. As many of you may know, I've just returned from a week in Liberia (sorry not to have written, not a great internet connection, and very little free time). I'll have to give updates in person, but I'll describe some of the highlights here. One thing to bear in mind: if you took a picture of Haiti, and one of Liberia, and laid them next to each other, you'd think, "These countries are the same."

Well, in terms of the poverty, and squalor, and the general dilapidation left over from decades of civil unrest, you'd be right. But whereas a week in Haiti makes you start to question whether there's much hope in the world, a week in Liberia makes you want to jump in and get working at making things better.

And now, without further ado, here are the highlights:

1. Ex-Presidential Security. When driving back from the airport on our first night, we got into a discussion of the use of the secret service for ex-Presidents. When we asked the driver what they do for them in Liberia, he replied, "We don't have ex-Presidents. We kill dem." Stellar.

2. Best shop name ever (ok, Erbil might rival this, but...): Nookie's Enterprises

3. Best piece of heavy equipment: When the UN moves into a place with no infrastructure, they use something called a "bailey bridge," essentially, a lego-like metal structure that can be plopped into place to serve as a bridge until something permanent can be built. The cool part is that they way they get it across whatever span they need is with a launcher. Yes, that's right. Not only are there portable bridges, but there is a specialized piece of heavy equipment that LAUNCHES them into place. Awesome.

It's already 10pm in London, and I've still got some work to do, so I'll keep this short, but I'll add more soon.