Thursday, June 17, 2010

Meet a Stranger Day #8

A beautiful woman approached while I was drinking coffee and asked if she could interview me. When you're a famous, dashing, world-renowned author with adoring fans and friends among the elite, this happens all the time. When you're me, not so much. My interviewer, Azucena Perez, was delightful and actually quite famous in her own right. Check out the interview here. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sh@t My dad Says, Liberia Edition

AJ: I caught some local bug.
Dad: what's it's called?
AJ: Puffy leg or puffy foot. The foot and lower leg tend to swell up, the skin turns colors and falls off, it's pretty gruesome.
Dad: How do you get it?
AJ: According to the traditional healer, someone put roots on my doorstep. I stepped across them and got puffy leg. 
Dad: Who would do that?
AJ: Someone who doesn't like me.
Dad: That's funny. Everyone who doesn't like you is in the States.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Leaving Liberia, 2010

We leave for the States in 3 hours. It's a 27 hour flight.

A storm is blowing in off the Atlantic.

I hit a man who tried to steal from us today. I didn't beat him
badly, just enough that he quit trying to put his hands into
worldgroove's purse. We were at the corner of Ashmun and Broad, and
some guy had insisted on carrying worldgroove's luggage into the
Brussels Airline office. When she tried to tip him, he rejected the
money out of Christian charity. Ok, fine. We checked in with no
problems. On the way out, this fellow and his friends surrounded us.
It seems that they hadn't rejected the money for some higher ideal of
service to their fellow man. No, they just wanted more. They started
pushing and shoving. We retreated to our taxi. worldgroove opened her
purse and arms started grabbing for her and the money.

In the Brussels Air office, my luggage weighed in 1kg overweight. I
removed a large, heavy book I'd packed - The Reinner Anthology of
African Literature. Perhaps anger follows this text around - I got
quite pissed at the post office agents who demanded a bribe to deliver
the book. The book weighs in at 1.5 kg.

When the homeless luggage men started grabbing for worldgroove and her
purse, I beat them with an anthology of African literature and
folktales. I don't think that's what the original writers and
storytellers had in mind, but it was damn effective. I feel oddly
normal about beating on a pair of homeless hucksters. Beatings are the
standard Liberian punishment for stealing, except it's usually a mob
of 50 or more beating the "rogue" into a pulp. They got off easy.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Kendeja Resort Hotel, June 2010

All of the black American expats here face a similar frustration. In
every restaurant and bar where expats hang out, the staff - the
Liberian staff - will always, always, serve whites faster and better
than blacks. I'm watching it right now - the Liberian waiter who took
our order promptly forgot us when a white man walked into the

This isn't about superiority or anything like that - we just got here
first. We ordered first, we expect to be served first. An American
restaurant would get sued for this kind of behavior. But it happens.
It happens everywhere, to all of us.

My NGO has asked me to edit a quarterly newsletter. Supposedly, the
source material comes from the reports I and the other volunteers
already file. No one will send anything, not even the country rep. So
there's no newsletter. They've also asked for an end-of-service report
and an end-of-project form. No word on whether those are the same

I need a whole bunch of people and things when I return in August.
Most of all, I need a K-12 principal, a librarian, about 200
dictionaries, and lots of USB sticks. I think I can find the

Tonight, I need to pack so I can weigh my luggage tomorrow. I'm trying
to bring back a carved cane for an elderly aunt, but it's too long to
fit in the luggage. I may fake a limp.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Du is a concept by the Dan (Gio) people, but most of the 16 tribes of Liberia have a similar concept. Du (similar to chi) is the spirit behind everything - every person, every animal, every song, everything. Du belongs to the spiritual realm. Du is inherently original and authentic; whatever we see in the physical world is only a manifestation of du, inherently unauthentic. This is a wonderful concept (developed quite independently of Plato) except when it comes to plagiarism. Sorry kids: "the du made me do it" still gets you an F.

I heard from a friend that the audio posts are unintelligible. That's par for the course in Liberia - nothing works as expected. I've just found that some of the audio posts never actually posted. Whether that was user error or the cell phone network, I don't know. So in brief, this is what I've been up to for the past 7 months: Teaching, writing, grading. Teacher training. Making plans for next year. Getting cured from some mystery disease by a local herbalist. Rescuing an abandoned child. Starting academic support services at Cuttington. Jogging. Sweating. Sleeping. Fresh orange juice from the tree in the backyard. Bitterballs, giant snails, goat, and palava sauce for dinner. Okay, I really don't eat snails. Often. Buying art and artifacts. Filing reports. Coming home.  

I'll be back in the States from next week until mid-August. Plenty to do - mostly writing and fundraising. I may also hit the gym. I'd love to see all my Austin peeps while I'm there.