Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Every Day is Market Day

Transportation is a huge problem in Monrovia. Getting from one place to another is a frustrating experience for Liberians who have business to attend to. In most cases there is only one route to get from one place to another - no freeways, beltways or bypasses divert traffic around congestion. Many of the teachers who came to training had to be out on the road hailing a taxi (shared by as many as 7 or 8 people) by 5 a.m. so they could be on time for the 8 o'clock training.

Driving is a real challenge on narrow, potholed roads choked with traffic and the concept of a road shoulder or curb is not known in Liberia that we could notice. Retail display space seeps into the very edges of the road where merchants and pedestrians alike dodge taxis and other vehicles as they haggle and bargain. Merchants and markets operate all day long Monday through Saturday. In a concession to Sunday traditions, it all starts a little later in the morning and ends a little earlier in the evening on the "day of rest" but it is no less intense. Market day is every day and every day is a new opportunity to hustle.

For the LOEP team transportation was no problem - we had no pressing engagements (except the training) and our wonderful host drove us around in air conditioned comfort. Every trip was an exciting adventure! We loved "getting stuck in traffic" and while our poor host dealt with the frustration, we hopped around like little kids trying to see everything from every direction firing questions and taking pictures (the windows are tinted so we didn't risk offending folks as we snapped candid shots). Every time our host mentioned a trip outside of our community near the school, we would chorus "Oh how fun! We can get 'stuck' in traffic!"

Traffic problems are the number one complaint among our friends and hosts in Liberia. Lack of running water and no electricity was barely mentioned but traffic was a constant source of aggravation and complaint. For the LOEP team, however, traffic congestion was a great opportunity to see the sights! Pictured are some random shots we took riding through town. You get some idea of how close everything is to the traffic flow since these pictures are taken from inside the car and close enough to reach out and touch the pedestrians/products/merchandise.

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