It’s been a few years, thousands of travel miles, a change in jobs, a move from Washington, DC to San Francisco, CA - and a first baby on the way.
Documenting the life of an expecting family that decides to move cross-country, find new jobs, furnish and decorate a place from scratch, and work up until baby - there’s some of that domestic mama goodness coming. But there’s a lot of other creative inspirations and flashbacks to our recent travels around the world: Paris, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Liberia, Ghana, and a whole lotta places in the U.S.
Six months ago I was preparing to depart for West Africa. Six months ago I had the clever, ambitious idea to blog during my travels. And then I arrived back on the continent that I had missed so dearly - barely finding the time to sit and type my thoughts or search out reliable internet access. But every encounter is as fresh in my mind today as though I was just there yesterday.
This is the greeting given to us from each person we encountered, “You are welcome in Liberia.” And each time, with a smile. The warm and overly hopeful encounters with people was astounding; considering that most of the country was tormented by civil war not long ago. We know better than to directly ask about the impact of war on individuals; and, we didn’t need to. Evidence was all around.
Dilapidated structures holding on to memories of bombed buildings, dusty unpaved roads, a mere trickle of running water, tangled and low-laying electrical wires restricting the country from electricity. But that only describes the structural surroundings. Physical casualties of the cruel war were abundant. Arms, hands, legs missing; said to be punishment in the days of fighting.
It was required that we read ‘This Child Will be Great’ by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and I recommend it for others as well. Her memoir provides an insight into the history of Liberia that many people should be aware of; especially considering the close ties between the United States and Liberia. Liberia as we know it was founded by citizens of the United States as a free colony for freed African-American slaves. The original inhabitants of the area held a hostility to the newcomers that were accustomed to a more developed Euro-American society. Social tensions continued to grow along with caste systems, leading to the unfortunate civil wars that continued for years. Did you learn this in U.S. History? Teach your children well.
Above: A view of the more developed and bustling Monrovia area.
Les Aspin Center’s Work in Africa
“For nearly 15 years, the Les Aspin Center has sponsored educational programming in Africa including, Marquette University student immersion courses in Kenya and Ghana as well as a USAID funded Democracy training program for young leaders from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria. Recently, the Les Aspin Center expanded Africa programming to include a cultural exchange program with the Republic of Liberia, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State.
The Les Aspin Center’s Liberia Exchange Program is a capacity development and exchange program on “leadership with integrity” for personnel from Liberia and the United States. This program is intended to shape and strengthen the knowledge and skills of young leaders to enable them to exercise leadership functions with integrity and accountability in their organization and local community settings. Participants from Liberia and the United States will develop, shape, and exchange skills, knowledge, experiences, and other cultural resources to build leadership skills in addition to promoting mutual understanding of cultures.
This exchange program consists of two phases. The first phase provides 14 Liberian personnel the opportunity to travel to the United States in May of 2010 for training. The second phase focuses on the training of 14 American personnel who will travel to Liberia in December 2010 - January 2011. Participants will build leadership skills, promote mutual understanding among people of diverse culture and develop and sustain partnerships and alliances in order to support governance arrangements in the post-conflict context of Liberia.”