Posted by: sean | September 22, 2010

Journey With Maps

Since the dawn of time, man has looked on the world and wondered: When is the appropriate time to conclude a blog about Liberia?  Today, I am proud to announce that I have uncovered Truths and have the Answer.  It took me some time to conduct my research, hence why this blog has been private for some time, the password only beknownst to me, and even then not really knownst to me at all, but then I remembered the answer to my security question and then it was knownst.  I would like to say that during the time that the blog was closed to the public that I was secretly staffing it with Oompa Loompas and am now prepared to stuff fat kids down pipes, but that is not the case.  No, I have been diligently uncovering Truths and have the Answer.  You ready? Read More…

Posted by: sean | January 31, 2010

Letter of Admiration to the Vice Guide to Liberia

Dear Vice Guide to Liberia,

I don’t usually write letters to on-line documentaries, but after seeing your documentary and reading letters trashing you, I felt that I had to speak out. You have created quite a stir Vice Guide to Liberia! Apparently some people think that you presented a skewed, not-very-factual, unfaithful view of Liberia by focusing on the poorest slums, ex-war lords, and shit on the beach; I don’t. You nailed it. Seriously. When you begin work on the Vice Guide to Nailing It: Retrospective on the Vice Guide to Liberia, I want in. Intern. Production Assistant. Groupie. Whatever. Just let me be a part of the magic.

Or I’ll eat you! Naw, I won’t, but I’m super enthusiastic about you guys. Read More…

A few months after I arrived in Liberia my colleague Emmanuel told me that in the 1980s he was somewhat of a formidable ping pong player.  Having dabbled in some ping pong myself, and having no respect for the 1980s, I steeled my gaze and steered the conversation in a more serious direction.  Emmanuel, I will destroy you at ping pong.

The Liberian National Table Tennis Association is a one-room building on Broad Street.  Outside, market women sell tomatoes and onions, children sit by wheelbarrows full of random goods, and countless others lean against the walls with nothing else to do.  Inside, Liberia’s best ping pong players ply their game on three less-than-superb tables in a large, dusty, dimly lit room.  The instant I first entered, I was in love. Read More…

Posted by: sean | December 3, 2009

There’s an ‘I’ in ‘Malaria’

One downside of taking an open-air boat for three days down the Niger River is that it’s almost statistically impossible not to contract malaria.  After waking up one morning to find twenty two mosquito bites below my left ankle, I knew that in seven to ten days time I would be in for some kind of illness.


Few words come before the word ‘net’ and also after the phrase ‘I do not want to contract’.  Malaria does.  You can take all sorts of medications to prevent malaria, but invariably they come with some sort of warning such as “The FDA has only approved this drug for six months of use” or “psychotic depression may result” or “you will be inclined to kill your loved ones.”  Knowing that I was going to be in Liberia for an extended period of time, I decided not to take drugs to prevent malaria…because their side effects sounded worse than actual malaria.  I also believed that I would be able to reason with any mosquitoes I encountered and dissuade them from puncturing my skin.    Read More…

Posted by: sean | November 7, 2009

The Most Miserable Bus in the World

Driving to Freetown reminded me that there was a whole sub-region to explore.  In September, I took three weeks off and traveled to Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Burkina Faso with Gunna.  I saw Timbuktu, rode on a cargo boat down the Niger, went hiking in Dogon Country, but this post isn’t about any of those things, this post is about the most miserable bus in the world.  It runs from Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire to Bamako, Mali.  Miserably. Read More…

Posted by: sean | October 18, 2009

All Roads Lead to Freetown (part 2)

This is the second part of a two part post, the final chapter in the Duology, in which the blogger, having concluded final preparations for a road trip to Freetown, sees the fruits of his labor.  Rest assured that this trip in no way took place in July.  The blogger values you, the reader, too much to keep you waiting for three months.  Though two months have passed since the last post, which, he swears was the full duration of his trip to Freetown, the blogger will recount events as though they happened over a four day weekend in July for artistic reasons known only to him.

“Where is your ECOWAS Brown Card?”  I was at the Liberian border and, sure enough, it turns out there is such a thing Brown Card.   I told the official about my previous attempts to secure a Brown Card in Monrovia and that ECOWAS itself was unaware of its existence.  I then refused, via some transitive property, to pay for documentation whose existence the issuing body largely refuted.  As I grew angry and made it clear that I was willing to use the full weight of my connections in Liberia to prevail, Vishal, sitting to my left, grew more apologetic.  The official responded to our Good Traveler, Bad Traveler routine and finally let us go with a warning that in the future we would be required to produce an ECOWAS Brown Card, or else. Read More…

Posted by: sean | August 19, 2009

All Roads Lead to Freetown (part 1)

This is a two-part post on a trip to Freetown, Sierra Leone.  The first post discovers the blogger in preparation of the journey, written as though the trip has not already happened, which is a lie…  The second post (which will be posted after enough time has passed so as to give the impression that the blogger went on the trip after the first post) recounts the journeying aspect of the journey.

Oh! Hello! Why, you’ve discovered me in preparation of a journey to Freetown…  I’m all packed up and ready to go and want to share useful travel tidbits with you on the eve of my departure, which is most definitely not in the past.  But first I want to make an observation: I’m not very good at the Africa Pissing Contest.  It is a game played by new arrivals and the aim is simple enough: wow those around you by listing the various places you have been in Africa with the aim being to establish your credibility on all things African, and, by extension, assert your worth as a human being.  The game differs from normal talk, where places in Africa and your having been to them might come up, and is either active or passive. Read More…

Posted by: sean | July 6, 2009

Musical Stockholm Syndrome

Dear Sir or Madam,

If you had the chance to make a difference, would you?

In Liberia, West Africa, many expatriates awake as early as 6am to the loud thumping of Akon songs outside their windows. Throughout the day, radio stations cycle through the same Akon songs. On the street, children sing the same Akon songs. In the evening, the bars and clubs play the same Akon songs. In order to survive, expatriates will claim that they like Akon; they will feel that they love Akon; they will lash out when outsiders tell them that Akon is not very talented; they will develop Pavlovian responses to Akon stimuli, most notably awkward dancing and singing-along when Akon is played. In short, in order to survive, expatriates succumb to Musical Stockholm Syndrome. Read More…

Posted by: sean | May 3, 2009

Consider the Pirated DVD

Four to five kids hawk pirated DVDs outside the grocery store. However, these aren’t your normal DVDs, these are behemoth 19-movies-on-one-DVD….DVDs. I’m not a scientist, so I’m not sure how they convinced 19 movies to squeeze onto one DVD. What I do know is that when I found out that it was possible to have 19 full-length, good quality movies on one DVD, I felt that my life until that point had been a sham. Newton’s classic conjecture, his oft cited Fifth Law of Playability (For every one DVD there is equally found one movie therein), stood mute in the face of a brave new science. Read More…

Posted by: sean | April 11, 2009

My Vacation Index

Well, I have officially been in Liberia for over a year. I have tried to describe small aspects of life here that you may find interesting, but it’s often hard to get across the true depth of the experience here. Some people have asked me how I come up with the posts for this blog, how long they take, do I plan them out, etc. Well, the answer is that before each post I compile a list of interesting, seemingly unrelated statistics and weave that story – the story of numbers – into a narrative. For avid readers, this explains the up-to-know mysterious primacy I grant numerology throughout the posts. Read More…

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