Sunday, March 21, 2010

Crabs at Kendeja

These two little fellas somehow got stuck in the drain by the pool at the RLJ Kendeja Resort. After I picked them up and set them free, it occurred to me that someone might have put them there, saving them for dinner. I am tempted to call them "ghost crabs" but I don't know if that's what they are, or even if that's a real species of crustacean.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Embassy of the Holy See

I hadn't previously realized that the Vatican still had an Embassy here (I do try to stay up on that kind of thing). Anyway, here it is, right across the street from Les Griot Cafe off of Gibson Street, Mamba Point.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Liberian Land Commission Opening Ceremony

I was honored to be invited to attend the opening ceremony of the Liberian Land Commission today, just down the street. Its great that this is finally happening, and it was very interesting to learn about all the effort that went into its constitution and formation, and its tremendous scope of work. Its a daunting challenge to tackle this very complex and difficult issue, but it is encouraging to see such a talented team in place, and I have really high hopes that with international support, the new entity will be able to tackle some of the major land and property challenges in Liberia.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I knew that Liberians eat snails, and that there were huge snails that came "from the bush", as they say, but I had never seen them for myself until I encountered these wheelbarrows full on Benson Street today. Rather than eat these guys, I'd be more inclined to keep them in a terrarium, but that would involve finding someone to building one, and cutting glass is still not a common trade here.

I didn't buy any of these fellas and haven't tasted this local dish, but it was remarkable to come across a small mountain of fist-sized tree snails in the center of the city.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Historic Structure on Front Street, Gone

I was walking along Front Street today and happened upon this pile of rubble at the corner of Center Street, which was until very recently a house. I must have missed it being pulled down by a few days. I'd be curious to see how they did it, whether with a bulldozer or by hand, etc.

Its not particularly unusual to see buildings getting knocked down. There are a couple on Capital Bye-Pass that some guys have been working on recently.

But this one was, I thought, rather old, and perhaps even historic. I think there is a picture of this house in the Architecture Tour. I guess this is not surprising that it was knocked down, but sort of puts into focus that there is no Historic Preservation or other listed restrictions here. Not that World Monuments Fund or UNESCO has Monrovia's settler heritage in its sights (which is probably a hot-button issue, anyway). But, should it?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pet Duiker at the Royal Hotel

I am relatively certain that this is a Duiker, which is apparently a house pet of the Royal Hotel at 15th Street, Sinkor. It wandered up to my table at dinner last night, licked my hand, pooped, then walked away. I've seen it sleeping in the bushes during the day, and it also seems to be friends with the cat, who had kittens recently, and I've seen the kittens sleeping with duiker during the day. I don't know if its native to Liberia, or what-- I know that duiker is a Dutch word from South Africa.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

View from the Ducor

Walking up to edge of the swimming pool at the Ducor Hotel yesterday, I saw this vantage point for the first time, looking down the hill and down Water Street to the Crown Hill end. Looks very metropolitan, like a suggestion of what the city could be if there were taller buildings.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bats! Bats! Bats!

I don't know how many West African cities have large populations of large bats, but I can say that both Monrovia and Accra are filled with humungous colonies, which take over entire trees in the downtown area. At first, they look like dead trees, with dry leaves clinging to the undersides of the branches, until you realize that you are looking at clusters of sleeping bats.

I'm not really afraid of animals, but I have to say that I think bats look sort of diabolical.

Anyway, today was quite an event on Snapper Hill, when, just as we were driving by, a huge crash came from one of the giant trees nearby. It sounded like a strike of lightning, or an auto accident. Instead, it seems as though we witnessed an incident of the straw that broke the camel's back: there were just too many bats on this one branch, and it all came crashing down. Pretty fascinating, from a physics/mathematics point of view.

Well, this resulted in bat pandemonium. The bats, being nocturnal, were mostly asleep, and I also wonder whether their eyes are even worse in broad African daylight than in their normal night-time setting. The bats panicked, and thousands of them started flying all over the place. Some right into the ground, others into chain-link fences. One or two hit the side of the car.

This, in turned, caused a rush from all the people nearby-- running to catch them with their hands or even buckets and nets. Not a quarter hour later, there were bats for sale in the streets, a few blocks away (I was tempted, but didn't buy one…)

Bats for dinner across the city tonight!

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