Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Brussels Airlines gives bad directions

Not sure is writing for Brussels Airlines b.spirit! in-flight magazine these days, at least in terms of their guides to their African destinations, which have long been featured in the back section of the monthly magazine. At one time, it was Monrovia resident ex-pat Kate Thomas, who not only actually lived in Liberia (and for whom I will be forever grateful for putting the Architectural Tour into the magazine for the first time—the Tour's first major exposure) but also was and is a professional journalist. 

The above paragraph is nice enough, encouraging visitors to leave the central city and check out the lovely Quelu and Wulki Farms, as well as the mention of architecture (although simply describing the architecture as "American" is particularly helpful). 

For one thing, Careysburg is not “a half hour's drive west of the capital's Chocolate City suburb” —firstly, Careysburg is at least a half-hour northeast of Chocolate City, not west, and Chocolate City would be more accurately described as an impoverished slum, even if it does functionally act as a suburb of the city. 

There is certainly something appealing about the romantic Chocolate City name, as in American popular culture it has certain cult connotations, which interestingly parallel Liberian social identity. But this is the second time I have seen it confusingly and unnecessarily invoked: Daniel Howden, who is a solid journalist with a slight tendancy for the melodramatic, name-checked Chocolate City is his slightly-overwrought debut at Roads and Kingdoms two years ago

In reality, Chocolate City can hardly be defined several miles distant from central Monrovia, even high atop the Ducor Hotel. The sprawl of Monrovia's upper fringe, which has seeped further into the swampy flats north of Somalia Drive for over a decade, and Chocolate City is just one section of this 20-mile long stretch of tiny-roofed communities, many with equally-enigmatic names like Chicken Soup Factory, JJY, Day Break Mouth Open, and a dozen other neighborhoods, many of which recall the nascent industrial zone that Somalia Drive was developing on the cusp of the country's downfall. 

Chocolate City is just one section of the larger Gardnersville township, and as such hardly a reference point for directions across the metro area. I know I am knit-picking and this post is several paragraphs too long now, but in order to encourage foreign visitors to actually take the advice in these brief travel tips, it would at least be helpful if their basic orientation was correct. I wonder if anyone, in any of the three languages provided here, will try to find their way to Careysburg and get lost on the way to Chocolate City. 

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