Traveling to Liberia? Be Prepared.
As my time in Liberia comes to a close, I am reflecting back on all that I’ve learned over the last three months. I’d like to pass along some helpful information to any readers who may be planning to travel to Liberia in the future.
Liberian English Is Way More “Liberian” Than It Is “English”
I assumed that since Liberians speak “Liberian English” that I would be able to understand them and that Liberians would be able to understand me. As it turns out, neither of these things are true. Liberian English is an English-based creole similar to Jamaican patois. Between the accent and local colloquialisms, it can be hard to understand. Similarly, it can be hard to be understood.
Every Meal Is An Adventure
When you are at a restaurant and you ask what is included in a dish, the wait staff will always leave out a key ingredient just to surprise you. I will admit that it adds an element of excitement to the dining experience. This key ingredient could be anything from mayonnaise (on your black-eyed peas), meat or fish, or a very spicy tear-inducing pepper sauce. Also, when asking what type of meat is in a dish, “meat” or “bush meat” is always an acceptable answer. More than likely though, if you are having a local dish, your meal will contain a very tasty meat medley of chicken, fish, meat, AND bush meat.
Pedestrians Do NOT Have The Right of Way (I repeat. Do NOT!)
When I took Driver’s Ed, I was taught the Two Car Length Rule. Based on my observation in Monrovia, the road is governed by the Whoever Would Win In a Collision Rule. Therefore, pedestrians yield to motorcycles, motorcycles yield to cars, cars yield to SUVs, and SUVs yield to overloaded shipping trucks. There are no traffic lights and in fact there is an area of town, Redlight, that is named so because it USED TO have a traffic light. Watch out for coverless manholes. Kiva Fellow Aaron Kaye’s guide to honking in Freetown, Sierra Leone also applies to Monrovia.
“Rainy Season” Is An Understatement
I grew up in central Florida where during the summer time, it rains nearly every day. Every afternoon around the same time, it will rain very hard for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the rain stops, the sun comes out, and you go on with your day. THAT is a rainy season. What we have here in Liberia would more accurately be described as a monsoon season. And I have been told that I am leaving before the worst of it. It may rain for an entire day, streets will be flooded, many roads are unpaved which leaves a very muddy mess. As someone who has slept undisturbed through many a Florida hurricane, I have been woken up out of my sleep on more than one occasion by a nighttime Liberian rainstorm.
You’ll Make Yourself at Home Quite Easily
Despite the language barrier, adventuresome meals, the death-defying walks through the city, and the torrential rainstorms, you will be welcomed with open arms in Liberia, adapt quickly, make lots of new friends, and like me, be very sad to say goodbye.