i can be as guilty as the next traveller/expat of wanting to have a unique and 'authentic' experience when i am in a new country and yet i recognize that even seeking this out takes away its authenticity and leaves you constantly feeling as you didn't do enough, see enough, photograph enough.
and there are those instances that remind me that authentic experiences are authentic because they just happen. and they just happen when you are open to them and others.
a bit trite, perhaps, but seems to hold true where ever i have been in the world.
yesterday was one of those 'authentic' days that i will likely cherish. and largely because it felt so... normal.
the first decision was how we would get there. the shared taxis were an option, but we decided to spring for the motorcycle taxis at double the price because they are faster and a lot more comfortable, especially if you don't have to share one. mary hailed them down and we got on. she told me later that she was a little nervous when she couldn't see me, but she needn't worry as the only thing that i had to fend off was another motorcycle's passengers, two men who were fighting over talking to me every chance they got (in the middle of the road!). it is times like these i need something that resembles a wedding ring in my back pocket.
|bustling water street, with wheel barrows for hire|
waterside is less of a market and more of a number of streets lined with vendors selling anything you need of your house. much of the clothing and housewares were used, but there appeared to have been a large shipment of chinese shoes and they were laid out nicely for passersby to take a look. the thought occurred to me a number of times that all those people at home who think donating t shirts and shoes to 'africa' are unaware they are being sold by the bundle and sold on the streets (in fact, there is a documentary made on this very topic: T Shirt Travels).
it seemed as though mary knew a number of people around and we had to make several stops to say hello, but it turns out that she used to work there selling food so still knows many of the salespeople and shop owners. i clearly stuck out, but didn't feel out of place or uncomfortable. it is a pretty broad statement, but i have found monrovians very welcoming and kind to me. but i would be lying if i said i was a lot less worried about getting lost or ripped off by having mary with me.
like much of the rest of the shops i have seen, many were owned by lebanese people. we poked our heads into the ones selling lapas and i found 12 yards of fabric that i plan on using for sheets and cushions. coincidentally, i got the number of a wonderful tailor today who can hopefully help me out because although learning how to sew (and quilt!) is something i would love to do, i am without a sewing machine.
it is tough to visualize what the fabric will look like as it is overwhelming to see so many patterns at once. and sometimes is very dim light while you are sweating buckets in the stuffy shops. i picked out some more basic patterns although i might go back for the 'obama' print, which was rather lovely even if it did not have any images of obama on it at all.
in fact, there are some ma ellen prints i have seen around and like the nelson mandela cloth i bought in south africa, i might pick some up just for the laugh and memories of the time i am here.
|lapas - the purpose of our journey|
as i was unfolding and feeling all the fabric, mary was checking out the shoe selection and making sure my bags didn't get too heavy to carry. one of my favourite parts of monrovia is the shop signs that are painted on the outer walls of buildings. i hope to gain more confidence in bringing my camera along to take more photos next time i go to town, but this time i just took some snaps on my phone (which, by the way, have you downloaded the camera+ app yet?! amazing.)
after a wander around, we caught more motorcycle taxis on the way back. this time, my driver was a shyster and made us pay too much and since we had two drivers, the second being a honest guy, i paid him the same exorbitant rate that the first demanded before taking my money, refusing to give change, and driving off. i have no idea if he thought he could rip us off because of where he dropped us off, who he was carrying, or just because he was an ass, but neither mary nor i were impressed. we were also nearly melting so we didn't bother too much and came inside to share a can of coke (which is still one of the most refreshing beverages when it is so hot out!).
|this is what i look like on the back of a motorcycle taxi, |
if ever you wondered