“Darling, last night you were incredible,” said the woman on the Sassy Bitter advert on the car radio. Sassy Bitter is a beer with remarkable invigorating qualities, it seems, and was later described by one of our Liberian friends as “A beer that makes you sassy,” and that’s all you need to know.
The car radio and tape deck – there are no iPod docking stations in these vehicles – have a profound effect on us as we go from place to place, providing the soundtrack to our adventure. And it’s not just adverts.
The drivers seem to have rules to follow about what songs they should play – a couple of classics have appeared regularly when we’re travelling both with Simeon (Don Bosco Homes, Monrovia) and Flomo (CJPS, Gbarnga). One of our particular favourites has been a Liberian song called “Dependable God” sung in an African gospel style with male and female harmonies… and bizarrely joined in the last few verses by what sounds like the Christian friends of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
There’s also an eight minute anthem featuring the words ‘I’m coming home tomorrow’ sung mournfully over and over, and it begs the question if it makes you that sad, why not go home today?
So much for music; now moving onto food.
Our experiences of Liberian food have, on the whole, been pleasurable – lots of rice and fish. If you like rice and fish, of course! On our first weekend, we ate the Liberian speciality Palm Butter, made from the oil from crushed palm nuts, followed by some delicious pineapple and a delectable chocolate cake. If that was a culinary high spot, last night left us somewhat bemused: we were presented with four whole fish cooked in peanut butter, a plate of raw onion, a large tureen of Cup-A-Soup, green beans, boiled plantain, and three bread buns, which seems a little odd since there are four of us.
Week One we had almost entirely Liberian dishes – cassava leaf, potato greens and groundpea soup – but in Gbarnga, it’s been different. Earlier in the week we had some beautiful pizza, spaghetti bolognaise, and then roast pork and chips!
Music, food … so now for love!
There’s a script waiting to be written for a film probably starring Sandra Bullock as a young woman torn between her vocation to be a missionary and the devotion of a frustrated basketball player. Let’s give them random names. How about … Anna? And … Eric?
In evaluating the visit for future generations, let’s be clear, don’t give out your phone number – no matter how clear you’ve been that you are only here for one month and to work and most definitely NOT looking for romance – unless you want repeated calls from people who say “’sup, Baby?” and texts like this: “Hello Anna I eric from don Bosco new matadi I love you I choose to be my wife.”
Sounds like someone’s been at the Sassy Bitter…