Friday, May 29, 2009


A handful of impressions on the last couple of months to close out the portion of this blog that pertained to my life as someone who did not live in Liberia:

A two week working holiday in Nicaragua offered me the first opportunity to compare a developing world country outside of Africa with all of the ones I have seen here. Nicaragua, to my eyes, was remarkably clean, electronic and user-friendly. Especially on those nights that I sat, contentedly exhausted from a full day of quality surf, with a pina colada, ruining my appetite for roast pork by eating fresh ceviche, it seemed like few things could be easier than living there. Many of the people in the water and along the beach had clearly acted on moments like the ones that filled my time in Central America--land prices near good surfing beaches have multiplied themselves by ten in the last decade, despite wobbles of instability and scares about nationalizing property of foreigners.

I remained pleasantly removed from the parts of the coast that are reputed to be overrun by surfers from the north and experienced my first surf-geared, low-key eco-lodge in a couple of years. When run well, these places combine so many helpful ideas in such a pleasant fashion that they can seem far more utopian than ordinary hotels. It’s difficult not to envy the people who take a few years out of their lives in order to run them. In the background of my tech-centered work, it could be something that I genuinely enjoy.

A couple of weeks in Africa:
A breakneck training schedule blitzed me through three African countries in about ten days. The itinerary and my constant need for connectivity, finally helped me to understand the mindset of business travelers (from any sector), who opt for the comforts of more expensive airplane seats, nicer hotels and fine meals. Touring and experiencing culture were driven from my mind by twelve to fourteen hour workdays split in half between training young African students how to use a group networking website and then meeting the expectations of all of my colleagues who came online at about the time I was ready to relax.

Ghana still seems to be in good shape: a strong, wonderful country. Ethiopia, the only country new for me on this trip, also made an impression. If it had a coastline (not that it hasn’t tried), I could imagine living there. Aside from the succulent food and superior music, there was a great deal of national pride and a strong work ethic. I’m confident that the students from Ethiopia will perform notably in our online programs. And in South Africa, I was cheered by the enthusiasm that locals showed for their recent election—glad that they boasted about the lack of violence and glad that they believed racial tensions to be waning along with security concerns. I discussed my standing prediction of embarrassing and problematic violent crime marring the World Cup in 2010 with several South Africans, three of whom completely disagreed with my risk assessment and one of whom was positive that I am correct.

Perhaps I’ll have something to say about leaving the United States in my next post; more likely I’ll just get down to the business of talking through the fact of being in Liberia.

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