Saturday & Sunday 8/18-19/2018
Courtney Wright, Mechanical Engineering BSE ’18, SWE at UM
We made the most of our first Saturday in Liberia, heading off early to explore downtown Monrovia. Our first stop was the Grand Royal Hotel for brunch, and to pick up a few SIM cards for our phones.
After brunch, we stopped by a few of Melinda’s favorite stores—Mango Rags and Bosh Bosh—for colorful clothes, bags, and other gifts to bring home for friends and family. Melinda is the leader of our UM team and this is her 4th trip to Liberia with UM-SWE, so she of course did a wonderful job showing us around Monrovia. After a quick KeKe ride through town, we were soon back in the car winding our way up Ducor Hill.
When we reached the top of the Ducor Hill, a massive dilapidated building came into view. We made our way through the light drizzle of rain, to the front entrance of the Ducor Palace Hotel, and began climbing up the central staircase. As I made my way up to the top floor of the old building, I peered down long hallways through the skeletal framework of rooms, imagining how the hotel looked before it was destroyed during the Liberian Civil War. The luxurious five star hotel opened in 1960, and hosted many important meetings with leaders from all over Africa.
When we reached the top floor of the hotel, we were amazed by the spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as several urban districts of Monrovia. Graffiti scattered the Ducor walls, but the most notable piece was a quote on the top floor which artfully summed up the life of the hotel: “We are all fireworks, rising, shining, scattering, and eventually fading.”
As we exited the eerie ruins of the once great Ducor hotel, the rain started pouring down, so we rushed to the car and headed to our final stop of the day: the beach! We arrived at a restaurant called Golden Beach, and ordered a round of fresh coconuts before walking down to the water, to take in the fresh sea air and beautiful coastline.
On Sunday morning, we met the LSWE students at breakfast before heading to church. Quinn had invited us along with her to an Episcopalian service at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Paynesville, not too far from campus. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me, as my great grandfather came to Liberia about 60 years ago as an Architect for the Episcopalian Church. The sermon, hymns, interior and exterior design, and welcoming demeanor of the congregation reminded me of home, and it seemed unbelievable that I was in fact on the other side of the world.
After church we returned to campus, passing many people trekking through the flooded roads, selling everything from coke and fruit to shoes and flags in the crowded markets. For lunch we enjoyed chicken and fish in a palm butter sauce, with shortbread. Everyone spent the remainder of the rainy Sunday afternoon hanging out in the apartments, listening to music, reading, doing laundry, beginning work on the case study, prepping for sessions, and resting up for Week #2 of Camp!