Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Farewell to Liberia; itinerary planning

Angola, December 7, 2003

This is my eighth last day in Liberia. Here's my probable itinerary for the next eight weeks. Details subject to change.

  • Friday November 30: Last day in Buchanan

  • Saturday December 1: Fly Monrovia via Dakar overnight to Brussels

  • Sunday December 2: Arrive Brussels, fly to London; Consume litres and litres of fresh milk

  • Monday December 4 to Friday December 8: Work at Merlin London HQ, completing a hospital patient satisfaction survey analysis and report, debriefing for Liberia and briefing for Sri Lanka; Watch the new James Bond film.

  • Tuesday December 12: EuroStar London to Brussels - then Amsterdam

  • Sunday December 17: EuroStar Brussels to London

  • Monday December 18: Dad arrives in London; to Aunt Jill's in Nottingham

  • Wednesday December 20: Fly East Midlands Airport to Cyprus with Dad

  • Wednesday December 27: Return Cyprus to East Midlands Airport; To York

  • Thursday December 28: National Rail Museum and Humber Bridge with Dad

  • Saturday December 30: Dad to Canada; To Belfast

  • Tuesday January 2: Belfast to London

  • Wednesday January 3: London to Ottawa

  • Friday January 5: Ottawa via Chicago to Washington DC

  • Sunday January 7: Pick up, load U-Haul truck with personal effects; Drive U-Haul to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

  • Monday January 8: Drive U-Haul to Syracuse, New York

  • Tuesday January 9: Drive U-Haul to Ottawa

  • Wednesday January 10: Unload U-Haul in Osgoode

  • Saturday January 13: Fly Ottawa to London

  • Sunday January 14: Fly London to Sri Lanka????

Friday, November 10, 2006

Liberia exit announcement; Buchanan travel guide

Near Woldia, Ethiopia, 2003?

After decisions that involved a LOT of factors I now know I will be leaving Liberia on Friday December 1.

I was recently asked to prepare text for a Merlin Buchanan visitors' guide. It is here on the right. Please bookmark this page if Buchanan Liberia is in your future travel plans.

The Buchanan field site is about 3 hours drive from Monrovia. The first hour is the same as the drive to Roberts International Airport and is smooth and fast. Most of the last two hours are rough. The road is almost all paved but full of potholes. The nicest part is immediately after the airport where the road passes through the Firestone plantation at Harbel. This is also where there is the closest useful supermarket to Buchanan.

Five of Merlin’s current ten Primary Health Care clinics are accessed by the road from Harbel to Buchanan. The first in this direction is at Owensgrove – it is a couple of hundred metres south from the main road. This clinic is easier to access from Monrovia than from Buchanan. The next clinic is at Bockay Town – it is a couple of hundred metres north of the road. Bockay Town is about one and a half hours from both Monrovia and Buchanan. The side road to the next clinic – Little Bassa - connects to the main road is less than half an hour further on towards Buchanan but the additional ride to the clinic takes 45 minutes in good weather, longer in the rain, and forever if the bridges are damaged. The fourth clinic at Lloydsville is beside the main road and is about an hour from Buchanan. The last clinic is at St. John, is also beside the road, and is only about half an hour from Buchanan.

One of the other five clinics is in Buchanan. It is the Well Baby clinic and specializes in Maternal Health Care. Three more clinics - Tubmanville, Compound #3 and Gardour - are on a road leading north from Buchanan and one – Foster Town – is further east. Both Gardour and Foster Town clinics take a couple hours to reach when the weather is good.

The road from Monrovia is known as Tubman Street when it reaches Buchanan. The Merlin compound is a few hundred metres from Tubman Street – ten minutes drive from the arched ‘Welcome’ when the roads are good or about twenty minutes when it is necessary to drive a longer detour.

The Merlin compound really consists of two adjacent rented properties – the office compound which includes the main office building (which includes the radio room, two medical staff offices and two guest bedrooms), garage, logistics office, drug warehouse, security booth, fuel depot and transit warehouse; and the residential compound which includes the expatriates’ residence (with four bedrooms) and the airy Palava hut which is used for meetings, training, and quietness.

The residence has, apart from the four bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, two bathrooms and an enclosed porch. There is wireless Internet but it doesn’t work during heavy storms. There is DSTV television but that also can fail during bad weather.

The office compound has Internet provided by a cable network to most desks. Expatriates and the two most senior national staff have their own computers but other staff share a couple of common computers, one of which serves as a networked file server.

Current Merlin expatriate staff in Buchanan are the Project Coordinator, the Field Medical Coordinator, the Primary Health Care Supervisor and the Hospital Head Nurse. Senior national staff are the Finance / Administration Officer and the Logistics Officer. Under the Logistics Officer are the head guard and the head driver. Under the expatriate PHC Supervisor are four national health workers.

Merlin employs a housekeeper and a cook. Chicken and rice are very frequently prepared.

The only tourist attraction in Buchanan is the beaches. The farther beach, only accessible in the dry season, is spectacular but lacks facilities. The closer beach has had a bar but as of this writing it is closed. The Liberian Agriculture Company has a rubber plantation (about an hour from Buchanan) which has a charming waterfall and a fairly nice restaurant.

Back in Buchanan there are two bar/restaurants. One is called the ‘E.K.’ and the other, which also features dancing, is the ‘Ocean View Entertainment Centre’. Both feature hilariously bad service but rather good chicken. Vegetarian dishes can be served but it is best to request it in advance. The Ocean View Entertainment Centre is beside the Ocean View Cinema which features Nigerian films and live football transmissions.

There are a few more bar/discos. Notable is ‘The Village’. One or two petrol stations also serve drinks – particularly ‘Millers’ and the ‘Can Jah Filling Station’.

There are markets and countless stalls, kiosks and shops but only one supermarket. It offers basics including alcohol and non-perishable foods but very nearly nothing fresh. It also sells motorbikes and generators.

Visitors might be glad to have brought their favorite toiletries or specialized foods but it is quite possible to survive in Buchanan with what is available.

Guests are accommodated in the two spare rooms in the office building. The housekeeper will refresh the rooms daily except on Sundays. Laundry will be returned in about two days. Three meals are prepared by the cook every day except on Sundays. It is best to announce vegetarianism ahead of time – it will be catered to. Guests are welcome to contribute US$3 per day for meals.