“To the casual visitor at any rate Monrovia is a more pleasant city than Freetown. Freetown is like an old trading port that has been left to rot along the beach, it is a spectacle of decay. But Monrovia is like a beginning.” (Graham Greene: Journey without maps)

The air conditioning in this apartment is constantly on, even when nobody is here. “It helps stop the mold from coming on the walls” my host tells me. He doesn’t mind it running all day. The bills for the apartment, like the rent, are covered by his employer. It’s not cheap. The cost of staying one month here would take the average Liberian more than 5 years to earn. That is assuming he had a regular job. Most Liberians don’t. It is a sobering thought. I would feel better if I knew the money was staying in Liberia. It’s not. The landlord is Lebanese.

If it wasn’t raining I might sit outside on the balcony. It overlooks a pool and the pounding surf of the Atlantic. I have to step out of the high-walled compound to be reminded I’m in Liberia, West Africa, one of the poorest countries in the World.

A number of other ex-pats live in similar western-furnished apartments, most without this view, here in Monrovia. This city is awash with UN organizations and NGO’s. More than anywhere else I’ve been. Before arriving here I imagined that living and working in the city would be considered as a ‘hardship’ post. Perhaps it is on paper. From the ex-pats I’ve met in the past few days I would say it is anything but.

There are a number of large supermarkets close to where I’m staying. Most foodstuffs are far more expensive than in supermarkets back home – almost everything is of course imported and then whacked for tax. The cashier seemed surprised when I handed over a small bundle of Liberian dollars to pay for my items. Here most people (foreigners) pay in US $. I can even withdraw them from an ATM, which came as a surprise.

I planned to only be here a few days. Long enough to get a visa for the Ivory Coast and pick up a package being sent out from the UK. It seems however that I’m going to be here a little longer. I have the visa (they issued it the same day – $75 for 30 days) but the package (a replacement keyboard for my laptop) is taking a while long. ‘Approximately’ next Tuesday I’m told. I can think of worse places I’ve stayed in and had to wait. When that rain stops I might go and read by the pool.

Poolside in Monrovia