September 29, 2004: Headlines: COS - Liberia: Speaking Out: Front Porch: RPCV Archer Di Peppe remembers traffic in Liberia

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Liberia: Peace Corps Liberia : The Peace Corps in Liberia: September 29, 2004: Headlines: COS - Liberia: Speaking Out: Front Porch: RPCV Archer Di Peppe remembers traffic in Liberia

By Admin1 (admin) ( on Saturday, October 02, 2004 - 2:57 pm: Edit Post

RPCV Archer Di Peppe remembers traffic in Liberia

RPCV Archer Di Peppe remembers traffic in Liberia

RPCV Archer Di Peppe remembers traffic in Liberia

Quiet Moments
You Can't Get There From here. Archer Di Peppe

I served in the Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa in the mid-seventies. At that time Liberia had the highest mortality rate of Peace Corps volunteers worldwide. Most died in traffic accidents. I lived in a small village called Gbalatauh. The Kpelle tribe that inhabited the area had a somewhat negative reputation with the other tribes. Gbalatuah was a Kpelle word that meant "kick in the ass". It was the custom across Liberia that if you were a native traveler and stopped in a village, they would feed you and put you up for the night. In Gbalatuah they not only didn't feed you, they made you sleep on the other side of the St. John River some two miles away-- hence the name. My own experience was the complete opposite. I found the Kpelle people friendly and generous. As a teacher I was treated with the respect that we in this country afford physicians.

One Friday I prepared to make a trip down to the county's capital to attend a teacher's meeting on Saturday morning. The capital was only thirty miles, but if you wanted to make it there on time, it was best to leave the afternoon before. The local transportation was the "money bus". It was a small pick up with a canopy over the back that was laden with crates of smoked monkeys, barrels of cane juice (white lightning), and whatever else was going to market.

The pickup truck had two benches in the back filled with people, chickens, the occasional goat, and this time several large bags of rice. The bags filled up the entire center section even with the benches. We drove about ten yards before we got a flat tire. We all got out and helped take every rice bag out, so they could fix the tire. An hour later we drove another ten yards before we were stopped by the local police officer. He informed the driver that his truck had faulty equipment. He stopped every vehicle that came through for this. Police officers were paid infrequently by the
government, and so they relied on informal "taxes" to survive.

The driver and the police officer got into a heated discussion about the matter that lasted a full half an hour. The police officer then told the driver that he would have to go to the district office (ten miles in the other direction) to let his sergeant settle the matter (even more taxes). At this point the driver would produce a dollar and the offense would mysteriously disappear. I wondered why the drivers didn't just give the officer the dollar at once and be on his way, but the locals told
me that if the driver did not argue, he would lose face.

We drove three miles out into the bush when the back of the truck suddenly filled with thick, black smoke from an engine fire. I quickly leaped out from the back of the truck while it was still moving and tumbled head over heel in the red clay dust. I got up, dusted myself off, and watched the money bus disappear over the hill. It kept going, so I walked back to my village, and I never made it to the teacher's meeting.

Archer Di Peppe's book of essays, Quiet Moments -- Commentary on the Extraordinary Ordinary, is available in paperback at Becks Books on Caroline St.

When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Director Gaddi Vasquez:  The PCOL Interview Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview
PCOL sits down for an extended interview with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez. Read the entire interview from start to finish and we promise you will learn something about the Peace Corps you didn't know before.

Plus the debate continues over Safety and Security.
Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention
Governor Schwarzenegger praised the Peace Corps at the Republican National Convention: "We're the America that sends out Peace Corps volunteers to teach village children." Schwarzenegger has previously acknowledged his debt to his father-in-law, Peace Corps Founding Director Sargent Shriver, for teaching him "the joy of public service" and Arnold is encouraging volunteerism by creating California Service Corps and tapping his wife, Maria Shriver, to lead it. Leave your comments and who can come up with the best Current Events Funny?
 Peace Corps: One of the Best Faces of America Peace Corps: One of the Best Faces of America
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and can you come up with a Political Funny?

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Front Porch

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Liberia; Speaking Out



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.