Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Let Me Not Die Before My Time

Today I went to the official launching ceremony in Lofa County for an IRC report that was done on Domestic Violence in West Africa called “Let Me Not Die Before My Time”. It was held at a Baptist church in town with attendees from IRC, other international NGO’s, religious leaders, women’s and girl’s groups, and government representatives.

The IRC report is worth reading. Even if you don’t read the full text, just skim through and read the quotes of the women that participated. Here is one of the quotes “If I’m doing a business and I have pain, I need to go for treatment so I won’t run my business for a few days. Some of us sell perishable goods, and if he beats me at a time when I have perishable goods, I lose everything. And sometimes that’s just the end; I won’t continue with the business.” Here is a link to the report: http://www.rescue.org/sites/default/files/resource-file/IRC_Report_DomVioWAfrica.pdf

This is one of the photos included in the report

Domestic violence is a global problem and occurs in even the most developed countries, but there is something particularly harrowing about domestic violence in societies where women already have little opportunities, undervalued voices in the community and are culturally treated as second class. I have no doubt that women are the most oppressed group of people on this Earth. And Liberia does not have any formal laws against domestic violence. I’m sure there are many countries that don’t.

I heard some really sad stories today. One woman was beaten badly by her husband and then he wrapped her in a sheet and put her under the bed. She managed to get some paper and wrote a note to her daughter that if she died, it was the father who did it. The daughter found her mother dead and had the courage to speak out against her father in court. Then the girl was murdered. I also heard about the wife of an IRC staff member in Monrovia who was attacked by a man on a motorbike on a busy street. The man grabbed at her jewelry and beat her. No one intervened and when one witness was asked why he didn’t do anything he said “I thought it was her boyfriend”…as if that makes it okay. Domestic violence here is generally considered a private matter.

The men in the audience today stood up and took the IRC pledge for women "I pledge to stand with women and girls, to spread the word about the challenges they face, the potential they hold and the simple solutions that help them survive and thrive."

During the ceremony there were a number of songs that made me tear up. The Voinjama Girls for Hope group sang a song that essentially when like this “it is not good, it is not correct, to not send the child you have born to school. Support girl’s education o, send your girl child to school.” They also sang about what they wanted to be when they grow up. “Hey all you people, I am a Voinjama Girl of Hope and I want to be a medical doctor.” Or “I want to be a minister”. I was totally trying not to cry because the odds are against these girls and it is very unlikely that they will ever be doctors or ministers or government representatives or any of the other things they sang about. One of the women's group members sang a song too about domestic violence. She sang "wife beating we don't want it o, wife beating we don't it o, Liberian women don't want it o, wife beating women don't want it o. Abandonment we don't want it o, Liberian women don't want it o, abandonment we don't want it o, abandonment women don't want it."

The Voinjama Girls for Hope group singing about what they want to be when they grow up

The girls also did a dramatization of domestic violence in the home. One girl acted as the father who yelled at the mother and refused her money to buy food. The mother managed to get some food for the children and when the father saw it, he beat the mother. Then he abandoned her. So she was forced to send her children out to the market to try and sell water and charcoal. Then the mother died of malaria. It was really sad.
The IRC report highlights the type of domestic violence that women experience here…some is direct physical abuse.  IRC has dealt with beatings (including beatings of pregnant women), rapes, hacking the women with machetes and even locking them in a house and setting it on fire. Men also create dependence and withhold resources, like not giving the women money to get food or medicine. Then there is psychological and emotional abuse. The below picture is of a slide that was part of a presentation made today about the gender-based violence cases that IRC dealt with from 2008-2010

I feel so lucky to have been born in the USA at the particular moment in history that I was. I had the opportunity to become whatever I wanted to become, there are laws to protect me from domestic violence and there are resources and organizations to help women who need protection from abusers. Too bad all women aren’t so lucky.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Foya-Borma Hospital

I went on another hospital visit yesterday and I spent the afternoon training the Hospital Administrator on logistics and warehouse topics. It was very interesting. This hospital serves more than 70,000 people in the Foya District as well as people from nearby Guinea and Sierra Leone who come for the free medical care. It has about 103 staff including 1 full time doctor, 10 nurses and 6 midwives. It has 120 beds and an ambulance. In my last post I said a couple of times that anything was better than nothing. But it turns out that is not a universal sentiment. Even though the services are free, there are a complexity of issues that result in many Liberians not taking advantage of them. There is a general distrust and misunderstanding of "Western" medicine and a cultural dismissal of going to the hospital. My mother and grandmother never went to a hospital, why should I go? Organizations like mine do community outreach to try and educate the public on the services that are available and the need to seek treatment, but many people only come to the hospital when their condition is unbearable and they are often past the point of being treatable...or they never come at all and needlessly die. Sad.

Foya-Borma Hospital grounds

View over Foya town from the nurses' living quarters

Here they give children their vaccinations

Patients have their vital signs taken as they get in the queue to be screened

The "waiting room" for outpatient care

A woman in an exam room being screened by a nurse

The Records Room

The Laboratory

The Pharmacy

This is where the doctor and nurses scrub in for the Operating Room

This is the OR. Maybe this is all you need to conduct a surgery...but this room makes me shudder

One of the inpatient rooms in the Women's Ward
The Pre-Natal Ward

One of the rooms in the Pediatrics Ward

The ER

This is an example of a good intention gone bad. This ambulance was donated by the Liberian Vice President who received it from some European donors. But it is a Mercedes and can't really run over the rough terrain here. Plus, they can't easily get spare parts and mechanics don't really know how to work on them. So apparently this was only used a couple times and has now just been sitting there for like 3 years.

This is the kind of vehicle that can actually work as an ambulance. I'm telling you, Toyota Landcruisers are awesome.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Medical Care in Africa

Many people in the USA agree that our healthcare system is messed up. But, regardless of its negative aspects, give me an American hospital any day of the week, even if I have to pay my life savings for care. Rather your life savings than your life. 

Over the last year I have had the opportunity to visit hospitals and primary health care facilities in Kenya, South Sudan, and now Liberia. Most of them have consisted of concrete rooms stuffed with beds and benches outside where people sit or lie or sleep as they wait to be treated. Pharmacies are disordered and drugs have likely not been stored in the proper manner or temperature. Often there are no actual doctors (maybe a couple if it is a hospital) and there are just Nurses, Midwives and Clinical Officers. Overall they seemed like pretty miserable places to be in, let alone be sick in. But they are still a bazillion times better than having nowhere to go and no one to help you if you need help. Sometimes people have to walk or travel for days to even get to a clinic, that’s how few and far between they are. And there are rarely emergency services to come to your rescue if you are hurt. Sometimes there might be 1 ambulance in an entire district for 60,000 people.

An ambulance I saw in Liberia. Might not be so great...but anything is better than nothing at all.

The maternity ward at the hospital at the refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya had some delivery rooms and then one large recovery room with maybe 50 beds in it with women and their babies lying around, most under some sort of mosquito net. It was about as different as you could possibly get from the nice, private delivery and recovery rooms you’d find in the USA.  But it is also a huge step up from having no hospital at all and giving birth in your small hut or UN provided tent in the camp. Sadly I don’t have pictures of it as I didn’t think it was appropriate to take photos while I was there.

One of the primary health care centers in Aweil Town in South Sudan was going to start doing deliveries instead of referring them to the nearest hospital. Below is a picture of the “delivery room”.

Exam room...soon to be delivery room.

I visited the “pediatrics ward” at a Primary Health Care Center in Panthou, South Sudan. It consisted of a concrete structure full of beds pushed up against each other and lots of mammas and their kids lying about.

Pediatrics Unit in South Sudan

In Liberia, the official figures state that there are 51 trained Liberian doctors…in a country of 3.5 million people! We help run some hospitals and health care centers in conjunction with the Ministry of Health. We provide capacity building (training for the MOH administration staff), supplies for the hospital, some ambulances and sometimes doctors and midwives. I visited one hospital and it had some nicer, newer buildings that we built. Goats were running all about and goat droppings littered the ground.

"Waiting Room" at a Primary Health Care Center in Panthou, South Sudan

Yesterday I heard about a guy in the town I’m in who was recently pronounced dead and as they were preparing to bury him they realized he was breathing and still alive! I’ve actually heard of this happening once before! When I was in Uganda, we had a vehicle accident at our base in South Sudan. We choppered the injured parties to Kampala for medical care. One guy was severely injured and later pronounced dead at the hospital.  We were preparing to write our condolences and I asked one of his colleagues for the proper way to address the letter. That’s when I was told that as they were preparing to bury him, they discovered he was actually alive! I have no idea if he ultimately survived his injuries, but I like to think that he did. Otherwise I have nightmares.

Dispensing medicine to a sick child in South Sudan

It is sad to see the state of healthcare in developing countries and I feel proud to work for an organization that does such good work providing care to some of the world’s most vulnerable people in some of the world’s most austere places.  Our medical systems in the West might not be perfect, but I’m thankful for them and feel lucky and really grateful that if I get sick, I don’t have to walk for days to get treated.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

My Top 3 Exotic Desserts

Over the last few years I have eaten a variety of exotic and weird food.  In order to block from my mind the totally gross stuff I have tried, I am going to recommend to you the BEST stuff I have tried. Below are the three awesomest (and two weirdest) desserts that I have ever had and that I think everyone should eat at some point in their existence.

1) Tub Tim Krob – Thailand

I discovered Tub Tim Krob at the buffet in the Radisson Hotel in Bangkok. Okay, not the most exciting place in all of Bangkok to eat, but hey…it was a work thing, and free, so I’m not complaining. After having it on the 2nd night of my trip, I purposely sought it out for just about every meal after that for the next 6 days.

Tub Tim Krob, or Red Rubies, is jellied water chestnuts in coconut milk. You add shaved or cubed ice to the milk to make it really cold. Sounds totally weird right? Well, it totally is. But it is also the most amazing dessert in the world (like totally J).

2) Um Ali (or Om Ali?) – Egypt by way of United Arab Emirates

I first tried Um Ali on a dinner boat cruise down the Dubai Creek. It was part of the dinner buffet and I remember wishing I hadn’t eaten any of the dinner cause then I probably would have had like 10 helpings.  I think I still had 3 anyway.

Um Ali (or Yum Ali as I like to call it) is a Middle Eastern bread pudding-ish sort of dessert, though I would say it’s a million times better than any bread pudding I’ve ever had. From what I’ve read about the dish, it originated in Egypt. I’ve seen some recipes that include raisins and others that have pistachios, pecans or hazelnuts, but in general it is puff pastry covered in cream, sweetened milk, almonds and coconut and baked to ooey-gooey perfection. This one doesn’t make the list of weird cause it’s not actually weird. But it does make the list of the best things you will ever put in your mouth.

3) Gajar Halwa – Pakistan by way of Liberia

I have never been to Pakistan, but I am now a huge fan of Pakistani food. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been eating dinner at the UN Pakistani Battalion in Voinjama, Liberia for the past few weeks and this is where I first encountered Gajar Halwa.

Gajar in Urdu means carrot and Halwa means sweet confection or dessert. Grated carrots are boiled in whole milk until the carrots are cooked and the milk forms little carrot colored curds (say that 5 times fast!) Throw in a little cardamom and a tiny bit of sugar and Bob’s your uncle.  It takes a couple bites to get used to the texture and to wrap your mind around the fact that the tasty treat you’re eating is made of carrots and milk curds, but once you do that…well, it is delish. Maybe it doesn’t win the prize for the best dessert ever, but it’s both weird and tasty and something I actually get to have here, so it’s definitely on my list of favorites. Plus, how can you feel guilty about eating carrots for dessert?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Long and Winding Road

Ah, ye mighty Landcruiser! You indomitable driving machine. Your name is just not fitting. It is too calm and serene. You should be called the Road Warrior...for you firmly the kick the ass of any pothole, washboard, divet, ditch, protruding rock, river bed, trench, crater, sinkhole, or silly goat or chicken that happens to get in your way.

Over the past 13 months I have spent countless hours in a Landcruiser. Sometimes packed in the back on a bench seat while my internal organs play bumper cars as we bounce along the dirt roads and sometimes, like last Friday, crammed in the middle front “seat” with my arms all pins and needles as I try to steady myself with my hand against the roof and my legs all twisted up to avoid my thigh from impeding the gear shift.

Every Friday in Liberia is our STS (Staff Transport System) where vehicles from each of the main regions set out in the morning to converge on a central-ish meeting spot to swap passengers and cargo. The meeting point is a town called Gbarnga (pronounced Bonga) which is 4 hours away from where I am living in Voinjama. I am working on some initiatives with our suppliers and two of our main ones happen to be in Gbarnga, so, I thought it might be worthwhile to ride on the STS and meet with them. Turns out these businesses are Lebanese owned (like many of the good restaurants and shops in Liberia) and the owners were pretty astute businessmen. My meetings lasted about 5 minutes each. So, 8 hours of driving through the crazy, bumpy jungle roads for 10 minutes of work.

But driving in Liberia is always an interesting adventure. I never feel bored as there are endless things to see along the way. Whether marveling at the solid walls of jungle that sometimes line either side of the road, or staring off in wonder at the sweeping vistas of rolling jungle hills, or waving back at all the little children who smile and call to you as you pass by, or wondering how that lady can carry such a huge bundle of firewood on her head, with a baby on her back and a bucket in one hand and a machete in the other. Watching the other cars and motorbikes is interesting as well because they cram as much cargo and as many people on board as they physically can. The only thing that is not so fun about these long road trips is having to make a pit stop. No matter how hard you try, jostling over the potholes and washboards makes it impossible to just hold it. So, we pulled over by the side of the road and a few of the men went about their business and I proceeded to make my way down a tiny little path I found through the tall grass into the jungle. I was pretty freaked about the possibility of a Bush Viper biting me in the ass as I…ahem…”checked the tire” as my coworkers laughingly put it. But you’re not a real African explorer until you’ve peed in the jungle, in the grasslands, in the desert and in a cockroach and fly infested squat latrine…done, done, done and done. You may now call me Dora. (How sad is it that the only female explorer's name that calls to mind right now is Dora the Exlporer?  And it’s not like she ever has to go to the bathroom when she’s hiking through the Spooky Forest. You never hear her call for backpack, map AND latrine. But she should. It would make the show much more authentic. LOL. What the hell am I even talking about?)

(Sorry about the large HF radio antenna in the shots above. Funny thing is, the vehicle doesn’t even have an HF radio in it…don’t ask me. I have long since learned that in Africa there is no sense in trying to make sense out of things that just don’t make sense.)

Despite how awesome Landcruisers are, they are not impervious to flat tires and you have to change their filters and stuff to keep them purring smoothly. Our fuel filter was way passed its useful life so we wound up stopping at a little mechanics hut on the outskirts of a tiny town called Konia so they could try and wash it out again, or something to that effect. My Canadian colleague, Darius, and I walked up the hill into the town center to get some tea and find something to eat. Friday is market day there so the town was bustling. We found a little tea shop that had some bread and coffee and tea and sat and watched all the market action while we waited for the car. When the vehicle finally pulled up to collect us, we noticed we had a flat tire, so we waited some more while they changed it (that was the first flat tire of two we had that day). All in all it was a pretty fun day at work, if a little exhausting. We left the compound at 6:30am and got back at 7pm, just before dark.

Changing the tire in Konia town center

The tea shop where we got some drinks and ate some bread

Part of the Konia market

How adorable are these little girls?!

Selling some chickens. It makes me sad to see little kids in the market selling stuff instead of being in school.

I had to take a picture with this awesome, old, broken down Mitsubishi minibus. I want to buy it and live out hippie dreams of caravanning around the world.

This is a typical Liberian gas station...those bottles of red liquid. 

Loading, or I should say OVERloading, a truck in Zorzor town

Trying to get where you are going is important...never mind that you might not make it there alive

Just one of the many houses we passed along the way

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Common Sense Tips You Already Know About Keeping Fit on the Road

Today was the 5th day this week that I went for a run in Voinjama, from my compound to the police checkpoint at the entrance of town. It’s about 3.5 or 4 kilometers and is a pretty nice route: down a steep hill into a little valley with a flat bit, past the Jordanian police and PakBat compounds, across a little bridge and up a longer, shallower incline to the checkpoint. As I was coming back up the steep hill towards my compound, two little girls, carrying long bamboo poles in each hand, started running behind me. As we passed other kids, they would join and run along for a few meters before continuing their journey back down the hill. I felt like the Pied Piper going through town with my little followers. At one point I stopped and asked one of the girls if I could hold her bamboo. I grabbed it and was impressed with how heavy it was. I lifted it up and down like a free weight and said “it’s like lifting weights, you girls are strong.” Then the girl seemed a bit nervous that I was taking her pole and said “hey sista, dat one fo me, o” so I gave it back. Every once in a while I’d look back and see the girls lifting their poles up and down and laughing. It was a fun moment.

I have somehow picked up the nickname Klubo from my Liberian coworkers. Various people have told me it means: big woman, first born girl, warrior woman and dancing woman...so I guess it must mean a little of all those things which is cool by me. Everyone who hears it laughs and thinks it’s a good, strong name to have. I’ve also been described as a “real” Lofa woman a few times…they are known for being larger ladies. It’s a compliment here so I don’t mind. They like meaty women in most places I’ve been to in Africa. But this is likely going to be my last few months in the field for a while and I don’t want to be a real Lofa woman in Colorado. I’ll be coming back in August and living in the mountains in probably the best month of the year to enjoy all the glorious outdoor activities that Summit County has to offer. I want to be able to keep up with my brother and his extremely active family (my 6 year old nephew is doing a triathlon in two months!).  I’ve always felt like I have an inner athlete inside of me. I love hiking and kayaking and mountain biking. I love being outdoors and being active. But, sadly, I’m usually the last one to the summit…by god I will always make it to the top though…but it’s more fun when you don’t feel like you’re holding up the group or going to die in the process.

I try to work out as much as I can when I'm in the field. Sometimes it's a really sedentary life…most days consist of sitting in a vehicle for 5 hours or walking the 30 or 40 feet from my house to my office. Plus, there isn’t much to do out here in the sticks. I will also admit I’d love to be able to look hot in a dress from the Title Nine catalog (check it out…awesomest clothes ever…http://www.titlenine.com) And, there are no Chipotles or Peanut M&M’s to throw me off my game. The one tempting thing is Soda. It is my lifelong enemy and worst vice and Coke and Pepsi are the most ubiquitous products in the world. I have never been to a field site that did not have one or other of them available…even the most far off seeming village in South Sudan. But, I usually manage to give it up when I’m in the field and it’s typically when I come back to the US that I fall off the wagon. It’s been a week so far this time so yeah for me.  

So, in honor of the little girls who ran with me today, I’m offering some tips below on working out while traveling. You may be asking yourself “with the intro above, why would I listen to a Lofa sized woman’s advice on working out”…well, I’m not trying to tell you how to win a marathon or anything. Just how to get fit, stay fit and/or avoid gaining 10lbs from all the junk you know you’re going to eat while you’re on vacation.  So, introducing…The Weary Traveller’s Common Sense Tips You Already Know About Keeping Fit on the Road:

1) Walk as much as possible.

Many of the places I go for work are not the safest places in the world and often it is against our security policy to walk around. Which means, when I can walk, I want to walk. After spending two months in Haiti where I never walked anywhere, I went to New York City for a week and then London for a week and probably walked like 15 miles every day. Some cities were made for walking and you are missing out if you take taxis or the subway all the time. Sure you’ll do those things occasionally…I mean riding in a black cab in London is part of the experience. But if you take the Tube between Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, then you are a tool…offense intended. Walking is the best way to get the feel of a city. You can people watch and window shop and generally just smell the roses (unless you’re in Paris and then it’s probably the dog poo since no one cleans up after their dogs, lol). Walking your way around a city is great exercise without even trying, it’s the best way to see the sights and it’s free transportation. Just make sure if you’re in an unfamiliar place that you ask the concierge at your hotel if there are any areas that aren’t safe and you should avoid walking in.

Also, if you are staying on the lower floors of a hotel, then take the stairs. It’s a good way to scope out the emergency exits in the event of an emergency (which I bet you have never done in a hotel but you should) and you’ll avoid being stuffed in an elevator with 50 other people and their luggage, especially during the morning check-out rush.

2) Use the gym or bring one with you.

Any hotel worth their salt these days has a fitness center. It’s a free amenity and you should take advantage of it, especially if you don’t have access to a gym at home. Why pass up a free chance to lift some weights or use a medicine ball? Plus, sometimes the gyms are in great locations. The fitness center at the Westin Resort in Maui overlooks parts of the pool and ocean. I don’t know about you, but the sight of tanned muscled dudes and hot bodied surfer chicks mixed with fat, pasty-white tourists motivates me to keep going and run that little bit harder…oh and the palm trees and sunshine and ocean views are nice to look at too, lol. If you’re just not a fan of going to the gym or working out in front of others, then consider bringing some workout gear with you for your hotel room. I always travel to the field with a resistance band and travel yoga mat. You can also use water bottles filled with water for weights (though I personally don’t like to do this because I find it hard to grip them once I start to sweat). You can buy and download workout videos from Exercise TV online. They also have some free videos you can stream if you’ll have good internet connection where you’re going (which I never seem to do, so I buy them).

3)  Go for a run.

Running, like walking, is also a great way to get out and about at your destination. If you’re at the ocean, go for a run along the beach. If you’re in London, go for a run along the Thames. If you’re in Seattle, go for a run at Alki Beach Park. There is always going to be a cool trail, park or neighborhood to go for a run in.

When running in an unfamiliar place, make sure you do so safely. When possible, tell someone where you’re going. I always tell the guards at my compound or a housemate what my route is going to be and that if I’m not back in an hour to come find me. I also run with my cell phone in case something happens I can call for help. You never know when you might fall and twist your ankle or get kidnapped by some rebels in the jungle…just kidding mom and dad…(but seriously J). Also, it’s great to have music, but don’t use both earbuds and crank it up full volume…only use one earbud so you can hear if a person or car or bike is coming up behind you. And make sure to pay attention to the weather. In South Sudan my colleague and I would go running at dusk when it was a bit cooler. You don’t want to run at noon when it’s 115 degrees. And you don’t want to be caught out on the beach in a huge electrical storm either.

So, there you have it. All things you probably already knew but now you are reminded of.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Twilight Zone

I tend to be behind the times when it comes to music. I’d like to say that is the result of me being off in the bush in Africa most of time, but really it’s true even when I’m at home. Typically I’ll come back to the US on R&R and hear a few new tunes on the radio that I like which inevitably make it onto the workout playlist on my iPod. This past April that song was “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye. I love it and it makes me burst into song, especially when I'm out running, as my nephew can attest to since I ran a 5k race with him a couple weeks ago and purposely started singing it just to embarrass him.

Anyway, in April my best friend and I went to Seattle with her 4 year old daughter to attend her little brother’s wedding. We spent a good few hours in the car each day, driving around the city, out to Snoqualmie falls and back and forth between downtown and the wedding venue in Tacoma. While listening to Seattle radio, I swear we heard that song play a million times…Each station seemed to play it multiple times each hour. One time the station went to commercial or some such and I said something to the effect of “let’s see if our song is on” and I hit the button and low and behold it was playing. Now, when I hear that song, I always think of my friend and the amazing trip we had. When I was laying over in Brussels on my way to Liberia, the video came on in the cafĂ© I was walking past in the airport and I felt compelled to stop and watch it and I immediately Facebooked my friend about it. 

So, what does this have to do with anything you ask? Well, as I mentioned in my last post, we go to the UN Pakistani Battalion every night for dinner. We usually show up around 20 past 8, go straight to the buffet line, get our food and try to be out by 8:45, before the Battalion Commander and the rest of the Officers show up to eat. Once they arrive, it is polite to remain until they are done, which can drag dinner out until 9:30 or later.

Tonight we show up around 8:30 and find that they are preparing for an outdoor banquet as they are hosting the commander from the Pakistani Battalion in another County. There are tables outside and some barbecues and a big buffet table and a  movie screen set up at the side (we later find out they intend to show a movie after dinner). We aren’t quite sure what to do because this is obviously a more formal affair and it’s not clear if we can join in the dinner or not. Thankfully my colleague is Pakistani and he finds out we are able to join them.

We wait around and more and more officers come into the courtyard, and then the Commanders show up. As we are all shaking hands and being introduced to the Commanders, they start to play music. And…guess what they play…that’s right “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye. But, they don’t just play it…they project the words up on the big movie screen and hit repeat. It played while we stood around and chatted, it played while we took our seats for the first course and it played while we ate the soup. After it played maybe 15 times in a row, the Commander whispered to someone and they changed the music to some traditional Pakistani folk music which then morphed into some English language, but clearly foreign, techno dance music.

Maybe this is my own stereotypes coming into play, or maybe I am just not plugged into the fact that this is obviously a seriously popular song internationally, but I have to say that I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone when I was standing in rural Liberia, in the courtyard of a UN military compound, the only female surrounded by Pakistani military officers, many in their traditional Pakistani clothing, listening to Gotye on repeat, thinking of my best friend and wishing more than anything that I had an iPhone in my pocket so I could capture it all on video.

Here is a link to the song on YouTube in case there exist any people out there in the world who have not heard this song yet. Clearly you are not as hip on popular music as the Lofa County PakBatt.