Happy Birthday to Us
Today is the first anniversary of Liberia Ledger.
It's pretty amazing the changes in this country after just a year. I guess I pay most attention to the smallest microeconomic developments, since unemployment is still the biggest threat to stability. In the markets you see a much greater variety of goods for sale than you could ever find a year ago, including giant-sized cookware, fancy soccer and hip-hop t-shirts, handbags sewn from old bluejeans, hand-thrown clay pots, lots of hand-tailored clothing and "luxury" goods like fancy new shoes.
Houses are being built and rehabilitated everywhere you look. The cellphone companies finally reached Gbarpolu county yesterday. Ecobank has just established branches around the country. And the number of small businesses on Tubman Boulevard seems to have about doubled in the last six months.
But my favorite sign of change in all these 365 days came just today. A roadside market stall had a few locally-made percussion instruments, shakers constructed of gourd and beads. Maybe that doesn't seem like such a big deal, but in a region that's famous for its music, it's kind of eerie how little of the Liberian musical tradition seems to have managed to survive the war. At a workshop I attended for village leaders this AM, the facilitator had a hard time finding people in the room who could remember the traditional work songs from their tribes. Meanwhile young people can recite the lyrics to any R.Kelly or 50 Cent tune. Seeing those shakers on sale today made me think there could be something more joyful bubbling under the surface.