In the last few weeks, I have become very attached to our front porch. The house is an old giant, with two separate floors of 4 bedrooms/3 bathrooms/1 kitchen each. We normally use the side entrance, by the carpark, and bypass the front porch and door completely, with the exception of a few parties we’ve had out here, but during the last month I have sat out here pretty much every day.
The power goes out at the house from 10-12 every morning. My routine has become to take a book or my computer, and come and sit out here at the flimsy plastic tables and chairs. The first blast of air after walking out of the ridiculously air-conditioned house is always hot and muggy. But after a few minutes I get used to the warmth, and the breeze that always seems to be blowing out here keeps me cool. After greeting the security guards, who are probably annoyed that I’ve taken over their porch, I dive into my books. The yard is filled with green plants – bushes, trees, ferns, palms. My favorite is the big tree right in front that is at the moment shedding copious amounts of hot pink petals all over the yard. Little lizards constantly scramble around feeding on ants and sunning themselves on the rails. When it rains I have to move the table into the middle to avoid the blowing water, but I am safe from most of it on the porch.
There is always a lot going on outside of our compound. Though I can’t see any of it over the 7 foot high wall topped with razor wire, I can hear and smell it. Most of the area we live in are fairly large houses and apartments occupied by government buildings and expats. But right near us is the JFK hospital, so there is a steady stream of cars, trucks and even ambulances driving down our little road. Across the road there are provisions shops selling odds and ends – bread, juice, cell phone scratch cards – as well as makeshift restaurants that serve bread with mayo and unidentifiable meat. My favorite is the man who walks by with a hotbox – basically a modified wheelbarrow that doubles as a grill from which he sells ‘cow meat’. A dilapidated, roofless old building, which must have been beautiful in its day, houses countless people including a baby which cries constantly. Above all the shacks you can see a DSTV satellite poking above the tin roofs. The newest addition is the movie house – someone has bought a small generator from which they run movies all day long. The volume is at full tilt and terribly distorted, but I can sometimes guess which films are being screened. Apparently they showed ‘Blood Diamond’ the other day, as I heard several Liberians discussing it at the bread shop – I would have loved to hear their opinion of the movie! Grilled food smells come over the wall around mealtime, mixed with smells of burning trash, exhaust, and so many other scents I can’t put names to. Though I am excited to get to work, I will miss my mornings out here on the porch.