Sunday, 4 January 2009

Transportation Transformation or Where Are All Those UN vehicles?

I find that now, being back for nearly four weeks, I still expect to see UNMIL (United Nations Mission In Liberia), MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres or Doctors Without Borders) and ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) vehicles around every corner. As well as those unmistakable yellow taxis. I miss the UNMIL number plates and the big black letters "UN" stamped on white SUVs, Land Rovers and tanks.

In fact, I have never been more aware of white Land Rovers than I am now. They appear everywhere. And I always expect them to have the Mercy Ships logo on the front door and an AFM (Africa Mercy) or ANA (Anastasis) number plate. And I know I won't see them here - and yet I always find myself disappointed. I guess it's a small small part of the re-entry process.

The first week back I went from driving these Land Rovers to driving a 1991 Mazda 323-1300 hatchback. It was another change. But I don't really mind - it gets me from A to B and that's the most important thing. It was a small adjustment from driving on the right (in a left-hand drive) to driving on the left (in a right-hand drive). More than once I felt the urge to change gears with my right-hand, and trying to do so all I found was the handle to wind the window down. But readjusting to driving on the left has been a pretty smooth transition. It just comes naturally. However, the road conditions are a world apart.
Driving here in South Africa is so different. It's strange having tarred roads, street lights, practically no potholes and speed limits enforced by cameras and traffic cops. Certainly a change from Liberia.

Despite the rules and solid infrastructure of Cape Town, I really miss the adventure of driving in Liberia. Because it really was an adventure - not only in what we saw, but also in the adventures that came our way. You really had to expect the unexpected.

Pictures here of driving and road conditions in Liberia and UN/Mercy Ships vehicles.

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