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  • Writer's picturekwankew

Cuttington University and Gbarnga

A rare day off.

Cuttington University

We live on the campus of Cuttington University which is emptied of students because of the Ebola outbreak. It is one of the oldest private colleges in Sub-Saharan Africa. The campus is crisscrossed with red-earthed roads with deep gullies carved into them by the rain; overgrown tall grass threatens to take over the sprawling university. Small buildings scatter over the rolling green land and there seems to be very few classrooms, many of the buildings are dormitories or guest houses. There was even a few ruined buildings and a defunct museum. Civil wars have ravaged the campus.

During my first week I lived with the nationals in Rally Hall Dormitory in a room with three bunk beds, all the closets had broken shelves save one. There was no running water and the toilets did not flush and only a few showers worked. Imagine if this were an American campus, the parents who have to pay through the nose to put their children through school, this scenario would be totally unacceptable. Modesty is not the girls' strong suit, even the Kenyan nurse was appalled at so much display of bareness in the dorm. Trying to sleep after a night shift is next to impossibility with screaming and loud noises streaming through the ventilation vents from the hall. When some expats left and freed up some housing space, the Kenya nurse and I were moved into one of the guest houses sharing a bedroom but we have a big living room, dining room, kitchen and a bathroom, much more comfortable than the dorm.

Our Guesthouse

This morning I went to visit the Ebola Lab on campus set up by the US Navy within 96 hours after landing in Liberia. They could get as many as 90 plus tests done within 4 hours in their Biosafety lab, the hot zone where they have to don PPE. For now they are not running to their full capacity. While the rest of the campus including the Tubman Library does not inspire confidence as a site of higher learning, this lab is the state-of-the-art operation.

The US Navy Biosafety Lab

In the afternoon the logistician took me along to Gbarnga, a town in Bong County where he was running some errands. We stopped at a street side market selling produce, oranges, potatoes and one big pineapple and then walked to an Ebola check point to have our temperature scanned. Gbarnga is like many African towns, with unpaved dirt roads, sprawling market selling all sorts of stuff. The Total Gas station sells digestives, chocolates, liquors, juices, nothing I was particularly interested in until I found a minimum buah Laici (Lychee fruit juice), product of Bangladesh but curiously the labeling was all in Malay.

Street Market
Ebola Checkpoint

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