March 8, 2016 The second Wednesday of March is a National Holiday, Decoration Day, to spend with those who have left this world. Lisa and I made a plan to celebrate this day in Arthington, a small town in Montserrado County some 34 bumpy kilometers from Monrovia. We leave the paved road after 12 kilometers to tackle a dusty, potholed track upcountry, following generally the north bank of the St. Paul River. Doubtful this road will be dependable during the rainy season as it appears the low-lying countryside will flood as it drains to the river.
Our friends have left earlier by bush taxi, and we meet them at the gravesite of relatives deceased, where vegetation has been cleared away and a fresh coat of blue paint brightens the occasion.
Aunts, uncles and friends have come together to celebrate this day. A walk down Main Street takes us past abandoned concrete shells of former homes, mud-brick homes with tin roofings, a clinic, schoolyard, guesthouse, and on to a Baptist Church roofless under a beautiful sky, the bell over the entry silent since its demise during the civil war. Arthington is the hometown of former President Charles Taylor, presently serving time in a UK prison for war crimes. His compound, stark concrete walls now overgrown by the bush, hardly recognizable as we pass by.
We visit a new development in the town, a pig farm, where uncle Bobby tends to the pigs and proudly shows off his garden of peppers, bitterballs, pineapples and eggplants out back.
The afternoon is sweltering beneath the sun, and we stop for refreshments at Auntie Sweeties before beginning our adventure back to Monrovia.