The first time I saw an apple beyond Monrovia‘s city limits, it was nestled beside un-refrigerated yogurt cups and foster clark’s *packages. They, along with a myriad of other random and unrelated objects – crackers, soap- bumped along the rutted dirt path in front of the nursing school. The apple was 70LD ($1) and I was so giddy to see it that I saved it, waiting for just the right moment. Unfortunately, perishable foods being what they are, it began to rot before my moment arrived and it was weeks before I saw another apple in my community.

But apples aren’t the whole world and wheelbarrows here are amazing things. They carry everything from piles of used clothes to bootleg holly, bolly, and nolly (Nigeria)-wood movies to raw pig‘s feet. The number of wheelbarrows and the things they sell increases exponentially as cities increase in size. Perfume -knockoffs and the real thing, Listerine, and electronics are heaped into neat piles for easy viewing and access. In a stroke of evolution, nesting, or just plain fatigue, some wheelbarrows morph into sidewalk stalls. Makeshift affairs with wooden tables invisible under the plethora of wares splayed out for viewing and easy purchase. Vendors position large umbrellas to shield against the brutal sun.


Liberia being a cell phone nation, every conceivable accessory for a cell phone -hands free headsets, adapters, cords- peak out of wheelbarrows and adorn street stalls in throughout the capital. My needs were more mundane though…earphones. Specifically earphones with a microphone. In my haste to pack I didn’t consider my technology needs, I didn’t think they’d be important. I underestimated the dichotomy of my Liberian experience…the “lack of” in contrast to the “abundance”.

And so we were without eggs up north but ah…Randall street is full of dozens of men selling headphones of every persuasion. Earbuds, ergonomic headsets, huge padded deals with built-in mics. And I looked and as I looked the price retreated from $10 to $5 to $2. One guy showing me what he has – a lone voice until my eyes wander or I begin to walk away and then the men beside him chime in with an explanation of their wares, their better prices.

Behind them, on the uneven and crowded street, wheelbarrows navigate the gauntlet of pedestrians, pinpins (motorcycle taxis), and cars…all vying for space. My gaze wanders, distracted by some color or sound in the distance and a wheelbarrow is tilted in my direction for a better view of the products expertly balanced inside. I shake my head and look away. I’ll buy pens or pigs feet, towels or toothbrushes, tomorrow.

*foster clark’s is an aspartame sweetened version of Kool-Aid

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1 Comment on wheelbarrow economy

  1. sza says:

    mmmm…my love raw pigs feet!

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