My father was in the State Department and doing a tour at the US Embassy there.
All the time, every day.
English was the national language, and everybody spoke it, though it was a heavily accented dialect called “liberian English” that was a little hard to understand at first. Somewhat comparable to Jamaican English in how it sounded, with a lot of ts own little idioms. You had to get used to it. Most locals also knew tribal languages.
Not really. The vast majority of Liberians are not actually descended from the original freed slaves who founded the country, but from the tribes who were already there. The descendants of the original settlers had actually become an aristocratic ruling class, where a few families had all the money and power. That was a big part of the reason for the coup that happened under Doe. Ostensibly he was going to restore power to the tribal people, the common people.
They had very idealized notions about it. They thought that all Americans were rich, that “you can find money on the street,” and other such things. Their perceptions were positive to an exaggerated degree.
Pretty good since my dad was a US diplomat. We had a large, basically modern apartment with all the normal appliances, air conditioning and the like. We had occasional problems with the power going out, but it wasn’t to bad, especially compared to the way a lot of locals lived. We lived close to shantytowns that were basically tin roofs on sticks with no walls, and with hundreds of people crammed into them.
We also had a sort of closed circuit TV system on the Embassy compound, on which we got video tapes of movies and television shows from the States. We’d see a lot of American TV shows, but see them a couple of weeks later than they aired in the states.
No, it wasn’t like that. You were more likely to get hustled by grifters or street vendors than really assaulted. I did have a couple of incidents where guys tried to mug me, but they didn’t have weapons themselves, just bravado. I told them to fuck off and they left me alone. Another time a guy grabbed my wallet out of my pocket on the street and took off running. I chased him down and tackled him and got it back. I’m not a badass or anything, it’s just that those guys were mostly pretty small and skinny. They were not well fed or muscled up, so they usually weren’t very intimidating, and most of the time I was with my friends, so I mostly got left alone.
That’s not to say there was no danger at all. One teenage girl from the Embassy was raped and stabbed out on the beach. It was NOT a safe place for girls to go out by themselves.
Not that I ever saw. From what I remeber, the Ivory Coast was seen as slightly better than Liberia and Sierre Leone as about the same.