Now that I've had a chance to catch my breath I thought I'd fill you in on my impressions of Liberia via an incredibly mature analysis whereby one country wins and another loses based solely on my random impressions.
Let me preface all this by saying that I was a bit burnt out on traveling when I arrived in Liberia, and I was only there for three weeks, so I didn't try anything fancy like getting out of town or visiting museums or something. Mostly I just wanted to get a feel for what it was like to be a regular officer there.
So. First: Development
Liberia is quiet, in both good and less good ways. On the plus side I think driving there wouldn't be as intense as in Lagos. The neighborhood noise level was basically nothing. The pace of life just generally seemed slower. It was all very relaxing. That said, I went to Hunger Games yesterday in Lagos. One of a half dozen options at that theater alone. Then today we went to Coldstone for ice cream and drove back home past the Johnny Rocket's and multiple KFCs. We didn't eat at the Dominoes but we could have. There were a few expat spots in town but nothing on the scale of what's available in Lagos. For better or worse, the quiet in Liberia really emphasized how much more developed Lagos is. The power might go out often, but hey - at least there's power! Lagos takes this one
Liberia was beautiful. It was green, green, green with beautiful beaches and hills in the distance and a nice mix of tropical/colonial architecture that was very charming. The old embassy compound sits right on Mamba point (scary name, no?) and is just full of green space. There's a basketball court with ocean views on three sides, walking trails, little mossy gardens and plenty of random but wonderful places to wander around and explore. It would be a great place to bring kids - the compound is huge and safe and seemed to have lots of kid-friendly amenities. Sorry kids, Monrovia wins this round.
They have some housing issues, but from what I've seen it's a lot like FS housing elsewhere. Some really fantastic places (and I do mean really fantastic) and some just awful places - and there didn't seem to be any particular rule for who got assigned where. I saw experienced officers with housing that seemed terrible and brand new officers with great places. Overall I think Lagos wins this one.
The embassy itself was new and fancy. Their cafeteria was bright and pretty and could actually hold all the people who wanted to eat lunch! The consular section was actually very spacious and attractive and I was proud that the applicants had it as their first impression of America. Facilities-wise Monrovia wins the battle of the posts hands-down.
*Sigh* I did really like the work environment in Liberia. I did on average 1/3 as many non-immigrant visa interviews each day. And officers there get a chance to do everything - American Citizen Services, Immigrant Visas, Non-immigrant Visas, Fraud, etc. Liberia wins the 'variety at work' award for sure.
Monrovia is 30% hardship and 0% danger. There are two R&Rs available. (Lagos is 25% hardship, 10% danger with three R&Rs.) For bidding, saving, and travel Lagos wins this round.
The people I met in Monrovia were absolutely wonderful hosts and made my time there fun and a lot more meaningful than your average work trip should be. I missed my Lagos buddies while I was away and now I'll miss my Monrovia buddies until I see them again. And at the end of the day, that's what makes any post good, isn't it? So I guess it's a tie this time.
(That's right suburban America. We're all winners.)
Pictures of Liberia.