Stretching a buck in Monrovia

by Carlos Cruz Montaño KF14, Liberia

Are you hungry and you have only one dollar for a snack? With an exchange rate around 72 Liberian Dollars (LRD) per US dollar, a buck will give you a chance to try several snacks that sell for 10LRD or less…

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1. Two donuts will also cost you 5LRD each. Walking around the streets you can find ladies carrying clear buckets on their heads (check also David’s blog), there’s a good variety of snacks and food to be found in these buckets; donuts are easy to spot and in my experience they are fresh in the mornings and very good. The ladies selling donuts usually have a cup of sugar and a spoon inside the bucket just in case you want to sprinkle yours a little bit more. Donuts have sometimes the typical round shape but on a smaller scale, sometimes they are like a small twist and also very common round ones, just like donut holes.

Small donuts at 5 LRD each.

2. Two cookies will cost you 5LRD each. These cookies crumble as you bite them and sometimes they seem to split into layers, they have just enough sugar to be on the sweet side. Like many other delicious street snacks you will get these cookies wrapped in a piece of newspaper. If you happen to keep them in the paper long enough you will notice they are a little greasy… just in case you’re thinking about your rigorous diet these may not be the ones to pick.

Crunchy cookies at 5LRD each.

3. For the healthy conscious, there’s also fruit to be found. A full slice of pineapple will set you back 10LRD or you may also buy two half slices for 5LRD each. You’ll get a toothpick to choose the best looking slice from the bucket. I’ve still yet to bite into my first sour pineapple. If you’re looking for a good and healthy sweet pineapple is a pretty safe bet.

4. Out of all the snacks in this list, this one is my most recent find, the least available and my favorite. This bread is like a square and very thin meatpie but with peanut butter inside. The girl selling these delicious treats sets up a table outside the market and is only there late afternoons.

Delicious peanut bread! Guess how much?

5. A small piece of cornbread or shortbread for 10 LRD. The size of the cornbread depends on where you buy it but considering the price don’t ask for a large piece. I’ve been lucky to buy the bread when it’s still warm, soft and delicious. Just like the cookies, cornbread can be slightly sweet. This one you can find either on a small plastic bag or wrapped in newspaper.

Pork skin squares. That's right, 10 LRD each!

6. For the meat eaters there are cow meat kabobs and pork skin squares. Haven’t tried these as I rather have a vegetarian diet, but they are available around the city. Have seen people selling these from a tray or you can go around markets and get the kabobs hot from the grill or the pork skins recently fried.

7. With the Monrovia heat you’ll be happy to invest your last 10LRD in a cold bag of water. Most times it will be fresh rather than cold, some kids sell the bags in the streets out of trays, or better yet, you may find someone with an ice chest and get a cold one.

In theory you would still have two LRD to spare… but with no coins in circulation and the 5 LRD bill being the smallest, you’ll have to save those two LRD left  for your next outing.

If you think this is stretching a buck? Maybe but not as much as some Kiva borrowers who prepare and sell these snacks to support their families. Through BRAC Liberia, one of Kiva’s newest partners, women like Lucy, Marie and Mama invested in ingredients to prepare donuts, or like Hawah, Patience and Cecelia who invest their money to buy drinks for sale. You can also make your money go a long way by supporting loans through BRAC Liberia.

Carlos in a Kiva Fellow finishing his third and last placement in Liberia working with LEAP and BRAC in Monrovia.

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