Ode to KehKeh (Tuk-Tuk)

What is Kehkeh? Kehkeh is LIFE. Some will say Kehkeh are the three-wheeled taxi used for transportation in Liberia or  just the capital city. They come in various colors, make and models. In Asia, they’re known as Tuk-Tuk…Well, in Thailand that’s what they called it during my study abroad. I think I fell in love with then there, but forgot how much I enjoyed them until I got to Liberia. If you ever ran into me while in Liberia and I wasn’t in a Kehkeh, it wasn’t me! I even had an assigned Kehkeh with a guy named Roland. We had a relationship much more than just  passenger and driver. I spent so much time with Roland that I even knew his family and where he lived. Roland knew my friends, family and all the conu-conu (Secret spots). You see, I worked in the rural parts of Liberia and they did not have any Kehkeh there. So during my few visits to the capital, Roland and his Kehkeh was a huge part of my days. I went to lunch, ran errands, visited families and friends, etc all while smiling and observing the craziness of the overpopulated Monrovia. Riding Kehkeh was cheaper, but also offered the best view of all things Liberia. I could jump in and out of a Kehkeh if I saw street food worth trying. Or I simply took Instagram Stories as I rode along. Sometimes I just sat there and enjoyed music and sipped coconut water from the shell. I can not think of a more efficient way to travel and enjoy any city. I got a front eye view to people, places and traditions in a way I never thought I could. Some people told me Kehkehs are for poor people. A police Officer even told me “people like me should not be Kehkehs”. I had a friend tell me “I can’t be serious” when I showed up for lunch in a Kehkeh. I am not going to get into the socio-economic ramifications of Kehkehs. I just want everyone to get a piece of my life in Kehkehs. This is for Roland and all those random times I asked him to play music even when he didn’t like it. This is also for all those so-called rich folks who taught they were better than me because I showed up in my Kehkeh. We all were at the table eating though…Nah? 

 

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Thailand 2009- Where it all started….
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Back seat Chilling
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Mechlin Street-Roland was not around that day
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Waiting to head to lunch. Kehkehs are not allowed on the main roads so we had to wait on the back streets. Why not make use of the time?
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Kehkeh Parking Lot-Meclin and Carey Streets
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Interestingly enough, the vehicle taking me to town had a flat tire. Kehkeh to the rescue!

 

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This is my friend Roland. He owns this Yellow Kehkeh. This day he waited for me over 3 hours to make a simple Bank Tranaction- “System Down” they say…SMH
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Roland!! Oh, Roland.
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Roland came to pick me up from home (Banjor) on a Saturday.
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Waiting to buy Scratch card (Phone cards/units)
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Roland found a Kehkeh that matched my outfit. We stopped the guy and took this photo.

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“To travel is to Live” Kehkeh is Life. The next time you visit Liberia or a place where you see these little things, hop in and thank me later. 

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Dear Madam President

Dear President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, 

I am a patriotic Liberian who was privileged to have received an American education, but not before I got my foundation from J.J. Roberts United Methodist School in Monrovia. I gave up corporate America experiences to walk the red dirt roads in Maryland county because of my devotion to the new Liberia you have led over the past 11 years. I say new Liberia, because the Liberia I grew up in was the one with bullets and relocation every now and then, with only tales about the “normal days” as my parents would refer to prewar Liberia. I came back to the new Liberia, where as a female head of state you gave hope to so many young girls and women like myself, in a world where educating girls is still considered taboo. I have had faith in your leadership and came back with the passion and purpose to work for the days my future children would no longer have to seek better opportunities outside of Liberia, like my parents did for me.

I attended undergraduate and graduate school in the college city of Boston studying Education, because I strongly believe development starts with educating the minds of the people. Immediately after my graduation in 2013, I emailed every college and university in Liberia with my resume and cover letter, eagerly outlining my accomplishments in higher education and my passion for my dear country Liberia. To my astonishment, not one of my 6 emails got an answer. I still went ahead and bought a one-way ticket to Liberia with the hope of being on the ground to speed things up. In between the many “come back tomorrow” and “I’ll see what I can do”, I found time to visit rural schools and organize drives for school supplies, having started a charity organization I named Kporma (meaning Help me in my mother’s native tongue, Kpelle). With my savings drying out and Kporma not being sustainable, I returned to America still hopeful about providing help to the faces I encountered during my stay. I worked tirelessly with organizations and individuals in and around New England, selling African fabric to fund libraries and study centers in rural Liberia. In the midst of all this, Ebola struck our dear Liberia.  With the help of a few good friends, we formed the Ebola Be Gone group in Providence, Rhode Island. Under this umbrella, we organized and collaborated with churches, schools, hospitals and other community groups to send a 40ft container home to help those working on the front-lines.
Madame President, I am mentioning this not to outline my achievements, because by all means I have yet to do much for my dear country Liberia, but simply to paint a clear picture of Liberians who have their country at heart. When Tubman University emailed me in 2015 with a job offer, I jumped at the opportunity. It was a dream to have received their offer as head Registrar of the University, so I quickly handed in my two-weeks notice to my then employer in Boston. I  saw my duty in Liberia as a far more urgent calling than being a Violence Prevention Counselor. I was ready to mold the minds of young Liberians through my service at the University and more importantly, I was ready to be part of the new Liberia you have been creating. 
To my great disappointment, on February 15th of this year I had to turn in my resignation to the Tubman University administration because in order to stay at my dream job, I would have had to forfeit my integrity. I woke up one day being the Senior Director of Admissions, Records and Registration to then pondering my next move. I was asked to ignore the University admission policies and allow a student into the school who had failed the entrance exams twice, as a favor to the current President of the University. I had witnesses over a thousand prospective students fail the exams, many of whom had done much better than this one.  I still believe in merit over connections.  I have documentations to these allegations and presented them to every senior administrator at the university before my departure. I am here as a prime example of the foundation a quality Liberian education produces. I admire the values I was taught throughout my education sojourn in Liberia. Who you know can get you places, but certainly does not keep you there. I am not the daughter of a prominent Liberian leader. I did not get to Tubman University because of any connections. My assumption was that the new Liberia rewards merit, not status. This assumption landed me in meetings where I was faced with the decision of choosing between staying at the university or leaving. I left with my pride still intact, but cannot say the same for the administration. 
My dear President, this is a testament as to why Liberians abroad do not return home. This is the “I told you so” they all said when I relocated to Liberia. This is not the new Liberia I envisioned. It is clearly not the place to dream a big enough dream to scare me as you said. The only thing that scares me now is the lack of integrity among those we have entrusted to educate the next generation. It is alarming that in all this, people still looked me in the eye and said “Dah Liberia here ooo what can we do?”  This is a lame excuse we use for reasons why we do nothing about moving forward as a nation. I know we can do something and I will not stop until that happens. You said and I printed and stuck on my walls these words “We are committed as a people. To build a new Liberia from the ashes of an old turbulent and tragic past to a future of hope and promise.”
God bless the days these words were said and God continue to bless the hearts of Liberians striving to follow them through each and every day.
In service and disappointment,
Randell Zuleka Dauda, M.Ed