Our golden summer is belly proof

Our capricious Toyota Land Cruiser, the so-called Golden Summer, has its share of flaws: patched and re-patched tires, a car alarm that sounds at all hours, and innumerable dents and dings (in its defense, it did survive our fall through a bridge).

Its principal virtue up to now was, well, it’s free. UNHCR has a fleet of unused vehicles, and they were generous enough to lend us one. Via a charm offensive, we are now creeping up to three.

The GS now has a new virtue of sorts: it’s belly proof. Saturday night, we accidentally locked the key in the car. In the bush. About as far as physically possible from a locksmith or UNHCR station in the country. Not a good move.

Fortunately for us, when you are interviewing ex-combatant diamond miners, there are more than a few semi-professional car thieves around. Various tips and tricks were tried, yet to no avail; apparently UNHCR is now a step ahead of the Monrovia auto heisters.

Desperate measures were called for: the belly move.

Apparently, the tried-and-true Liberia method to break into a car is to take off your shirt, get as much of your belly on the side window as possible, slowly pull your body down, and let friction do the rest.

It just so happened that the largest (unhairy) belly around belonged to, well, yours truly.

Needless to say, research assistants and grad students were banned from all photography.

Sadly, my humiliation was not yet complete. Apparently UNHCR is also a step ahead of the belly bandits, and (my palm butter-fed belly notwithstanding) the window resisted my (so to say) gut-wrenching efforts.

An hour, a tent pole, and three coat hangers later, our driver Gaydu managed to save the day. The GS is not, as it turns out, impenetrable. 

Ironically, the only time the car alarm did not sound this trip was during our actual break-in.