Saturday, May 19, 2018
NOTE: This is obviously posted very late, way after the fact. I left my download picture cord in the hotel and had to come home and order a new one. By the time it arrived we were in Arizona for a week...so, that is why this is so very late.
Wednesday & Thursday, May 2-3, 2018
Dear Family & Friends,
We are happily at home now, arriving yesterday afternoon. It is so much faster to unpack than it is to pack and have to think of what to bring. I managed to do some wash before climbing into the bed that beckoned me far too early. I was happy that I stayed mostly awake till 8 PM, and deeming it late enough, passed out. I slept for 8 hours, which was till 4 AM. When one gets up that early, one gets a lot done. I was shopping at the grocery store by 7 AM when it opened. Even with a lot of sleep, I still had to fight the desire to take a nap and forced myself to keep working. It was a good day.
Let me regress: Back in Freetown at the hotel, we had felt that we were there longer than needed, but when we got to our mountains of paperwork, we were glad we hadn’t left yet. Jim had to figure costs and desirability of all the possible new projects that he visited in Freetown—which ones fit into our budget and which ones he felt we’d like to do first. This took so much time, so it was nice to get it all done before going home when we have other things on our minds. We also worked a bit on our expense report. We ended up seeing Brother Thomas again and our driver to give them what we owed. We also figured on what other things we might do to give a couple of communities in the old or current project some extra water storage tanks. It will be for those who have done so well in improving their project with monies collected from selling the water. We have been so impressed by some of them.
In contrast, Jim was very upset at one area with two sources that are using the same water committee and doing poorly. He was happy that it was only one area with problems. He yelled at them a bit and told them that LDSC would not do anything for them ever again. A couple of the women laughed at him. However, the next day they called Brother Thomas and asked for his help in reorganizing their community so that they could be successful also. I guess they stopped laughing! Lionel was going to invite the committee chairman from the most successful project to speak with them and teach them what they did to make things work so very well. It was wonderful to see that this did some good after all.
Tuesday we hired John Conteh to take us back to the boat as we headed for Accra and then home. We arrived early because it was a holiday—their labor day—no traffic. This time we could see that we’d be taking the ‘luxury’ boat across. It reminded me of being in an airplane because that is the way the seats look inside. They have glass windows instead of plastic ones, and it is a larger vessel so it gives a smoother ride. It even has air conditioning and I noticed that the driver was dressed like an airline pilot—complete with white shirt and insignia on the sleeve, and matching hat. I noticed on the way out that they even had a bathroom!
In the ‘luxury’ boat across the bay.
We saw women fishing (bringing in nets—hard work!) and these women doing their wash.
We noticed after departing the boat and walking the long planking to the beach that they are building a new structure near the shore but above the water next to the plank. While walking I also noticed many women in the water that were there with their nets fishing. We usually see just men working the nets—it is a hard job!
At the airport we met our normal guy, who helped us with our luggage and got in line for our trip to Accra on Kenya Air. On each of the flights so far we were very lucky to get a bulkhead row with no trouble or extra cost. This time we were scheduled in our normal seats, matching aisles at row 22. While Jim was trying to change this to try and get the bulkhead as before, the lady said they were not available so instead booked us on row 15 but middle and window seats. Jim said never mind, we’ll keep our seats. In the meantime someone else got one of our row 22 aisle seats so she had to rebook mine at an aisle on row 26.
This new structure was being built just above the water across the bay next to the beach. We wonder what this will be for.
Hmmmm….not much of an improvement…but I sat first with a younger man who was going to Liberia to see a football match (happily and comfortably with an empty seat in between us). He was born in South Africa, and of what descent I couldn’t tell—he was not African or White South African, a handsome man. He was working for US business companies in the States but living in Ghana. He saw my badge and asked if we were missionaries, to which I replied that we didn’t proselyte but did water projects for our Church. He asked me if we went to school to learn how to do it. I explained that the only school we went to was by doing it (I think it must be called the School of Hard Knocks), and also that Jim was a contractor, along with my father and brother and we knew a bit about construction. We discussed the cultural problems and self-reliance issues that hold back improvements such as clean water.
This was a touchdown flight from Sierra Leone to Liberia, and then off to Accra. At each stop people get on and off. On my next flight I wasn’t so lucky. Two big African ladies sat next to me. They knew each other so they didn’t speak to me. All in all, I didn’t mind because this time the airline allowed us to watch a movie, which made the flight feel shorter.
We arrived earlier than scheduled in Accra and thus beat the usual British Air flight with a lot of passengers that comes in later from London. We couldn’t believe that there was no line getting through customs and that our luggage got there very quickly. We went out of the airport, and there was the Accra City Hotel shuttle. This is the fastest we have ever gotten through this airport to the hotel. Because of the holiday there was still no traffic. This gave us plenty of down time to get organized before going to sleep at an earlier hour than usual.
After a good night’s sleep in Accra, we prepared to go to the office to meet our new (and former) Area Welfare Manager, Daniel Yirenya. We figured Redlin’s were not in since she had not e-mailed me back in several days and she always does. Jim was finally able to reach her on the phone and found out that they were in Kumasi, Ghana. They suggested that we meet a new couple that has just arrived, E/S Germane, who are taking Nay’s place. They divide the Africa West Area countries among them so we won’t be working directly with them, but wanted to meet them also.
It seemed everywhere we went, things were being improved. This is the entrance to the Church offices—they had moved the welcome desk to the right side of the room, with a fancy, new backdrop and a new wood-look tiled floor. At each level there was a new look to the entry as you went from floor to floor.
So mid-morning we took a dilapidated taxi on the street (for a lot less money than what the hotel provides) to the office and met Elder Germane. We had a nice conversation with him (Sister Germane was ill) and found out that he was a professor over the engineering department when our son Tom was there studying mechanical engineering.
After a nice visit we decided to see where Daniel was, and found him in his office as he hadn’t moved upstairs yet to take the AWM spot. We found him as he was just about to go to lunch and had a nice visit with him. We talked about what is going on now and he said he was trying to get up to speed and then will shift to his old, now new, office.
During this trip I realized that I had lost my sunglasses, probably leaving them in the mission truck on our way back to Freetown from Kenema. When I got to the hotel in Accra I realized I left my camera’s download cord in the Brookfield’s Hotel in Freetown, so the pictures I wanted to download will have to wait till I get home along with this last letter. I ordered a new cord online and then will add the pictures and finally send this last letter. [This trip I had my air head on, obviously!]
We caught another barely-held-together taxi back to the hotel to eat and relax. We departed for our flight at 7 PM with a hotel taxi. It wasn’t much better than the other taxis and as it was, the traffic was terrific, taking an hour to get there. Also, everyone else was already there. We should have taken the earlier 6 PM shuttle from the hotel and must have in the past to beat these crowds.
This has felt like a very productive trip. We did everything we wanted and needed to do. Happiness!
Till next time,
Love, Jim & Karen, Mom & Dad, E/S Greding
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Saturday & Sunday, April 28-29, 2018
I’ve had some very pleasant days doing the same thing over and over again—the wash, which I for some reason feel great pleasure in doing, my bowl of cereal for lunch (feeding my addiction to cold cereal). I even found one of my favorites at the grocery store—a smashed-up box, but tasted the same anyway, and overpriced, as all things American are in grocery stores meant for Europeans and Americans. I have been reading my books, watching TV (they have an amazing variety of shows and movies here at this hotel), and working on reports and organizing the hundreds of pictures I always seem to collect while traveling. I do this while Jim is out there hiking and sweating and being exhausted in the awful heat and humidity (someone has to do it, so it might as well be him). But in truth he keeps telling me to stay back and he is always glad after a long day that I did—the hikes are not easy, slipping over rocks, going way down and then way back up again. You can see by the pictures, especially here in Freetown, the rocky hills and valleys they live and carry their water around in. The people here in Africa are as sure-footed as any in the world that live in these conditions.
A rocky, hilly area, all over Freetown.
Try carrying a bucket on your head over a wobbly bridge…
Today Jim is home with me, having completed looking and being here a little longer than necessary, but then we will get lots of our work done here before we return and have other things on our jetlagged minds. Yesterday they saw 15 sites, so it was a long, hard day, but it is finished. Today he is working on his reports from yesterday’s looking. These are possible projects that we might put into our current water budget for this year. Since there will probably only be about 4-6 that we will request to do for this year, we can keep others in mind for another year’s budget.
One of the places he saw had a bunch of large poly tanks with taps at the bottom, spaced along one road, and put in by UNICEF. The community asked them to place these with the intent that GUMA (government) water would fill them. GUMA only has one truck to fill tanks in the whole area. We did an area project and even they say that sometimes the truck never comes—the truck might be broken or they can’t get water either. We thought that we might redo a pump here so that we could distribute water lines to all of these tanks and keep them filled.
We’ll give you tanks; maybe someone will fill them for you!
Other projects that they looked at were sometimes disappointing because of the lack of action by a community. One group had a 10-year old well with a hand pump that has been broken for a year. They figured that the only problem was that the pump rod was broken, an easy, cheap fix. A year? They were even collecting money there, so why not fix it? They fixed it once a year before, but didn’t care enough to fix it this time? Other places we hesitate to work in are those that are filthy or people are fighting. We know they don’t have many places that collect trash, but we have also seen communities that have the same amount of trash, but they don’t throw it everywhere and still manage to keep the place clean. Even though we sometimes don’t want to do a project in a dirty area, we do have proof that if you go back again and again they can learn to keep the place clean. This happened at L/G. It used to be full of garbage but now, through Brother Thomas’s work, it is a clean place. These communities will be required to donate 20% of the cost of the project. If they earn their money and get a bank account, we will do one for them. We can always do more of the likeable projects in future years. These people generally have more money than they do in village district areas, where we are requiring 10%. We will have people hired like Brother Thomas, to keep visiting them, but we want to be sure before we do a project, the possibility of them keeping it up so we don’t have problems later.
We can ask them to clean up their trash and they will, but as soon as the project is done, it will look like this again, unless we have a Brother Thomas to keep after them…
We are pleased that almost all but one area in the present project are working correctly, but much of that has to do with Brother Thomas’s dogged determination, visiting them twice a month for the past several months. There are two communities that we will write a letter for requiring them to split their committees when people can’t agree. Then they will do better on their own and not be drug down by another group that doesn’t work to keep their donation viable. Why they need an official letter we do not know, but we drafted one that we e-mailed to Brother Thomas to help a couple of the communities out. We are pleased to be working with such an effective monitor. We will also be trying out John Conteh, our driver, who also has done work for the church before, as another contractor on this project. We will give him one to see if we like his work. He might also work for less than our present contractor, but then a lower price doesn’t always equal good work. We shall see.
Our Area Welfare Manager in Accra for the last several years has been John Buah. He is the loveliest man and is also a Stake Patriarch. He finally gets to retire in a few days, even though he’d hope to a few months ago but they couldn’t find his replacement. We found out that our old AWM, Daniel Yirenya is taking his place. Daniel has been serving as an Area 70, the ones that serve for about 8 years and then get released. Others serve for a lifetime, the first quorum of 70. He just got released and is back at his old job. We wondered who it might be. Now we know.
We had John and Lionel visit us to get paid for the work that they have done for us this week. We will be working with them yet again. We really like these pleasant young men. We are on the home stretch now, but we have a lot of paperwork and figuring to do in the next few days here at the hotel, and of course, Church tomorrow.
John picked us up to take us to his Ward, a short distance from the hotel. Our old friend Marcus is the Bishop there, and he was being released because he is now the Stake President. So during Sacrament meeting they heard who their new Bishopric was and several of them spoke. Sunday school was normal and the third hour was a CD training that was apparently prepared by the Ghana Area Presidency about how to mentor, how to do councils, etc. Then they had a discussion. For some reason they started this about 20 minutes late, so the meeting lasted another half hour longer. It was not so hot today and sitting under the fan was helpful, but we were both still sleepy, me especially. It is hard to hear what they are saying both in translation (accent) and their soft voices and the bad PA system. We both fell asleep after we got back to the hotel. Then we continued working on reports and Jim had to decipher which projects we might want to do for this year here in Freetown. One more day of working, which will be nice to get completed before heading back to Accra on Tuesday.
Friday, April 27, 2018
Thursday, April 26, 2018
First, a note about home: We were very sad last night to learn of the passing of a lovely man in our ward, Jack Regas. I don’t think any of us expected him to go just yet. He is most known for his dancing—he was in those older movies with actors like Fred Astaire, dancing in the background or choreographing. He was kind and fun and we will miss him, along with his wife and daughters and many grandchildren. We presume he is ‘tripping the light fantastic’!
As we were leaving Kenema we followed Jonathan so he could show us the house he has nearly finished. It will be used for a missionary couple when they come, which they expect in about 3 months. Jim gave Jonathan a list of things he needed to fix, and then we happily drove back to Freetown.
The house Jonathan built for couples in Kenema. They will be here in about three months. It is quite roomy, has solar panels and even a garage. It is just behind the chapel that he also built for the Church. All are enclosed in high walls with razor wire on top. It has two bathrooms and I think 2-3 bedrooms. They were taking care of the details while we were there. Even some of the furniture was inside. The workers were using a mattress on the floor. They had one room just for the generators and electrical equipment. They had a washer and a dryer. Not all couples get dryers.
We arrived at my ‘happy place’, the New Brookfield’s Hotel, in the afternoon. On the way we picked up a few groceries—lunches for the guys for the next few days, and cereal and milk for me so I don’t have to always order something from the hotel restaurant.
We slept well and then prepared for the day’s activities. I made sandwiches for the men: Jim, our driver John, Samuel the contractor, and the site monitor Lionel Thomas. John picked up Jim just before 10 and they met the others at the Church office. It took a shorter-than-usual day to look at the present spring box project that was not completed by the time E/S Carley’s mission was up. Elder Carley hired Lionel to visit each site twice monthly for many months to make sure that they completed all that they had agreed to do, both the contractor and the communities. We have been pleased with his performance. As he has sent us his reports, we noted that the water committees have sometimes been changed (corruption or lack of doing their job), and he was making sure that they were collecting fees for the water to sustain the projects. He also had to make sure the contractor completed all of his work and some of the repairs that were needed. Some of the projects’ concrete had to be poured during the rainy season so he needed to fix those. Brother Thomas has done an amazing job, so much so that we will be using him to become a manager of the new spring box projects we’ll be submitting for Freetown and also the contractor. We plan to do 15 wells in Kenema District, which Jonathan will be managing, and 4 spring box developments in Freetown for the 2018 clean water project in Sierra Leone.
As for lazy and happy me, I did the wash of course, as much as the tub/shower could take; I worked on the trip report for Kenema District; I watched TV, read some of a novel about flying in WWI, and caught up on my reading of Jesus the Christ. I have no idea where the class is, but presume that I am behind. I won’t be doing much else, so at first planned on going out with the guys the following day to look at possible future sites. However, my neck was bothering me so I declined. Also, the truck would be too crowded. The contractor, the driver, Jim, and the site monitor make 4—with me there it would be 3 in the backseat and we have found it to be very tight in this small truck. I will let Jim sweat for me! (I was glad to be back at the hotel—it was a much longer and hotter day, with lots of sweaty hiking on slippery rocks and Jim was happy that I didn’t go!)
Our driver will be married a week from Saturday. He has a place that he rents here in the area, which is where they will live, but the wedding will be in Makeni. There will be no honeymoon—there is no money for honeymoons for most Africans. As it is, he also (besides the dowry) had to buy food for the reception, which he hopes will not get out of hand (invitation only, or else he’d be feeding 500!)
The men returned for the day after having seen all of the spring box projects that Lionel has been working to complete and organize. At one place Jim was really upset because the people have not taken care of the project. Some areas were really, really good and he was pleased. All the rest were doing mostly fine. A few problems will be able to be resolved with committees not agreeing, separating some into two. All in all, it is a very good project. This time of year when it is so dry, people are in long cue lines at some sites. Some of the projects are really working well and earning lots of money. Some will do other projects on their own and have already. Some developed springs have plenty of water even at the end of this dry season.
This great community enclosed their water tanks in a building with their own money. Their rules are listed on the building.
Too long a cue in the dry season!
This place never goes dry; people can drive here so they sell lots of water.
One bad area: filthy, don’t collect money, unorganized, broken taps, but they are still getting water.
Last evening we heard a large commotion and saw that a large group of people were coming into the hotel. It was a wedding party!! The groom works at this hotel and they were having their reception here. I got a picture of the bride. There is a space outside where they had planned to eat and dance, but shortly after they got settled there arose a huge wind, followed by a thundering rainstorm! They quickly moved everyone inside the dining area and then called everyone in their rooms to apologize for the loud party, that went fairly late, but it didn’t bother us. They even suggested that we join them (if it did bother us!).
The new bride entering the hotel with her wedding party. I saw the groom earlier—he had on a blue suit with a yellow vest, matching the colors you see in the wedding party. At first celebrating on the patio, a sudden storm later chased them inside.
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
We had an interesting night. The fan worked great and after a few hours I had to turn it off because the air conditioner also began working. Then I got too cold and had to put on my sweater! I finally fell asleep about 2 AM.
I went into breakfast after Jim did as he had eaten earlier. The breakfast was really good—a slice of pineapple, eggs anyway you like them (I had scrambled), with some veggie mixture with some baked beans and a couple of small, sweet plantains, and 3 slices of good French bread and one breakfast cake. They had coffee or tea only, so I had a pineapple juice, which I had to pay for.
Jim, Jonathan, Mohamed (of SALWACO) and of course the driver, left about 9 AM and the power went off. I was thinking I could do work in the room but when they didn’t start the generator I asked at the desk. (When the city power goes off, hotels use their generators to keep the electricity on). I found out that they don’t turn their generators on till 1 PM and turn it off at 3:30 PM. They turn it on again at 6:30 PM till 8 in the morning. Dog on! I thought maybe I should have gone with the guys if I couldn’t get work done at the hotel and Jim almost had them come and get me. (As I learned later, Jim wouldn’t want me to ever do the trip that they did, so it was just as well I stayed back at the hotel.)
I finished the Trip Report for Liberia and eventually sent it later on to Teerlink’s for correction before sending it on to our bosses. At 9AM I was already hot in my room. When I went outside I saw how cool my room actually was in comparison.
I had lots of wash to catch up on, so I worked on that till 10:30. And then I sat and sweated and read a book and sweated some more. I poured water down the front of me to try to keep cool. I changed to cooler clothes. I read a book and tried to think cool thoughts! I wet my clothes, still no relief; I got down to my underwear and wet it also, but that still didn’t work. I realized that unless you have something blowing on you it doesn’t work and I was washing my underwear on my body….duh! Then glory be, the city power came on at 11:00!! I was so relieved. I put on the air conditioner and fan and basked in the cooling room!! I charged my computer and phone! I was so happy!!
I finally got hungry enough to leave my cool room, and went to the top of the restaurant (you eat below in the AM and the rest of the day above). I ordered a small meal and was pleased to feel a slight breeze. The city power went off and then they turned on their generators again so I was cool and happy till 4 PM. I was amazed how quickly I was sweating again so I decided to go outside and maybe order a cool drink. As I did, Amarachi and her children showed up—perfect timing. We all had a cold drink and waited till almost 6 before the guys got back. We ordered dinner and when the power came on again, I hurried down to the room to turn the air conditioner on again.
After listening to the story about what the guys did, I was glad I stayed here after all. The best news is that we will be going home in the morning! I did a happy dance in my mind! I was complaining about my day till I heard about theirs. The roads were made for bikes and not cars, and the rotting boards over water were dicey (they all got out of the truck and hoped the driver’s wheels would stay on the boards!) They went up and down incredibly steep hills, having to use 4-wheel drive. Then they’d hike down long paths to streams or watering holes (that made one very sweaty) to see where these people get their water—pretty bad. There was only one stream that seemed almost okay, but the rest looked very dirty. Some of the places that they wanted to put wells in this area of the District weren’t accessible. Only something like a Village Drill would work so that equipment could be carried in. So, I’ve stopped complaining (well, maybe a little bit). It is stinking hot here!!
Getting the wheels on the right boards that weren’t rotting was dicey enough so that all the men bailed out. At one point one of the wheels was only half way on the board. Jim said the trip was hard and doesn’t want me to go with them on any of these trips.
Showers never feel better than at the end of these hot and sticky days! We said farewell to the Cobinah children (they call us grandparents because they don’t have any living ones here in Africa), but Jonathan and Amarachi will be here in the morning to say goodbye once again. We hope these projects will begin this summer. Jonathan and Mohamed have to go in again to find more places we can work. The Village Drill will be used for another project in the future.
Every available water in this area was filthy like this one above, except for one stream, shown below.
They hiked up and down jungle paths, a sweaty time.
Typical dress for poor village children. If we gave them good clothes though,
they might just sell them so that they could buy more food.