Wednesday, April 25, 2018

It's hot here! Looking for Kenema District Well Sites.

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.

Sweating it out in Kenema

Monday, April 23, 2018

We departed Freetown at 9 AM and found many improvements along the way.  We were so surprised to see how many more roads were paved since our last visit; the Chinese even made a toll road and we kept getting to these checkpoints to pay the fee as we went along.  The roads were so much better that it made our usual 5 hour trip to Kenema into 4 hours.
 Fancy toll roads by the Chinese!  So many more paved roads in Sierra Leone!

As I said, we were going to try another hotel, the Paloma.  It is actually right across the street from one of our Church buildings.  It looked pretty good to us, but the rooms were a bit small and it was making me feel claustrophobic.  Also, it seemed the air conditioners didn’t work so well.  But we said we would take the room (the ‘closet’ was a few pegs with hangers on the wall).  We turned on the air and finally it seemed to be working okay; in the meantime we found a slightly larger room down the hall in the outdoor corridor, and changed to that one.  It actually had a couple of shelves and a cubby hole to put the suitcases in.  Then we tried the air conditioner and it just didn’t work very well.  By this time we’re getting a little embarrassed.  The owner took us to a nice room downstairs and we tried the air and it seemed to work just fine.  It had more room and so we moved our suitcases for the third time!

A typical ‘closet’ in the rooms in this hotel.  Our fancier room was similar except that they had a fancier piece of wood that had a shelf on top holding the pegs.  The management was very accommodating.

We went to dinner and visited with the Cobinah’s and Mohamed, the guy from SALWACO that always goes with us on well projects.  He helps pick communities where the District Water and Sanitation people want wells to be.  We also have criteria though, so Jim and the guys will go looking at half of them tomorrow.  We have a couple of days to look at 15 sites.  These people will also be expected to give 10% of the cost of the project.  We keep requiring more because it is the only thing that makes them sustainable. 

We bought a few things at the dollar store for Cobinah children—a jump rope, a few coloring and activities books and crayons.  For mom and dad we brought them a couple of card games that we had.  Amarachi will be again doing the hygiene training and community development with her team, and Jonathan will be the Assistant Project Manager for the 15 wells.  In Freetown, Brother Thomas, who has been watching the completion of the spring box projects, will be managing the about 4 springs we’ll be developing there.  A couple will be coming in June, probably just before the project will be approved.

The outside of the hotel was nicer than the rooms.  This is the upper dining room.  The food was really quite good & reasonable.

After we went back to our room we realized that every time the power went off so did the air conditioner and so it was hot in our room again.  We turned it back on and noticed that it really was struggling.  When the city power was on it worked, but when the generator was on it kept struggling to power up.  I suggested that they bring a fan in, which they did and that worked very well.  I was still so hot though after my shower that I couldn’t bear blowing my hair dry, so I didn’t.  My hair droops ugly awfully fast anyway even when I do fix it properly—the humidity is not kind to my hair. 
Taking a shower was really quite the experience.  I turned on the hot water and it got hot fairly soon, so I added the cold water, but then it got too cold.  It went back and forth this way (too hot, then too cold, then too hot, etc.) until I realized I could just fill up the big bucket that was in the shower instead.  Obviously, that was going to work best of all and the showerhead spurted a few thin lines of water out of it because of the low pressure anyway.  In order to flush our toilet we have to take the lid off and pull up on the thing inside—the handle, which is supposed to be on the top of the toilet lid, is missing.

The good thing is that they have a nice variety of food and it is cheap and good.  Also, the Internet surprisingly works very well here too.  Still, I can hardly wait till we go back to the New Brookfield’s Hotel…

John Conteh, our driver. 

The Cobinah family visiting us in the open air dining room.  

The jump rope was for Alberta, but Jim and Amarachi also gave it a try.

Painted on the wall of the hotel.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Last Day Liberia pictures

Next to Sister Teerlink is Love Freeman.  She just got back from a mission in Sierra Leone and is cute as a bug.  Next to her is the well caretaker and then Morris.

This is the chairman of the well project and his English is perfect because he went to school in the States.  He is the one that said he was sorry for all those who contributed wells and they weren't taken care of.  He said that this one will not be spoiled and they will make sure it continues to serve their community for many, many years.

This is one of the committee members in charge of fixing the well.  He is ceremonial handing over the keys to the caretaker.  The keys went round and round till they ended up with her.

The widow woman with the school.  This is where the children all meet for a devotional before classes begin each day.  Isn't this nice?

This is some of the construction going on to add more classrooms to the school and a library.  She is the lady that has 26 people living with her, some children not even related.

We had lunch here in the park-like area at the Paynesville City Hall.

Next to one of the kiosks we saw the children playing this game, kind of like jump rope.  They take two long, thin ropes and hold them up while someone jumps in and out.

One of the kiosks or taps where the pipeline project goes to.  The problem is that the city can't always provide water to them.  We have several in the Rock Hill area that at the moment are dry.

We saw the city water and sewer people working on the pipeline project.  It is just like in America--two people standing, and one person digging.  Then I realized that the person digging was a girl!  Chivalry is alive and well in African countries...the women do all the work!

Jim was fascinated by the metal shards on this wall.  But I have noted that they can somehow get into a complex anyway--maybe they use a mattress over the shards, or just wait till the gate opens and then they come in.  There is always a way...

Last Day in Liberia

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Today was our last in Liberia.  Tomorrow we fly out to Sierra Leone for another trip with more travel.  I liked today’s schedule again as it was lighter and we got to come back to the hotel for a couple of hours before going to dinner.  They found a new restaurant in town called the Hub that serves American food.  I am surprised at the high prices here.  The food is at least as expensive as at home in the restaurants, and Sister Teerlink said that to buy a good American towel it is about $50!  No wonder the hotel doesn’t have enough!

Our first stop of the day was to go back to the well that had a little pothole on the stoop where they put their buckets, for a turnover ceremony at 10AM.  Before the festivities began Jim had a little meeting with the site monitors and the contractors telling them that if things did not improve they’d all be without a job.  They had lots of excuses, but none of them were valid.  He told them that they would do concrete our way or we’d get someone that would.  This meeting took at least 15 minutes and then finally they had the turnover ceremony.

Jim and Elder Teerlink having ‘the talk’ with the site monitors, technicians and contractors.  The contractor is in the brightly colored, striped shirt.

John Moore, one of the site monitors and Branch Presidents, was conducting the meeting.  Teerlink’s told him to keep it short, and I was so impressed—it was a little less than 1 hour!  In Kenya the shortest turnover was half a day, and many were ¾ of a day long—quite an endurance test!  He had a local pastor give an opening prayer, said a little bit about the project, had Teerlink tell how we ended up there doing a well (as there are so many places that need them, he told them it was because they had leadership there and felt that they would keep it working), introduced the entire water committee, and had the chairman speak (he had been to school in America and you could hear it in his perfect English).  He asked if any woman would want to speak and finally the pastor’s wife praised God and thanked us for this clean water.  They lived just across the way and were grateful that they didn’t have to send their children to the swamp to get the water.  The Chairman said that he was sorry for times when communities have let their donations get spoiled and he pledged to keep the pump working.  It is another very deep well and so the water comes from a spring and is very clean.  He had anyone speak that wanted to and then they closed the meeting with another prayer.  This one was from a young woman who just returned home from her mission to Sierra Leone where she served in Freetown and Bo.  Then they did the key turning over from one to the other till it landed in the caretaker’s hands.  Then the contractor took the first ceremonial drink of water to show that it was good.

This lady is married to the pastor and she praised the Lord and LDSC for bringing water close to her home.  Her husband gave the opening prayer.

Karen Teerlink remembered that she needed to see a lady in the area that she had met before that was requesting a well.  I really like this lady.  Her husband died 5 years ago and with the money he left her she built a school. Not only that, she has 26 people living with her!  Three of them are children in the neighborhood whose parents can’t care for them.  The rest are related to her in some way.  As we went inside the school we saw that they were building lots more classrooms and a library.  She had a dip well that was clean that she kept chlorinated.  Everyone is welcome to come and get her water, but it is dry 3 months of the year.  She is asking for a hand pump.
This is the widow that owns the school and has 26 people living with her.  The young man on the right is her son.  His smile reminded me of one of my grandson’s smiles. 

Afterwards we drove to a place so that we could eat our lunch.  There was a public building with a park-like front that was blocked and there was a guard.  Sister Teerlink told him what we do here and just asked if we could eat on one of the benches, so he decided to give us permission.

Lunch on government property—we had to get permission to eat here.  Every day Karen Teerlink made us wonderful lunches!

We got back on the road to go to Rock Hill.  This was perfectly named.  Indeed, the whole place is almost solid rock and therefore there isn’t too much desire for people to want to dig for water here.  Some years ago the church put in a water point where city water was supposed to come into the taps.  The problem is that it has the same problem as elsewhere—when it is dry so is the water.  We stopped at the first kiosk and saw that recently she had gotten the water and filled dozens of Jeri cans, and then the water was off again.  There was a 5,000 liter water tank but it was never hooked up.  All the kiosks up the hill from there were also dry, but it appeared that they didn’t have any saved water sitting around.  After visiting with them Elder Teerlink commented that it seemed that the people weren’t too bothered by the fact that this was a problem and wanted someone else to solve it for them. Why would we care if they cared less than we did?  So, this is just one topic we will discuss over dinner. 

A former LDSC water project, kiosk with city water, which they call a pipeline.  This goes dry a lot.  This day the taps had no water but apparently recently they did because all those buckets were full.  They fill them when they can and then sell them when people come get them.  Up higher all the water points were completely dry and they didn’t have cans with water in them.  We saw one water pump that was private they said.  Since this place is full of rock, it was good to see that someone was able to dig for water there.   
We’ve seen all the current projects and looked at ones that we might do in the next project if we get a couple to come here.  Sister Teerlink says part of the problem is that they don’t publish the blue sheet anymore where couples could see them and get inspired to serve a mission.  They have made a website for this purpose but perhaps it is not completed yet.  She said she couldn’t find anything on that site and hoped they just weren’t done with it yet.  So, couples, you’ll have to get inspired on your own!

Tomorrow, Sierra Leone.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Latrines, wells and a cure for malaria...

Friday, April 20, 2018

We had another nice, easy day, departing at 9 AM and getting back about 4 PM.  We looked at some of the projects that have recently been completed. We also met a gal named Jenny that the Teerlink’s want to use to do the community development and hygiene training.  They met her while developing a project in a certain community.  When they saw how this lady organized everyone in her community, was a problem-solver and so self-reliant, they realized that she might be a good fit.  Jenny looks to be in her 30’s but is 49 she said.  She has 3 children of her own but has lots of people living with her including a very old mom that she claims is 101.  (We think it is closer to 98, but that’s okay.  No one really knows exactly how old they are here in Africa.)  I met her sister and her sister’s grandchild and her mom, and I know others bunk at her place.

This is just one of the few wells we saw today, part of last year’s project that have recently been completed.  On the right is a latrine in this same place.  It was clean and on the side of the wall is painted, “Do not stand on the seat!” They have raised ceramic bowls that they typically stand on to use, but these they are supposed to sit on and learn a new way…we had some strong ladies here keeping things clean and collecting money for its use. 

We were sitting around the new well in Jenny’s area and she brought out her bookkeeping.  We’ve never seen such incredibly kept records that she is keeping for the money collection for their new clean water well.  This is a very deep well so it is hard to pump the water up to the top.  Jim had them get a tool and they lengthened the pipe and it helped make it a lot easier.  This group is already thinking ahead (with Jenny in the lead) and want to put in a mechanized system.  They will put in a sump pump, pump the water to a tank above, and let it go out into the community.  They will purchase a generator until the government gets around to putting power on the poles that they just installed, but it will take 2 years before they see those wires and they don’t want to wait.  She said that they have about 3,500 people in the area and they all come to fetch the water at the new well.  Their new plan will get the water closer to the people. Jim asked if they were compensating the lady who was the well caretaker and suggested that they should pay her for her work—either free water or a small salary and they agreed, after he gave them his thoughts on the matter. 

This is Jenny and another community member working with the new well project.

Then we met with Jenny by herself.  Teerlink’s began telling her of their plan to hire her (she is also well-educated) as a community development worker and hygiene trainer on future jobs.  As we broke up the meeting and got back in our truck we saw Jenny walking in front of us and were delighted as we saw her giving a double fist-bump in the air!  It was so cute that we all wished we had been able to get a picture of that.  Jenny got a job!  And we are happy too!
We saw a few more sites and were disappointed with some of the concrete work again.  We all decided that besides talking and training and showing them plans, after we leave and on the next job the Teerlink’s will have all the site monitors, contractors and their technicians come to a demonstration.   As they mix concrete on a project mix in the proper way they can see what we really want.  They insist on doing it the African way, and that is never good enough for anything to last.

A brand new well, and already a hole…hmmmm….African concrete.

When we were in Kenya we remembered seeing a tree with yellow flowers that they said was good to cure malaria.  We saw this same tree and talked to this lady who showed us the pods from this same tree.  You take the seeds out of the pod and peel them and if you eat one every day you won’t even get malaria.  We each ate one—not too terrible. 

That evening we ate at our hotel and mainly wanted to do this so we could report to the area office about the hotel.  We will stay here again, but ask for this room when we come.  We know it has the remodeled bathroom and a softer bed and an air conditioner that actually works.  We presume that the dignitaries will not be sent here, but regular people like us can be—the others can go to the Royal Grand.  This is good enough for us, even though yesterday it took several tries before we got them to bring us the towels that they took so they could wash them—they just didn’t bring them back.  We are, after all, in Africa…

One of the women in charge of the latrine—don’t mess with her! You better pay if you use this bathroom!  Don’t stand on these—sit!!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A nice, relaxing day

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Today was as billed, a shorter day, an easier day.  We stopped by a newly completed clean water pipeline project to a school, which was also to be shared with the community.   This means that the city water is piped into a fetching point and it has a shutoff valve so as to control it.  A latrine for the school was also constructed.  It is right off of one of the main roads.  It was working just fine, but we found out that they are not charging for their water and just using school fees when the government comes to collect.  They decided to charge $60 a month since the government has not hooked up the meter, which was part of the project and already paid for months ago.  The school master did not seem to care, but if the water usage is less, it would be better to have a meter, but they’ll never know.  The fact that he is not collecting money from anyone tells us that the community development did not ‘take.’  The principal of the school did not seem to care either way.  When we looked at the latrine though we could see that it was not only beautifully constructed but it was also incredibly clean.  I saw a young man come out, get his water and go back in to properly flush.  One man was in charge of it.  We will probably send a hygiene trainer back in to fix the management and choose a person to pay to keep the water properly cared for.

  The front and back side of the water collection point, using city water at Rocema School.

Below: The very clean and beautifully constructed latrine.  Note the buckets on each side in the front, which are for washing the latrine after use.  They also brought a bucket filled with water with taps on it so that the children can wash their hands after using the toilet facilities.  It wasn’t there when we arrived so they ran and got it—we surprised them.  This is part of last year’s project.  There is still quite a bit more to do to finish up all the projects begun last year.  This is a primary and secondary school.  We saw lots of kids at play when we arrived—obviously it was recess time.

We stopped by an area that we have worked in before.  It has a large population and is divided into what they call ‘blocks’. There are 5 blocks and they identify them by A, B, C, etc. even though they also have names.  Some of these sections have more than 1,000 people living there. They have some clean water, but mostly dip wells used for bathing and washing clothes.  They have two areas that have smaller populations, one has 175 and another 200, but they are the most needy as they have no clean water and have to get to the other blocks to fetch it.  One of the areas is called Victoria Island.  It is not really an island per se, but when I saw how to get there I understood why it is called an island.  It starts out as a nice walking path lined with sand bags on both sides.  This eventually turns into wood planks with nothing to hold onto as it goes over a large body of water.  It is a river that gets sea water washing into it and it is ugly dirty.  Without sides I became a bit apprehensive so on the way back I held Jim’s hand and that was better.  It went from a dirt path to wide boards, 3 of them, down to 2 boards and some of them wobbly and rotting.  I was anxious to get back over them before it started to rain hard as it began sprinkling.  Of course, everyone that lives there runs over it like it was nothing.  It is not that far down to the water, perhaps 5 feet, but I worried that I’d panic and lose my balance and fall into the filthy water.  It is not deep, probably waist high, but it was very filthy.  Yuck!  OK, what a wimp I am…

     This is the more stable part of the foot bridge—I really got nervous when it got down to two rotting boards!

                                                   The path starts out rather nice and easy…

The whole community in this area was very nicely organized.  They had a chairman and a chair woman and it seemed impressive that instead of fighting over where water should be, they told us who needed it the most.  They had lots of committees and we saw some of them having meetings.  We will decide how much we can do for this area, in particular the spots that have no clean water nearby or relieve the cue lines that form at too few clean water hand pumps.
We didn’t do much else as it began to rain hard.  We headed home early and had a few hours to get caught up and then went to dinner.  We ate some Ethiopian food.  We ordered a main dish and veggies and we asked for bland, not hot, spicy food.  The main dish was not spicy but 3 of the veggies were.  They put it on this flat spongy bread and there are rolled up pieces of it on the side.  You pull off a piece of the rolls and grab the food to put it in the bread-like pieces.  It was interesting, but some of it was definitely ‘hot’.

                            Our Ethiopian dinner.  We topped it off with going to the ice cream place nearby. 

Gee, what a nice day we had!  Till tomorrow…