Monday, August 29, 2011

Kenema, Sierra Leone

Friday & Saturday, August 26-27, 2011  [pictures will need to be added when better Internet Service is available.]

Dear Family & Friends,

We finished a day early and drove towards Kenema, a five hour drive.  We handed out cars, dolls and blankets at the many little villages along the highway.  At one point I was a bit overwhelmed when Jim decided to give cars to a couple of boys near a village.  I knew that in a flash a ton of parents and kids would be descending upon us, grabbing and yelling for something for them or their kids.  I got a couple of pictures before I told him to get a move on.  We handed out to others, in smaller groups and that was fun.
We arrived at the Capitol Hotel and saw that they were continuing their huge construction project, adding a lot of new rooms.  We were surprised that they were revamping all the old rooms too.  We walked into the newly refurbished room and especially admired the new bathroom.  It was completely redone with a new floor, tiled walls, an enclosed shower, a place under a new sink to put stuff, and a new toilet.  It looked so nice.  All that money spent—still no hot water—not even in the new rooms…

The TVs still have no service after over a year.  When we turned the shower on the floor flooded—no difference there either.  The Internet that used to be available is no longer working.  They went to all this work to give you less service.  Our fridge also did not work so we had to have that replaced and it was hours later that we got one.  They used to have a large menu that they revamped to remove what they really never had available.  But when we ordered pizza they said the power was off and they couldn’t cook that so we had something else.  The power was off for awhile in the afternoon, so I was glad to see that today it is staying on most of the next day.  They apparently turn it off every afternoon till evening.  The pool, however, is still nice and refreshing.

After a nap and a warm ‘shower’ out of a bucket, I did feel better and could deal with my disappointment.  Today, Saturday, I’m feeling just fine.  The ‘ugly American’ in me has gone away.  Feeling clean and rested does that to me.
On our way into town we visited a few wells that were completed last year in Kenema—we did 50 here.  Jonathan reports that all the fixes that were needed have been completed.  Most of them were because of rock problems, stolen pumps, etc.  He says that after one year all the pumps are now working and those that have broken down have been fixed by the people.  Boy, does this make our hearts sing or what?  It is a different kettle of fish in Bo District though.

Today we dropped by Jonathan & Amarachi’s house and picked up their two little girls and took them swimming.  We had a nice visit and ate dinner and then Jim drove them all home again.  It is always lovely to be with them—a great couple, a lovely family.

Saturday: We visited several wells that had been repaired and some others in the Kenema area.  It seems our work is never quite done.  We found a few, not too many, that won’t pull water during the dry season, perhaps for a month.  No one that has done wells can seem to get to the water table in certain higher areas.  We also found a few that the cement work was terrible so we’re going to fix those.  There was only one well that will have to have a major repair job.  The contractor did not line the bottom with enough rock and it is pulling dirt into the water and it is not clean.  This pump will have to be pulled, rock added, and recapped.  We are sending Jonathan around again to all of them and having any fixed that are not the fault of the communities—cooperation in Kenema has been really good.
Our hot, sunny day gave way this afternoon to a rainstorm so loud that Jim and I had to shout to each other while sitting under the veranda surrounding the hotel.  They get an amazing amount of rain in a very short time.  My sweating body becomes cool and clammy, thinking only of a warm shower that I won’t get to have.  I hope to see my friend so he can bring me a bucket of the hot water later on but he is not here and I need one—time to be a brave little girl. 

We saw a tender moment in the rain.  A Black African albino lady was sitting in the rain on a curb, not moving.  We watched from an upper floor at the hotel as several people tried to get her to move to a place of shelter.  It was touching to us that so many people cared about her instead of just letting her sit on that curb completely soaked but not moving.

Love from Africa,

Mom & Dad, Jim & Karen, E/S Greding

Makeni, Sierra Leone, pictures

Pictures will be added when I have better Internet service!

Makeni, Sierra Leone

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dear Family & Friends,

We left our hotel in Freetown Tuesday morning, ending up in a standard room for the second night—they had a meeting in the suite and it went on so long that they couldn’t put us back in there—so much for luxury lasting.  We discovered that they were trying to get the LDS account back again now that there is more competition.  Apparently they would book LDS visitors only to give their rooms to others.  At any rate, we accomplished some errands the second day that took four times as long as it would at home because the traffic is always quite incredible, but at least they are done.

We drove in a rainstorm towards Makeni, going down the dirt
Grafton Road
.  I thought the ‘bad’ hill would be slippery in the mud but it was fine.  Turay told us that the Chinese are fixing it up in preparation for putting it in asphalt—what a thought!  It rained all the way to Makeni.  While in Freetown the storms were incredible—one night it sounded like a hurricane it was so loud.

We settled at the Wusum Hotel on Tuesday evening—the same hotel that is expensive but doesn’t keep the power on during the day.  They turn on the electricity for lights at , but the air conditioner doesn’t come on till .  Everything is turned off by , so you’d better be ready to go at that time.  Amarachi and Jonathan met us there and we all had dinner together at the hotel restaurant.  We decided to meet at to begin our look-see.

It took two days to check out each of the 50 wells we constructed in Makeni, driving on soggy roads not meant for cars.  The first day we saw 32, which was awfully good even though it took us till almost dinnertime.  We were all exhausted.  It didn’t rain, which would have made it more difficult to do our interviews.  The weather has been overcast and sometimes sprinkled, so it has been mostly pleasant especially while driving in an air conditioned car. 
Each time we check out a project we have this hope that it will be better than the last one.  Each time we become discouraged, not realizing that it is better than the last one but we somehow think it is going to meet our expectations, but it never does.  I have learned not to become upset about it.  I have changed my American perfectionism to tolerate the African standards.  We didn’t see much cement we could call ‘good’, so if we were at home we’d replace most of it.  Instead we are only requiring a few repairs or re-dos on the worst of them.  Luckily we’ve held back 10% retention, enough to make a contractor want to fix it so he can get the rest of his money. 

A majority of the communities had fenced their wells, which is an improvement.   Almost every pump worked.  Even the ones that didn’t work perfectly, water came out of them.  Only one pump head had been stolen.  We are not too upset by this because we are going remove the pump from one area that gave our team a giant headache.  I think they’ll love pulling out and giving it to a guy who has worked hard for his area and deserves it.  One success was that Jonathan, our Assistant Project Manager, decided to have the contractors hire two men from each village and employ them from beginning to the end so that they’d really be trained well to repair the pump when it is needed.  This was a total success. 

Some wells were dirty, but most of them had been fairly well taken care of—they need to be brushed and washed often.  We had plans to make each community earn money for pump repairs before the well was dug, but that was only 50% successful.  Many groups will be able though to collect money during the dry season when they have no place else to go for their water.  Many will be able to collect money as an assessment at the time a well needs to be repaired.  We are paying Jonathan to go back at six months and one year to asses any changes.  This will give us a better idea as to the sustainability of the project. 

We are going to have a meeting, the five of us, to determine what new things we will do when we turn in a new project.  Perhaps with all of us brainstorming we can come up with yet better ideas for success.  We now have a few contractors that might do a good job so we can rehire them and that will help.  But as always, the main problem is the community itself.  If they are too lazy and want everyone to take care of them, there is no way to sustain the project, so this will always be our biggest challenge. 

Today we saw the rest of the wells, 18.  We were back at the hotel by and Jim and I went swimming—it was so refreshing.  Turay has just been called into the new District Presidency so he took a bus home for the weekend to take care of some church business.  He will take a bus back next week to meet us as we look at the repaired wells in Kenema and Bo. 
Tomorrow will be fun—a hand out day.  We will be passing out the little cars, some dolls, some blankets, and some soccer uniforms.  We checked out an orphanage today, thinking we’d drop the dresses there—we couldn’t believe our eyes.  This was the nicest facility we’ve ever seen.  It was located in a beautifully kept compound, with pristine buildings everywhere.  When we went into the office we saw the donor’s picture on the wall.  We learned that a wealthy man had this place built about five years ago and that obviously the orphans didn’t lack for anything.  We joked that since Jonathan and Amarachi are both orphans, albeit older ones, they could ask to live there too!  Obviously, we’ll be taking the dresses elsewhere, probably to the two Kenema Branches, and then to perhaps one more spot we’ve talked about if we have some left over.  Most of the people in those Branches are pretty needy—the children sometimes have one nice thing to wear to church, and then you see the same dress every Sunday.  At home, other than their school uniform, their clothes usually look like rags.

We’re so busy this trip.  By the way, thanks to any of you who wished me a happy birthday on Facebook.  Facebook does not like me trying to access my account from a strange location, so I guess I’ll do that when I get home.  I had forgotten it was my birthday of course!

Love and kisses from Sierra Leone,

Mom & Dad, Jim & Karen, E/S Greding

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pictures from Freetown

Jim talking with Mission President Roggia on the newest motorboat company to cross the bay from the airport to Freetown.  They serve drinks, it's air conditioned, and it is enclosed so that waves don't drench you.

Inside the motorboat.

Jim, just after getting out of the boat.

Elder Priddis and companion after delivering the Skittles.

The mission really needs these shirts and ties for all the African missionaries that will be departing soon--over 100!  They have some clothes that they collect so they can go, but they usually don't have more than one white shirt.

President Roggia and his wife holding the smaller white shirts.  He is excited to give them to younger boys so he can tell them that they can prepare for a mission now.

This car slid off the small dirt road above, which was no doubt muddy.  They are trying to fix this problem without the aid of a truck.  Will they keep it from toppling or running them over?  It is not a good picture, but I took it on the fly.

Our huge junior suite at the Country Lodge.  There are also three desks in this room and still lots of floor space.  We also have another bedroom with a single bed, that is full of shelves and closets to keep stuff in.  We've died and gone to heaven--all for the same price as a regular room.  They want to keep our business!

Our own, private patio out of the sliding doors.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Saturday, August 21, Accra, Ghana

Saturday, August 20, 2011, Accra, Ghana

Dear Family and Friends,

We arrived late last night loaded with Happy Factory cars, white shirts & ties, receiving blankets, dolls, soccer uniforms, and a whole lot of pillowcase dresses. This trip we’re going to check out repairs to an older water project, evaluate the just-completed 50 wells in Makeni, and look for another area to put in wells.

Our travels were uneventful except our second flight was delayed a couple of hours and this morning someone called our room at 7 AM—wrong number. At the airport we didn’t have anyone from the Novotel to pick us up, but a man called the hotel for us and soon they arrived; it saved us haggling over cab fare.

Regardless of my efforts to get lots of sleep while flying, I watched four (that’s right, 4) movies while Jim mostly slept. I just wasn’t tired. We arrived in the uncomfortable, cold Heathrow Airport, and then my lack of sleep hit me like a brick falling on my head. It is hard to find a place to sleep there, and even if you do, it is too cold to stay dozing for long. We finally did find a spot where we didn’t feel like we were in a refrigerator and a couch that was sort of soft, and I managed to snooze for a short time. We spent about six hours at our least favorite airport. By the time we got on the second flight I couldn’t keep my eyes open and was passing out before we even taxied down the runway. Jim slept again. He is ‘magic sleeping man’, a quality to be envied.

Accra is cloudy and windy this morning so from my window it looks cold (not possible); but we’ve never been in Ghana when it wasn’t deathly hot, so this pleasant weather is a very nice surprise. It is warm but the breeze is balmy and refreshing.

Jim decided to take a nap after breakfast so I decided I would too. Wouldn’t you know it--I slept long, hard, and dreamed. Jim awoke and went to the pool—I was a dead woman. He came back and tried to wake me again. He tells me I said something slightly rude about waking me up that I don’t even remember. It took me an hour to revive enough to go to the pool. It was 2 PM. We ate lunch and swam and then I worked out in the nice, little hotel gym. I hate the vacation part of our trip to end.

Jim talking to President Roggia in the new motorboat ride across the huge bay. They now have four similar services. This one is air conditioned, enclosed, and they serve drinks.

Sunday evening: We are now in Freetown. President and Sister Roggia (Mission President) met us as soon as we picked up our luggage. They had just dropped off Elder Sitati of the 70 who was there for a whole lot of changes in the Districts in Liberia and Sierra Leone. We know him and his family from our days in Kenya. We missed him and hope he is in Accra when we return to Ghana on our way home. We rode over the huge bay on a new motorboat line that is totally enclosed (removing the possibility of getting doused by a wave, which happened to Jim once) and it is air conditioned and they serve a drink! I thought I was in an airplane again. The sea was rough so I wondered if we’d get sea sick; one could easily get queasy since the windows are plastic and scratched so you can’t really see out, but we were good sailors.

After the boat ride we were met by the Assistants to the President (AP’s), one of which is Elder Priddis, who is Gwen Jones’s brother. We brought him some Skittles, which are not available in Sierra Leone, and a couple of other goodies given to us by Gordon and Shirley Jones the day we left town.

We went to the mission office and dropped off the white shirts and ties to the AP’s. They needed shirts because they have 100 new African missionaries going out that won’t have enough. We also gave smaller white shirts to the Mission President. President Roggia said he wanted to give out the little ones to the boys and tell them that they should begin now to prepare for a mission. Things are going very well in Sierra Leone and Liberia; the church is really growing here.

Left: Skittles; Right: white shirts and ties for new African Elders. Elder Priddis with companion, now AP’s (Assistants to President).

We had made reservations at the Country Lodge before we came but the big surprise was that we were given their ‘junior suite’ for the same price. It is huge. Sometimes I feel like God gives us unexpected carrots and we’re rabbits. It has a huge room with the bed, a large living room with a big sofa and two large, soft matching chairs, and three tables or desks. Next to it is another bedroom with a single bed and tons of closets and shelves and another dresser. The bathroom is oversized and pretty too. There is a private and very large patio out the sliding doors. Wow, is all we can say. Luckily the Mission President suggested a place we could look to put in more wells, which just happen to be in this area. We’re so happy that we’re doing a jig, singing songs, giggling--you get the idea…


Mom & Dad, Elder & Sister Greding, Jim and Karen