Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monrovia, Liberia

January 23-25, 2012

Dear Family & Friends,

Our flight arrived slightly early and we went through customs quickly.  Our luggage showed up just as fast and we turned to see our ride standing there, Mr. Tamba Bundor, contractor.  He has worked on every project we’ve done here, even before we were assigned to Liberia water projects, but we have not worked here for three years.  We met with Prince Nyanforh, a church member who is a counselor to the Mission President in Liberia.  He was a project manager on the last project.  We will be putting in wells and latrines.

Bundor dropped us off at the Palm Spring Hotel where visiting church leaders stay while in Monrovia.  No, it is not the Palm Springs Hotel.  They tell us that it was built two years ago.  It looks a lot older, either because people beat it up, the original quality or construction was not great, or they don’t keep it fixed up.  The room is rather pretty, if not terribly convenient (where’s the desk to work on the laptop?), but it has a good mattress, an air conditioner that really works, power that stays on all day long, a hot shower, and the Internet.  They had a hard time hooking me up, but it works now and we are very happy.  There is no pool or workout room that we can find, but once again, it was fun just emptying our suitcases.  We’ll be here five nights.

We are located on the main floor.  As we walked down the hall to our room I had to giggle.  This property slopes downward and so what do you do—you have a hallway that is flat, then slopes sharply downward, then flat, then down, to the very end of the hall.  To get to the restaurant we go in and out of the building, up and down stairways as it meanders all over the place.  We noticed a casino on one side where the cigarette smoke seeped into the hallway as we went to the restaurant.  We were glad it was not smoky in there and the food was very good, even though what you order might not be available that night.  On the way to the restaurant we noticed a huge pile of very large barracuda that had just arrived.

Bundor was supposed to be here this morning at 9 AM.  He arrived at 11.  So, Jim, Prince and I twiddled our thumbs.  When I saw how far away this hotel is from where his business is though, let alone his home, I could see why.  It takes at least 1½ hours to get here from his business.  He had something come up at work that he had to take care of.  Even with our late start, we got to see a lot today.

The first thing I noticed was that there were no more potholes on the main, paved roads.  The marketplace along this road used to be one big garbage dump.  They had huge piles right on the street, like little mountains.  Now they have large dumpsters full of the garbage and it is being collected.  Even when the garbage was too much for the container, it was placed nearby, removed from the main market area where they could so easily get sick from their own waste.  It was just as crowded as before though, with people and with cars, most of which were yellow cabs.

First we looked at some latrines Bundor had put in for UNICEF to see if we wanted to use the same design.  In large areas this type will have to be used—they will have to be pumped out once a year.  In a smaller school, the other design we saw in Ghana could be used, otherwise the cost would be too great as they cannot handle a huge amount of people.  Basically the latrine system mimics the ones that are in the U.S.  We could tell that their community development had really worked after talking to the people.

When we visited this area to see their new latrine that Bundor did for UNICEF, one man told us how the entire place was littered with feces, and now it is clean again.  If anyone is caught not using the latrine, they are actually arrested and fined!  Each use has to be paid for—5 Liberian dollars, which equals about ½ cent.

We went to this refuge camp that was created during the war.  These people are a mix of local Liberians but also people from Sierra Leone and New Guinea.   They decided to stay and so they live in this mess.   They have 21 wells, hardly a latrine in sight.  Of the 21 wells, only 12 work and only 5 are clean.  They are sitting around waiting for someone to fix them.  If we are going to do latrines here, we will expect them to repair the wells and treat the ones that are no longer fit for drinking.  If not, we won’t help them because they will be waiting for their next handout and not sustain the project.  Bundor said that they are already organized into groups, so it should be easy to start community development.  Their ‘homes’ were made out of whatever they could find.  There are thousands of people that live here.

We also checked on wells we did at least three years ago.  Most were working, most had been repaired, some were not paying any money to fix the wells, but usually when it broke they have collected money to fix them.

As we walked around on this sultry day, we were grateful that a balmy breeze was blowing against our sweating bodies.  We got home by dinner and had much to do before falling into bed.  Bundor told us that for sure he would be here no later than 9:30 AM tomorrow.  We have much to do.  Kakata is a bit of a drive. 

We also looked at Prince’s house that he is building himself.  We visited Bundor’s house too, but missed his wife.  Prince purchased one acre, will build a total of four houses on the property, building his dream home on a certain spot, renting the others.

It’s going to be a very busy week.

Love, mom & dad, Jim & Karen, E/S Greding

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