Friday, January 20, 2012

Kenema & Bo

Wednesday January 18 to Friday, January 20, 2012

Dear Family & Friends,

Yesterday we went to see the rest of the wells in the Kenema District.  I was surprised to see that the road out to this area (separate from the other area in the District) was very easy to access by a well-graded dirt road, kind of an African super highway.  The communities were just off this road so that it was a very easy day.  That is, four of them were.  The last well was far away from any other area.  We drove out of Kenema going back towards Bo for quite a ways.  When we reached the turnoff we had only gone half way.  We had both bad and good dirt roads but it took a while to get there.  Even more surprising was the fact that much of this road was paved but deteriorating.  Apparently it used to be one of the roads back to Freetown, or what is known as the ‘old road’.

On our way to a new well site we saw one of our old ones from two years ago.  It is always good to see that they are still working.  But Amarachi (she is one tough little gal) gave them a ‘dressing down’ because they were not keeping it clean enough.  We try to suggest to them that if the last person in the morning (they have hours of operation) gives it a quick wash, and the same for the last person in the evening, it would always be clean.

The last district well site was just off this road.  Jim joked to Jonathan that he must have been paid a bribe to get him to work this far away from everything else we were doing, but out of all the wells, this was the neediest area.  Jonathan wanted to show us the place where they are getting their very dirty water, seen in the picture below.  Jonathan said that the people were ‘very much cooperating with us.’

This is a group of guys accompanying us to the water through the jungle.   We often see men dressed in women’s blouses, shirts and shoes.   This is the first time we’ve seen one in a woman’s dress.  They don’t find this unusual because the traditional dress for men are tunics, which kind of look like dresses.   

This village is using this scum pond as their drinking water and that is after a sizable walk through the jungle path to get to it.

This was a very easy day even though it was hot by the end of our journey.  We went back to the hotel and took a swim and I did more wash.  I still enjoy hanging out my clothes to dry when we are on these trips.  Maybe it is nostalgia from my days growing up and hanging out the wash on the line like we used to do.  Perhaps it is the fresh smell you get from clothes hanging in the breeze.

Today we had kind of a ‘dead day’ since we had already seen the 30 well sites in Kenema.  We decided to go to Bo today, about an hour’s drive, to see the well problem at the Mercy Hospital instead of doing it on our way back to Freetown tomorrow.  The church wants us to include this well repair along side our other projects.  They had a pump put in by a Korean organization, but the submersible pump broke and is now stuck in the pipe.  They are trying to avoid digging an entirely different well so we are going to see if we can fix it for them. We are going to ‘top up’ our gas too, just in case.  We also stopped by a pump that we had to redo where the technician stole the rebar and dug a well too shallow to get much water out of.  The new cement work around the well was a big improvement (the first one was a crumbled mess soon after it was put in), but some dirt was too close to the well and was making it constantly dirty.  Contractors are supposed to remove the extra dirt but they rarely do.  We told the chairlady to have it removed.  We also found out that the well is still too shallow, only getting about half of what the community needs each day.  We decided to dig it deeper again if we find that they are collecting monies to pay for a broken pump in the future.  If they remove the dirt and we find out that they are collecting money, we will dig it deeper for them.  If not, we won’t bother because we know it won’t be worth the extra money to fix it.

The Mercy Hospital in Bo.  The submersible pump has broken so they have to purchase water for their tank.  The church has asked us to include this fix while doing our project in Kenema.

The Schlehuber’s arrived yesterday in Bo to settle into their permanent residence for the next 23 months of their mission.  We left Bo before they got there so we went to see them on our way to Freetown this morning.  We got an early start to avoid the heat of the day.  We dropped off the rest of the donated items we brought to them so that we don’t have to pay the charge again for extra luggage on the Kenya Air flight back to Accra.  Schlehuber’s said they would gladly pass out the rest and I asked them to e-mail us the pictures and they said that they would.  We checked out their place because it was suggested that we might be staying with them on future trips, unless we find the hour commute a bit too much.  When Jim settled the hotel bill at the Capitol though the manager offered that we’d be in the suite the next trip and perhaps for a good price--because someone stole our gas or because we are regular customers?  That would be far better than returning to the cold shower, a bathroom that always smells like the sewer (apparently they don’t put traps in), and a weak air conditioner.  As we left this morning we were glad to be leaving during a warming trend.

We really felt sorry for the new couple.  They came to Bo to see their new abode—it is a very nice, large home with tiled floors—sounds good, right?  They came with a bed, fridge, oven/stove, and washer in the back of Marcus’s (sort of a man helper for the mission) truck.  They could see when they arrived that this is all the furniture that was in the place.  Also there were a bunch of Elders living there—I do hope they are leaving soon to give them some privacy.  They had their own bedroom/bathroom area, but shared the kitchen.  They had no furniture and one small closet to put their things in.  They said that furniture was being brought, but no one could tell them when it would arrive.  They had to clean and mop and still they felt it was not clean (pristine desires eventually leave you while here long enough to realize that this is never going to happen).  The air conditioner not only did not work but while it was on it leaked into the bedroom instead of outside.  The living room air did not work at all.  They realized that they would never have a dryer.  The shower was supposed to be a warm one, but they had not been able to get it to work. The Mission President gave them a month to ‘make it a home’.  They will need all that time to buy more furniture, rugs, kitchen equipment, places to put their stuff, etc. Only one of the extra bedrooms had a place to sleep—three dirty mattresses on the floor.  The Capitol Hotel is beginning to look better all the time…

As bad as we felt for them, Jim said perhaps this will get them immersed in the culture quickly as they learn how to get things fixed, purchase stuff, find their way around town and learn about the culture of Africa. They couldn’t even get their purchased modem to work (we had the same problem and bought another).  We know that they must feel isolated and rather overwhelmed right now, so we gave them Jonathan’s number to get help, or to send them to those who can help them that live in Bo—Jonathan’s home town.

Today is Friday and we’re settled in the Country Lodge in one floor below the main level, the rooms that have all the mosquitoes.  We leave Sunday after church for Accra for one night, then onto Liberia for five nights.

Love from Africa,
Jim & Karen, Mom & Dad, E/S Greding

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