Saturday, March 24, 2012
Odds & Ends: Money exchange—if you leave a tip of $100 you’ve just left about $1.30--bring your cash in a shoebox! It seems that everyone is remodeling their hotels, this one included. We now eat in the bar/restaurant as the main one no longer exists. We are interested to see the results when we return. Here in
Africa, most people do not own TV’s but they are all
football fans (soccer). Prince has a
little business that he calls a movie theater.
It is not like at home where he would show movies--he just shows
sports. He says it has been very
successful. He is also very close to
moving into the new home that he’s been building.
This morning Prince came by along with the last contractor to be interviewed and Jim liked this one the best. Because this contractor’s projects were so far away from here (he does them in many cases way out in the bush) we don’t have to drive around in the heat to see them. This makes my body quite happy. We will probably use Bundor and at least two other contractors. It will be interesting to see who performs the best so that we can develop more contractors to use in the future and so that they keep their prices in line. We also want to see their ability to do community development and hygiene training, which includes one of the most important aspects of the work, sustainability.
Over lunch Prince and Jim mapped out how many wells, latrines and hygiene training we would give to each contractor. Bundor joined them later to find out what part he would play in the upcoming project. Soon I have to fill out the project request forms, which questions always cause me some frustration because I don’t have all the answers. I got smart and asked Prince to come up with the information before I fill out the forms.
And so, one more night in this lovely hotel on a very fine mattress, and a cleaning up or two more in their blessed shower before taking off tomorrow after lunch for the airport. Then the tedious 3-flight trek home on the short-long-longer flights to LAX. As Dorothy would say, ‘there’s no place like home…’
Love, Mom & Dad, Jim & Karen,
One of the contractor’s wells. Even though it isn’t pretty,after 4 years it was still working.
This cute little boy’s mom said he had malaria but she didn’t have money to buy the medicine.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Thursday, March 20-22, 2012
Today both of us felt antsy when on our 2½ hour flight from
to Freetown . It
might have been the fact that we also had to cross the water, sitting around in
the vaguely air conditioned office at the wharf waiting for our boat ride. As sweating bodies showed up it seemed that
the little bit of cool air was not enough--standing by the railing catching the
warm sea breezes became a better option.
The boat ride across the water was actually my favorite part of the day
as we left the windows next to us open and the sea spray hit my arm and even my
sunglasses—it was so refreshing in the stifling heat of the afternoon. I noticed later that a combination of salt
and dirt was glued to my face and hair—it is always grueling to travel here. Jim sweated the whole day till he got on the
plane. My white shirts last one wearing
and there is nothing better than a shower to wash off the dust of the day. I think I have just enough clothes to finish
the trip since I washed all my dirty clothes when in Kenema. We enjoyed a nice
rest at the Novotel in Accra before taking off the next afternoon for Accra . Liberia
, waiting to
travel to Accra . Jim took this picture with his
Bundor picked us up and took us on the long drive to our hotel. It is so nice to finally unpack most of my suitcase, even though we’ll only be here three days. I think I forgot to mention that Bundor has an interesting sidelight—he is a musician, writer and singer and has made records, using backup singers. One of the CDs he made had to do with various parts of hygiene training. We heard another song he recorded during a hard time in his life when he was left helpless (this was 2-3 years ago) He sang that no matter what problems he had his God would be with him. His voice is very pleasant and he writes songs that are easy to listen to. We also found out that when he was young he worked as a sailor on a ship that delivered cargo. During the war he was employed by the Red Cross and ended up afterwards digging wells, constructing latrines, and doing extensive hygiene training.
Jim wondered why I wasn’t annoyed at what was said to me at the passport booth, but then I hardly know what they are saying or what they want—they tend to mumble. We can barely understand Bundor and we are with him a lot. As we gave our passports to the official another man in uniform told me to step aside. I didn’t know why. Jim said that he was telling me that men do the talking in his country, not women (strange, they have a woman president). I wondered if I had been a lone woman if I had been allowed to speak. He also said that men in his country do the work. Jim almost asked him if he carried water on his head! Men here do the talking and women do the work. We don’t say anything because we simply want to go through without a hitch or someone might ask for a bribe. In
no White person can obtain citizenship. Liberia
Prince Nyanforh arrived at our hotel and he and Jim could began interviewing other contractors that we can use along with Bundor. Prince will work as an assistant to Jim, supervising any site monitors that will help him watch the work of the contractors or their technicians. They met with two today and afterwards we went to look at one well and one latrine for each contractor. Jim and I picked the newer of the two vehicles to ride in, hoping for real air conditioning, which they all claim to have. It seemed to work best when our sweat-soaked bodies could feel the cool fan. Minimal, is the way to describe air conditioning in African vehicles, but we lived through the three hour long trip. Prince rode in the other car and as we traveled to see the last site that vehicle stopped running—the engine was working but the car seemed to have lost its steam. So we picked up Prince, saw the last well and drove back to the hotel. The hotter it is the more exciting it is to come back to our oasis.
Pictures below: One contractor showed us a community center he had built that the government provided for the community. In the building they also had toilets, which is quite surprising especially because they are Western toilets on a septic system. The only problem is that the government ran out of money to put a well in with pumped water to a tank to service the toilets, which they need for them to work properly. Instead, they are to use a dip well nearby and flush with that water, which is fine if they actually do it—if not the system will get clogged in a hurry. I think I’d rather see a clean water well than a building to meet in, but they do love their community centers, which they use for multiple purposes.
Elder Greding says he is anxious to get home. He is depressed because there is no ESPN in
, not even at our nice hotel. Life is tough! Liberia
Love, Mom & Dad, Jim & Karen,
Monday, March 19, 2012
Monday, March 18-19, 2012
Yesterday as we were violently jerking along the
Grafton Road, a young man managed to jump into the back of
our truck for a free ride as we slowed for the bumps. His friend tried at first to get on too and
chased us for awhile but never made it. It is very common for people to try to
flag us down to get a ride somewhere.
That is why we see them hanging onto vehicles in very interesting and
dangerous ways, and many times seen by the side of the road when the vehicle
breaks down. When Jim saw that he had a
passenger he drove just a bit faster than necessary, and the boy was hanging on
for dear life. He had this big grin on
his face, probably knowing we were giving him an e-ticket ride. He didn’t get off till we turned off the main
road to our hotel. It was pretty
We checked out of our nice room, went to church at , the building next to the church offices, meeting Randall’s there. I don’t know why but in
they either have really bad English or they
are still speaking in Krio, even though they are supposed to use English at
church meetings [In Kenema it is much better.]
So not only was it really, really hot in the building, but except for an
occasional phrase, we could hardly understand what they were talking about. We were sitting right by the fan and still
Jim was sweating and miserable and we saw the Randall’s up a few rows madly
fanning. Afterwards, we were delighted
to go into the air conditioned office and work for awhile. While there a host
of young missionaries dropped by, no doubt to cool off too! Freetown
We came home to eat with Randall’s and sleep overnight. It was nice having a home cooked meal. I took a shower and for some reason there was lots of water this time. Everything here is so expensive to run in the mission home that they always try to conserve. The Randall’s save their dish water and use it to flush their toilets, kind of like what we do when there was is a drought in
. The drone of the generator can
be heard loudly on this side of the living area, which is across the way from
their apartment, but we are so used to sleeping with noises that it doesn’t
bother us in the least. California
We see this style of shoes a lot. Notice how they point upward at the end. They are very popular here, especially among businessmen.
This morning is the first day that our truck’s air conditioner stopped completely. We were grateful that it worked when we needed it most. Sahr Doe picked it up Monday morning, just before we left to run errands with Turay, who also does not have air conditioning. He drove us to the grocery store and then the bank to get some cash because our hotel credit machine wasn’t working, and in fact it wasn’t all over town. The banking system here is enough to make you crazy. One day Sahr Doe told me how he met his new wife at the bank. After today I realize that he had a full courtship right there in the bank and probably knew her life story by the time they got out of there. If Turay didn’t know the bank people our over one hour stint would have been three hours!
We had parked our car and walked for all our errands in the heat and I was thanking my lucky stars we weren’t inland. We drove to the beach to check out those hotels and found a nice one, a little cheaper, but then it really isn’t as convenient as it is here. Luckily they are building more rooms onto the Country Lodge—they need them these days.
The Country Lodge in
and the Capitol Hotel in Kenema are both adding on and making
improvements. They are adding a building
here at the Country Lodge, which will fit in between the two buildings. They are also starting another building down
below the present parking lot in the back.
Tonight we’ll treat Randall’s to dinner at the hotel as a thank you for taking care of us, and tomorrow Jim will meet with Turay one last time. We’ll leave at to go to the boat dock for our flight to
, then Accra the next day.
We are now demoted to a bottom room, with a small bed, hard mattress,
and smokers had just been in here so we’re airing it out. The king and queen just got demoted. Liberia
A couple of years ago they had begun working on improving the road that goes down to the beach. Turay says that everyone is sick of this never ending construction project. I have dirt in my hair from driving with the windows down. He said they will probably finish this during the election in November....hmmmm…
Love, mom & dad, Jim & Karen,
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Dear Family & Friends,
It is Saturday evening and we are back in
, having finished our work in Kenema early and
desiring to get out of the heat. The
only problem was getting into the Country Lodge because they have been so busy,
mostly because of its location. You
would think people would rather stay at the many beach hotels which are all
less expensive, but it seems we do most of our business up here on the hill,
which is closer to the Mission Home, Mission Office, Turay’s house, and going
over the Freetown Grafton
onto Bo & Kenema. Apparently it is
more convenient for everyone else too, because there are some beautiful, less
expensive hotels right on the beach—go figure…
The cool thing about our stay here tonight at the Country Lodge is that we told John Shallop (hotel manager) that he owed us a favor for kicking us out on our last stay. We are in one of the suites because that was the only room left--one that we’d never seen before. It is upstairs from the rooms in the wing we usually stay in. It has a lovely living room with TV and small chandelier, a pretty bed and draperies. The real deal is that we are staying here for the same price as a regular room. This is what a ‘deal’ really is instead of the ‘deal’ the manager at the Capitol was going to give us. Just for tonight we feel like the King and Queen of
Our good deal at the Country Lodge in
, staying in one of the suites for one night for the same price as a
regular room. There’s a living room with
pretty sofas, large bathroom, tables, chairs, TV, a real air conditioner, etc. Freetown
Our bubble will burst tomorrow morning when we have to leave—no room available at all. We will stay with the Randall’s at the mission house again and then return to the Country Lodge for our last night here (Monday) in a regular standard double room—packing, unpacking, packing, unpacking....
Saying goodbye to Amarachi & Jonathan Cobinah and their two daughters. The girls are not smiling because they were so sad to see us go.
Love, mom & dad, Jim & Karen,
|This boy's name is Bubba. He acted like his name. He ran right up to Jim like he knew him and hugged his knees.|
|One enterprising contractor made a concrete pad to mix his cement on. We liked this so much we asked Jonathan to have them all do this. It keeps the dirt and grass out of the mix.|
|These ladies were dying to have me take their picture while they winnowed their rice.|
|Note the forms that they use to form the rings for the interior of the well. In Liberia they cast the rings on the ground, and when they are cured they drop them into the well. Here, they cast them while they are in the well.|
|They typically mix their cement on the ground. The same bucket they are using to add water to the mix is the same bucket that they will lower the 'mud' into the well to cast the rings.|
Friday, March 16, 2012
Thursday March 14-15, 2012
Dear Family & Friends,
The air conditioning in our rental truck kept freezing up, so we debated whether to exchange it for another, knowing how desperately we’d want to be cool this time of year. Sahr Doe offered to give us another car but the truck we have is still running, which is always a plus. Besides, Sahr has his own problems. His orange ‘toaster’ car hit a deer. The driver was bringing back the lady we met from
that was here to do some training in Bo. Luckily the passengers were not hurt but the
car had to be towed. Ghana
On our way to Kenema we saw that this red rig was still stuck there. The backhoe in front was to dig out the hill so that traffic could pass, since it is on the steepest section on the
Grafton Road. The very large red rig is the one that is
stuck, and had been for at least three days.
Someone tried to tow it out but failed.
We arrived in Kenema in the early afternoon and the manager said he would ‘give us a good deal’ on a bigger, nicer room. After we got unpacked we discovered that the fridge didn’t work and hours later they found us another one that did. There was another room attached, which we didn’t need, and that was not air conditioned. There was a TV, and after much instruction I figured out how to use it—only three English speaking channels. The air conditioner by the bed was as weak as in any other room. There was no hot water, but then, it is so hot outside that it doesn’t matter—I shower after I swim and therefore there is no cringing. Much later Jim finally inquired about the cost. It wasn’t such a good deal, and the only advantage was the TV, so we switched back to our regular standard room. The only bother was the unpacking, packing, unpacking. He told us he’d give us a deal after Jim’s gas was siphoned in his parking lot during the last trip. Some deal!
Jonathan and his family spent the afternoons with us as they usually do, starting with swimming, ending with dinner at the hotel. We discuss business and problems. I could write a book about all the problems.
Thursday: this time of year is living up to its name. The heat feels oppressive and left me without energy the entire day. Our room barely gets cooled enough for us to sleep at night. Jim felt even worse than he did when he first got sick so we were only able to see eight wells. The great news was that the concrete all looked good—that is a first…a happy first!
Jim & Jonathan inspecting the cement work on the wells.
We were pretty happy with them for once. The communities also provided homemade bricks for walls around their wells. One community was complaining that they had to donate some things when another NGO came in and just gave a neighboring community their well. The hygiene facilitator told them that the other well would break too, except no one would fix it, and that they’d have water long after the other because they were organized to repair it. Most people here think they should get everything for nothing.
In the dry season Kenema is without electricity for two or more months. Their electricity is generated by water, which they run out of. At our hotel we run out of water too, and they don’t leave on the power throughout the day like they used to. Fuel costs have risen here also.
Love, mom & dad
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Dear Family & Friends,
Speaking of hiccups… Last night Jim thought his cough was due to the weather conditions this time of year in
West Africa. They
are called the Sahara winds, which leaves the sky full of dust,
smudging the otherwise clear view from our hotel, atop a hill. He thought his headache that wouldn’t go away
was due to jetlag, and normally he has headaches, not a few. He had a very restless
night and then realized that he was sick.
I am still coughing sometimes from the lingering flu/cold I had for the
two weeks before we left. He had to
leave today anyway armed with a pill to mask his discomfort so he could finish
looking at the refurbished wells in . As it turned out, Turay was sick too, and felt
worse than Jim did. Waterloo
Today you could either say I was stuck again, or I escaped a hot, bumpy journey. They told us last night that we could have a room (they weren’t kicking us out tonight after all), but that we had to change rooms and go one floor below. We liked this room despite the double bed, which made us have to readjust our king size sleeping habits—but the mattress was comfortable, the pillows fluffy, and the shower was exceptional. Even though these rooms all basically look alike, they are never really the same because, well, it is
Africa. These things cannot always be explained. At any rate, I had to stay back so that they
could get the other room clean for us so I could pack our bags and supervise
the transfer (not that we don’t trust anybody).
The dozen wells Jim saw today he was pleased with. Not only was the concrete work good, but some had fences.
But then another hiccup--around is when I discovered that they didn’t have a room for us after all and I had to leave. I didn’t have a phone. I didn’t know Jim’s number, and I was not sure what to do with myself. I finally decided that the hotel did have some LDS phone number and they did—it was Sahr’s. I had him call Jim, and Jim tried to get them to do something but nothing could be done. They were kind enough to let me stay in the room but with my bags packed I had nothing I could do. Jim had purchased a can of Coke and some chips. That was my lunch—didn’t very feel good. Luckily Jim showed up just after , showered, and we finished packing and departed. We were to have dinner with the Randall’s and they were kind enough to tell us we could stay in the apartment next to theirs. So we had dinner and then we settled in for the night. Tomorrow we leave for Kenema anyway.
It is late now and I find the pillows hard and the three inch foam mattress on a hard box spring a little uncomfortable. I tried taking a shower and it came out like a spit, so I took a spit shower, not daring to wash my hair.
Turay said that next week is typically the hottest week of the entire year.
is hotter than them all, and yet I didn’t
think it was as hot as it usually is.
Maybe I’m getting used to it. And
in Ghana at the weather is always cooler. Kenema will be very hot. Freetown
While visiting with Randall’s we caught up on the Schlehuber’s and I felt terribly sorry for them. The entire house had to be rewired because it was not enough to take care of the daily electricity usage. That means they have been living almost exclusively without air conditioning (how do they breathe at night), hot water (cold showers), washing clothes by hand, and using dirty water from their water tank on their roof that is open at the top and the birds use it. How can I complain when these people are really having such a terrible time of it! [We visited them on the way to Kenema today (Wednesday) and they seemed surprisingly okay.]
We love the people we work with. Jim learned that Turay’s wife Dorien is expecting their third child. They are very happy and have of late been feeling especially blessed.
Another good well, with a block fence.
Jim took this picture, which is really not allowed so I’m not sure how he got away with it. This is a ‘female secret society’ place…rite of passage. There are also huts for the young men.
Love, mom & dad, Jim & Karen,
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
|Elder & Sister Petersen, who used to serve in Sierra Leone and became good friends with Turay, gave him these tomato plants. They were excited about how successful they were.|
|Turay and son Prince showing off their tomato plants|
|Princess and Prince, soon to be adding a third. What do you name #3 when Prince and Princess are already taken? I guess we will find out in the Fall.|
|Day one: looking at well rehabs in Waterloo. This is a picture of a good one. Of the 12 wells Jim checked on, half looked like this one, half of them have to be redone.|
|These boys made a toboggan for their dusty ride!|
Monday, March 12, 2012
Dear Family & Friends,
We arrived in
last night, departing LA Friday afternoon. This trip will almost be identical to our last three week
trip except that we’ll be three days in Freetown, Sierra Leone instead of five. Our purpose is to check on the work of the
technicians who will be pouring concrete casings that line the
inside of the wells, and pouring the
aprons. Since concrete work is usually lacking (not enough cement and poured too dry) we
thought this was the most important time to be here. In Liberia we’ll be interviewing contractors and then
writing up a proposal for latrines and wells. Liberia
Our travels were mostly uneventful, arriving in
late Saturday night. We went to the airport to catch our flight
the next morning to Accra , but the pilot didn’t show up—perhaps he got sick. By the time they found a pilot for the plane
it departed about the time it was supposed to arrive. We never know who is picking us up (we don’t
always get those interesting details from our project manager) or if they had a
clue about how late the plane would be. Freetown
When we boarded the bus that takes us from the airport to the water taxi, an African woman asked us if we were the LDS couple that was coming to
(she saw my badge). She was from the Freetown office and was traveling to Accra and then Bo to participate in some welfare
training. We found out that Sahr Doe was
meeting her with a chauffer who would drive her to her hotel and then to Bo the
next day. Sahr Doe was also renting a
car for us and was meeting us at the wharf with another driver. Freetown
Since we boarded our water taxi in the evening the seas were a bit more unruly. The dock is fine, but then it goes down sharply with just 1x2 boards to hold you back. It was so funny that Jim got annoyed when they wanted to hold his hand—he wouldn’t let them, but I did. Then we navigate a floating dock that we walk across to get into the boat. It looks like a sport court only the blocks are a foot deep, and somehow they all fit together and don’t break apart. Because the seas were turbulent, the floating (rubber?) dock undulated more violently than usual. We then have to dip into the opening of the boat as it also rocks in the water. I was giggling but noticed another lady, a bit elderly, being escorted by two strong African men. She looked a bit nervous, but for us, all great fun.
At the dock the boat driver couldn’t taxi into his usual spot to unload us because there was a cable from another dock or boat 50 feet on the other side and our water taxi wouldn’t fit under this cable. They finally slowly taxied under it, a guy sitting on the bow, lifting up the cable so that we could make it under. They are very insistent about putting life jackets on us, but the workers never wear them, even the guys hanging out the back by the two large outboard motors. When we de-board the boat there is a rusted stairway that leads to the pavement above, and most of the handrail is missing and of course no stairways are to code, so the workers also have to hold our hands till the railing shows up towards the top of the stairs. All great fun for us but for non-swimmers they do get a little freaked out. Once when the seas were particularly choppy Jim watched as several African government people (with double life vests) insisted on being taken back to shore, even forfeiting their money just to get off the boat. Of course, that same boat ride soaked Jim when a wave broke through the plastic windshield, ruining our camera and his cell phone and making him sick as a doggy the next day.
We met Sahr Doe’s driver immediately and found a 4x4 Ford truck with a king cab and short bed—cool! He said our ‘toaster’ car, that was going to take the
lady to Bo, had been overheating. I guess he figured it would be fine enough
for her and her driver—he could just keep repairing the car as he drove her
along—sort of an African tradition. Accra
By this time it was night and dark and Jim couldn’t remember how to get from the wharf to the road so we followed Sahr Doe and his driver (in Sahr’s very nice truck) till Jim found the right road and we were on our way and were soon settled in our hotel, had our dinner, even if rather late. Okay, now we can go to work.
Monday morning: one of
funniest expressions is to say, when things don’t go right, that there has been
a ‘hiccup’. You might say that this
morning began as a hiccup. I woke
up with an infection and needed to stay here just for today till my medicine
kicked in (don’t leave home without your pharmacy). Jim was a little late getting out to the
truck, only to discover that the battery was dead. Sahr Doe quickly came to the rescue with a new battery--they attached it better than the last one, that just wasn’t quite fitting
the clamps, which could have been part of the problem. Tonight he will also bring a spare tire. Jim looked at the ones on the truck and one
was already a bit low and the others nearly bald…should be a fun day, bumping
over the Grafton road. He goes with a
prayer that it holds together. And, here
I am, stuck at the hotel for the day, even though it is a good place to be
stuck. I sent Jim with my camera, but he
doesn’t use it as much as I do but I told him to try….
Love, mom & dad,
Jim & Karen