Monday, March 12, 2012

Back to Africa

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dear Family & Friends,

We arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone 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 Liberia 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.

Our travels were mostly uneventful, arriving in Accra late Saturday night.  We went to the airport to catch our flight the next morning to Freetown, 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. 

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 Freetown (she saw my badge).  She was from the Accra office and was traveling to Freetown 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. 

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 Accra 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.

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 Africa’s 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, E/S Greding, Jim & Karen

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