Thursday, September 27, 2012

Waterloo well check day 1

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What a fix I am in this week.  If I were ‘stuck’ at the Country Lodge it would be considered not only a nice break but a vacation.  I would work out in the gym and swim in the pool, come back to my room and enjoy a warm shower; get ready leisurely and work on my computer, take a nap, watch TV, do genealogy, etc.  However, I am not at the hotel, I am stuck here at the house at least through Friday. 

Yesterday they went to Waterloo, meeting Jonathan and Amarachi so that Amarachi could check out the hygiene training mess and so that Jonathan can fix the other mess--the wells.  These are all rehabs.  Thus, there was no room in the truck for me because I am the only one that really does not need to be there.  I am not altogether unhappy about this.  Yesterday they were gone for 11 hours!  Sister Burns said that if she had to do this every day she’d be so beat up she’d never last her mission. I know the feeling. It is so hot and dirty and no bathroom, not fun!  And this is the truck that has almost no air conditioning so you can’t cool off.  I added verses to my song in her honor (see below).

There is a wall around this well, which became a dip well when the technicians removed all the pump parts.  Instead of repairing the well they said that the community did not bring sand and stone for the repair so they took the parts away.  The community was organized enough though to build a wall.  We might help these people anyway.

Amarachi laughed when Jim said he wanted to see 60 working wells, so what did they do on that first day?  They took them to 15 wells, 5 of which were Living Water well rehabs!  I guess somehow they thought this counted!

The two animals on the left are what they call grass cutters.  It is the finest, sweetest, most tender meat you'll  ever eat.  No, it does not taste like chicken.  It takes like the very best cut of beef.  The animal on the right?  I have no idea but it looks like a cross between something from the cat family and a monkey.

Finally, a good well, repaired nicely, one of ours.

When they reached Waterloo, Amarachi, who always says it like it is, had verbal altercations with one of the site monitors and the guy Turay hired to look over the job.  We asked that he not be involved because he has proven to be quite lazy, but Turay hired him anyway.  When Turay realized the job was not going well he fired two technicians and kept the one who did better work and asked him to go and repair all the bad concrete work.  Fixing the concrete is good, but if the technicians did not dig the wells deeper or if they did not replace the old cylinders, putting a pretty apron around the pump will not do anyone any good.  It was not this technician’s fault, nevertheless, that is why Jim brought Jonathan along so that he could go back and dig a well deeper or replace pump parts as needed.  Turay is no where to be found, each day telling us how his political campaign is keeping him from being here.  This may be true, but I also suspect he doesn’t want to feel the ‘wrath of Jim’.

Jim had asked to see 60 wells that had been fixed.  Amarachi laughed because 5 of those yesterday were wells Living Water fixed!  Were they counting those as wells we had agreed to do?  So, I told Jim that they really only took him to 10 wells, because those were wells we had fixed!  There is such a mess down there and it was so frustrating to Amarachi.  I discovered that the hygiene reports had been doctored.  When I alerted Amarachi she went to investigate and fired the head guy.  Amarachi lives in Kenema, 5-6 hours away from Freetown so she hired a team in Freetown to do the hygiene training.  She found out that the team, instead of reporting the problems, just faked their documents.  She found that villages were mad if no one came to fix their well or if they just put a bandage on it and knew it was not fixed properly; therefore they would not even let some hygiene teams in some of their villages.  Sometimes they trained in villages and no one came to fix that well.  This is going to be a mess to straighten out—which ones did we agree to fix, which ones did we fix, and which ones did we sort of fix! 

So, what am I doing here at the house?  Yesterday the power was off all day so the generator was on, the steady drone keeping me company.  We were running out of fuel, so when they got back they paid our young adult guard named Santos to go get some.  He has to do this by walking—this is no easy walk out of here so I can’t imagine hauling the fuel back by hand.  One of our fears was running out of fuel, so I was more than grateful yesterday that we didn’t.  This morning the city power was on most of the day.  Santos, the young adult guard, has some kind of light he looks at to see when the city power goes off so he knows when to start the generator and when to turn it off again.  He even does this in the middle of the night.  So, one of my worries has been put at bay.

Last night when they got home (we ate dinner about 8:00 PM) Elder Burns said that he checked our water levels again.  They were down by half from yesterday.  That means we have about one day of water left.  In talking to the landlord he said that the reason they turned off the water was because of some repairs the city was doing (not that someone hadn’t paid their bill so they cut the line), and that they would be worked on today and it would be turned on again.  [They didn’t do it yet.]  Why do I not believe this will happen?  Because we’re in Africa, and they could not do this repair for 6 months and it wouldn’t surprise me.  I jokingly (or maybe not so much) told Elder Burns that if we had no water I’d be jumping ship and going back to the Country Lodge!  We can have it delivered because that is what our preventative maintenance group does for all the missionaries—they deliver water in this big truck.  Elder Randall said he would get us some of these large buckets filled to bring back here and we can then take bucket showers—he doesn’t know that’s all I’ve done since being here?  Eventually they will send a real water truck to fill our tank but they are hard to come by on a moment’s notice.
Our guard Santos said he is working to get the pipe fixed.  We’ll see.

What I did yesterday: washed our clothes, fixed the dinner, made the lunches for the others, swept and mopped [I was sorry that those splotches were embedded in the tiles and mopping didn’t make them go away—they tend to paint, stain, then clean up the mess later], emptied baskets, did dishes, filled clean water bottles (took all day to do only 5), stripped the blue film off the front door, computer stuff, tried to fix Sister Burns’s computers (found the problem, but can’t fix it myself), e-mailed, took a 15 minute nap, set the table, & served the dinner.  That was yesterday when I had lots to do.  Today I couldn’t do their wash because of the water problem, but I cooked two dinners, and washed dishes. I was trying to save water by not washing dishes but found that was impossible.  There aren’t enough dishes, pots, pans, and bowls, to make more than one meal.  So instead I was trying to save water by not showering for two days.   I hate to think that the dishes are cleaner than I am. 

More lyrics in honor of Sister Burns:

This travelin’ makes you dirty;
This travelin’ makes you sweat;
One of these days I’m gonna get
A real warm shower yet!

I’m seriously waiting to be published…

I wish you could have seen the sunset last night but Jim had my camera—the reddest sky I’ve ever seen—spectacular!

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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pictures, Lumley Springs, Kissy & Wellington springs

Check out those beads on this girl's hair!

Jim, holding homemade barbells!

Just think how beautiful this spot would be without the garbage.  The pathway was lined with old cloth,  sandals,  underwear, plastic bags, etc.

Check out these boys's football (soccer) net.  We promised we'd bring them a new ball (theirs was flat and made of some type of plastic) if they would bring us a needle and pump to blow it up.  We will also give them some uniforms.

It is always a surprise to see a church building of ours in Africa.  This one is in Kissy.  Out back they are going to  do a church garden and a room addition.

This boy was at the church and said he was going to go on a mission when he grew up.  His parents sell rice for a living he said.  I gave him my old backpack (his left hand) because Jim kept telling me I looked like a 'bag lady.'  Inside the backpack was a little bit of money tucked away that Sister Burns added.

Two Branch Presidents leading us up this hill towards what they call Thunder Mountain.   Late in the day we could see why they called it that--yep, it sure does thunder!

From up above you have fantastic views of the ocean.

We are always amazed at little children that carry these big buckets of water on their heads.  You should see the trail they have to walk up in order to bring it home.  We had to put our hands down so that we wouldn't fall during our climbs.

This is the water point of one of the many water collection points at the springs in Kissy and Wellingon.

Sister Burns getting mobbed as she shows them the picture she just took of them.

This little girl never smiled.  She was losing her drawers so Jim held her bucket so she could pull them up.  Some of these children are 5 years old but look to be 3.  

To the left and behind the white house is a slightly yellow house.  This belongs to the Branch President that took us around to all the sites in the area.

The Branch President and 3 of his 4 children.

Believe it or not, this is the street we are driving on.  This is taken out of the front window.  You can't see the cars mixed in with them in this shot.  Our entire trip around Kissy was like this--we just inched along.  We went so slowly we were able to buy my backpack and some rags for Sister Burns.

This is part of the renovation of the Country Lodge eating area.  We sit outside but it was also redecorated.  On the left is the gold sofa, although it looks silver in the picture.  I had to giggle--gold sofa?

The views from the Country Lodge eating area are always beautiful at sunset over the ocean.

Springs, Wellington & Kissy Town, Sierra Leone

Sunday & Monday, September 23-24, 2012

Dear Family & Friends,

This country could be so beautiful with its lush green foliage, sparkling ocean and flowing rivers if it weren’t for the blight of poverty and garbage that sits like a pockmark on its face.  We went to a place on Monday called Thunder Mountain, which is up from Kissy Town and Wellington where the Mission President wanted us to do some water projects.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures, either looking up at the beautiful mountain or gazing at the view of the sea from its great height.  We saw beautiful springs with children frolicking in the larger parts of the river; people bathing, washing clothes, or filling cans with water coming out of the pipe.  It was so much fun and breathtakingly beautiful.  We might be able to further develop those springs and also add hand pumps down below in the valley.  Many have tried though, and they hit rock, lots and lots of rock.  We saw a few broken down pumps too.

Children frolicking in the river below the spring development.  Above them were women washing clothes. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of this beautiful place, Thunder Mountain.

We drove home late a filthy, sweating mess, and brought the Branch President with us through the looking and even back to Freetown where he works fixing computers.  We saw a very big church building in Kissy—not too many that the church has built here—most are old rented homes.  We were so late getting home we ate at the Country Lodge where we usually stay and discovered they had completely remodeled the dining area—it was beautiful, but in the bar area there was this flashy gold couch—I could picture some sports star sitting there dripping with gold, two beautiful ladies hanging on his arms!  The new buildings under construction were not completed but they were making good progress. 

Yesterday, Sunday morning, we went to church and actually understood most of what was said, at least till we got to Relief Society.  If they asked us a question, we had to ask them to repeat it for us. 

When we parked near the building we noticed another car, very familiar—it was our ‘toaster’ car that we had rented from Sahr Doe.  Sahr is in Hawaii going to school for three years!  He had remarried and has a wife and child.  I thought maybe he’d sold the car, but when we got inside we saw his wife and there she was, getting confirmed a member of the church!  We met her the last time we were in Sierra Leone, several months ago.  She took her time studying the Gospel but we could tell she has a very strong testimony.  She said she missed her husband terribly and maybe they would let her visit him in April.  She couldn’t get a visa (they probably want to make sure he comes back!).

After Relief Society the President thought Sister Burns ought to visit a lady who lost her father last week.  She also thinks Sister Burns ought to be the Relief Society President and the current President should be her counselor!  I guess she doesn’t get the program yet!  Also, Burns’s are here to do humanitarian work, not train branch members. 

We get in the truck and are supposed to follow Sahr Doe’s wife to the house of this lady and all of a sudden a bunch of people jump in the back seat!  Right away Jim said that it was not allowed.  Somehow they were still in—two ladies and two kids and someone in the back of the truck!  On the way Sister Burns explained that this was against the rules!  They are so fast and sometimes a bit pushy.  I also told Sister Burns that unless she knew the lady personally, it was not up to her to visit a lady she didn’t know—the members of the Branch are supposed to do that.  So she visited the lady but left all the hangers on at the house…and it wasn’t ‘just there’ (meaning short distance in African lingo)—it took a long time to get there on that very crowded, very bad road. 

Finally we got home, had dinner and walked down to the spring area below the house.  While checking it out I really thought they already were well taken care of.  They have city water most of the time, which is clean to drink.  When the city water stops they buy drinking water.  There are several springs in the area with beautiful, clean looking water that they use for bathing, washing and cooking.  But, it would be fun to do!  The area is beautiful with ample water coming out of the ground flowing into little rivers and streams around crops and into spring boxes. I tried to picture the area without garbage, how divine it would look, like a little piece of paradise.  While there we met a bunch of little boys playing soccer.  We told them we’d bring them some uniforms and a ball next week if they could provide a needle and pump to blow up the ball.

Can you imagine how beautiful this place would be without the garbage?  This was below our house near one of the many springs.

We discovered today why we are not getting water in our tank.  The city has turned off our pipe because some people in the area don’t pay their bill.  Elder Burns called the landlord and told him to get it turned back on again.  He said he would, but then we don’t know if it will work or not.  In the meantime I saw a young man and asked him if a big water truck could get down here and he said he thought it would (he helped deliver the furniture).  They may end up having to do that and deduct it from the rent.  It is not the landlord’s fault, but I don’t think the Burns’s can stand one more glitch.  The water tanks are so low that neither of us have hot water in our showers because there is no water pressure.  Also it now takes over one hour to fill one bottle with clean water through the filter.  Each night I warm a pot full of water for my shower.  We have to heat water every time we do dishes.  Each time these things come up, Sister Burns just thinks about how lucky we are to be here in this nice house and not in a shanty.  I suggested to save water we could do dishes once at the end of the day, but then I realized we don’t have enough dishes to do that, even using paper goods.  And each night I get eaten by a mosquito, waking me up, itching. 

With all of these problems there are always tender mercies—for me it has been that my hair doesn’t look stupid, and I have no idea why.  If I did things this way at home I’d definitely look like a drowned rat…  We also are enjoying Elder & Sister Burns very much.  

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

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Godrich, Sierra Leone, on a fishing day

Dear Family & Friends,

After a day of mostly rest yesterday we decided to check out the area where President Roggia wants us to put some wells, in a place called Godrich.  We will need some direction because it looks like for the most part they have plenty of money and water in that area. 

We have another truck lent to us, that was supposed to have 4-wheel drive but we got stuck in the sand and had to have some guys push it out for us.  Jim checked and saw that the front tires were not moving…now we are wondering if it will make it back up the Grafton Road—did it ever have 4-wheels working?  It is dicey just getting up a couple of steep drives after leaving the house.  It drove not nearly as well as the other truck and my head, neck and back hurt from the jarring.  In consequence I’ve been inspired to add another verse to my song, and if you didn’t read my last letter, this is to the tune of “These Boots are Made for Walking” by Nancy Sinatra:  “These roads are made for walking, that’s just what you should do, ‘cause these roads aren’t made for driving, they leave you black and blue.  You cannot be too careful, this much I know is true, ‘cause one of these days a pothole, is ‘gonna’ swallow you!”  I have a feeling that my song lyrics, puzzle making ability & my genuine imitation of a puppy crying will not bring me much fame or fortune.
The best part of the day was watching the fishermen hauling in their nets—it took forever, and there were no large fish, just lots of small ones. They barter for fish before the catch comes in. This is also where we got stuck in the sand and discovered we didn’t have 4-wheel drive after all.

We watched these guys for ages as they pulled and pulled till finally their catch came in.   Only small ones.

When we got home we decided to walk to the bottom of the hill from where we are staying and there we found a spring!  Jim got so excited and so did E/S Burns—what a perfect spot to do a spring development, right in their own back yard!

Gee, I am SO tired…the air conditioner also does not work in the truck very often, always sapping our strength.  Then our young guard informed us that our water tanks are low, very low, and that it is city water and something is broken but he is sure it will be fixed…they don’t fix things here sometimes for years.  The Burns’s don’t seem to be too concerned.  I know what it is like to live without water because it happened when we were in Kenya.  The last three weeks of our mission we didn’t have any and it is an interesting existence.  Even so, we still don’t know what it is like to be an African.  And I don’t want to find out either.  I dread the day we run out.  I suggested they see if they could have water delivered as the mission office and home do. 
However, we don’t know if a water truck could maneuver these bad roads to their house.  I really hope things don’t get that interesting…I’m not in the mood to be a good sport!

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

Fish isn’t the only thing that they bring out of the sea.  The high tide takes it back out and then they drag it back in again with their nets…we wonder if they thought to remove it so they wouldn’t have to repeat this cycle!  The water is very warm, but any person not wanting to get sick would never swim there.  It is a bit of a cesspool near the shore.  Lots of children were swimming in the surf.

Lots of little fish, previously bargained for.

Right below the house we found this spring--there were many, but this one would be large enough to  develop.   We are very excited to find this.

Children carrying babies, a common site.

Spring catchments possibilities.

One spring catchments in place (we could do better than this tough!)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Back to Freetown, Sierra Leone

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

It is early in the morning here and I couldn’t sleep so thought I’d write a little before the others wake up.  We arrived here at the house after staying in the office for awhile.  We stopped for groceries, but since it was so late I suggested we pick up a Shawarma at the little shop next to the grocers.   I always wonder if we’ll get sick, but no one is throwing up as far as I can tell (whew!).  A Shawarma is sort of an Arab tortilla—a meat sandwich with French fries inside and sauce. 
The dangling plug I used for my blow dryer at the Capitol Hotel…I was just a wee bit worried it might electrocute me.

When we arrived the house was hot, stuffy and smelled awful, but in time the air conditioning and our fan made us all feel better.  After plugging in my computer I eventually noticed that the dining room had no electricity going to its outlets—there is always something going on in these African houses—it is quite entertaining!  In the morning we realized the fridge was on that same circuit—we fixed it. The problems here do not compare to the home of the Schlehuber’s in Bo!  They are also having quite a time training people on how to do their church callings after so many years of being on their own.  It is a daunting task.  Also, their truck broke down and they have been stranded. 

I had washed only enough clothes at the Capitol to get us through the week so I had lots of laundry.  Their washing machine is an interesting little piece of work.  It has lots of buttons, but who knows what they are all for?  After much button-pushing Sister Burns managed to get it turned on.  When the spin cycle comes on the thing walks its way out of the alcove.  Luckily it can’t get through the door, so the worst that happens is all the connections come loose and floods the area, which it has done before.  You can tell when it is spinning because it sounds like an airplane is landing in the house (perhaps its engine comes from a plane?).  They have propped it in place with boxes in front and Styrofoam pieces on the side to keep it put.  It stopped anyway before it could spin out one of its many rinse cycles, leaving my wash still soaking.  It is now hanging all over the bathroom, our bedroom, chairs in the dining room, dripping away…  The dryer does not dry the clothes and it was pouring rain outside so we couldn’t hang it on a cord we’d hung earlier on the veranda.  Apparently the washer stops when there is not enough power to go around the neighborhood.  When the generator turned off, so did the machine.  With all the annoying problems, we always look out our windows and see those living in shanties and wonder how they live through these pounding rains.  It is a comforting thought to be high and dry in this pretty, if not perfectly working, house.

Slogging through the muddy mess of construction and rain over the Grafton Road.  The steepest hill was surprisingly less muddy than the rest making it passable with 4 wheel drive.

Elder Burns decided to fix the shower problem himself.  There was air in the lines, which was creating the problem of no hot water and very little cold water.  It worked so I was happy for a tepid, then slightly warm showering off, just to get off the grime.  In the morning, however, the hot water had disappeared again—perhaps we have to let air out of the line each time we use it?  Jim had been taking cold showers at the Capitol and was looking forward at last to a warm shower…woe is him.

Yesterday while I sat in the mission office doing some work, Jim and Elder Burns went with a local CES guy who lives in the area to look at the Freetown water project that the government would like us to do.  They have a large tank collecting water from a spring.  A PVC pipe extends down into the town.  People all along this pipe put a T into it and get water where they want it, close to their homes.  By the time it gets down to the last water point there is no water left.  None of these T’s has any kind of valve or shut-off so it runs freely while it rains; consequently it remains dry for the three months the rain stops.  They want us to try and solve this problem so that they can have water year-round by adding more water storage tanks.  Sister Burns and I see all this rain coming down in buckets and it is frustrating not to be able to capture it and use it later.  We don’t know if we can solve this problem but if we think we can, it will be one of our water projects.  Also, it is kind of fun to think of finally doing something other than hand pumps!

Just one of many T’s off the piped water.

We have a couple of days to relax, gather our thoughts and spend more time training this couple.  There is so much paperwork we have generated over the years that it is a lot to take in.  Sometimes too much information gets lost in our old brains.  

We drove a lot the last few days on such potholed dirt roads that it is rather jarring to say the least.  We made up a song to the tune of Nancy Sinatra’s, “These boots are made for walking…”  Here is the first of what we hope will become a longer set of verses: “These roads are made for walking, that’s just what we should do…’cause these roads aren’t made for driving…they leave you black and blue…”  (Okay, really dumb, but what else do we have to do while being beat to death for several days in a row?)

Onward and upward…

Love, E/S Greding, Jim & Karen, Mom & Dad, Grandma & Grandpa

Visiting old wells in Bo, Sierra Leone

It takes a village to repair a well...unfortunately this needed to have the top removed, which means they needed a grinder.  It was not the easy fix we first thought it was.  They will have to do it themselves.

This young man wanted a picture of his baby--cute, indeed she is, and Sister Burns happy to hold her!

We were teaching them how to say 'cheese' and they finally understood why!

The guys were really in a mood to repair wells, but once again, the top needed to be  taken off!

We ran into the Elders--Elder Hill from New Mexico and the other Elder from Zimbabwe--don't ask me to spell his name!

We just can't help ourselves--we just love to take pictures of these cute babies!

Elder & Sister Burns want to help some schools.  We found this carpentry shop  and asked for a bid on desks, etc.  These people were located right by our hotel in Kenema.

Visiting Bo, Sierra Leone

Politics is in full swing.  In the Kenema & Bo areas it is the Red party.  In Turay's area they are the Green party.    This group was marching for the Red obviously.  They march down streets and clog up traffic, but it is fun to watch them.

Elder Burns, Elder Greding & Jonathan looking at the well project at Mercy Hospital.  The church will be drilling a new borehole and Jonathan will be assisting E/S Burns on this project.  The previous well was broken and could not be repaired, so a new one will have to be drilled.  At the present time they are paying for water to be delivered to their tanks, but it is not good for drinking.

This place is making wheelchairs.  The church has commissioned them to build 50 wheelchairs to donate to the Mercy Hospital.   The church will also be doing a neonatal resuscitation project.

We thought how like a Dr. Seuss tree this was!

Inside Jonathan's house.  One day they will finish the main floor, and later add on a second story.   They have a ready made family now of six children, all relatives of both sides of the family.

This is a 2009 well that has rock that the city council claimed they would break for them so that they could have their clean water.  Are you surprised that they haven't done it yet?  We may decide to help them, but not before we have the community make a nuisance of themselves by sitting in their offices for a week in protest.

Jonathan & Amarchi's house, standing on the veranda.  They are working on it as they have time and money.

Notice that this well has a fence that is growing!  They are taking care of this well, fixing it when it breaks!