Saturday, October 6, 2012


Jim taught these children how to play hopscotch.  They all wanted to do it at once.

This is a fresh water inlet near the sea; such a beautiful sight--what he didn't take a picture of was the garbage lining the shore.

These pictures were taken in Sierra Leone--it was the reddest sky I'd ever seen.  The first was taken by
Sister Burns.  The next two by Sister Roggia, Mission President's wife.

Beautiful African children.
Friday, October 5, 2012

Dear Family & Friends,

Once again I got the lucky/unlucky straw of being held back here for lack of room in the car.  I am not required to look at the same stuff we saw last trip.  And the hotel has a nice room, TV (when it is working) and Internet (when it is working) and a restaurant.  They have, like many other hotels in Africa, remodeled and expanded since we were last here.  Jim is taking the Miles’s around to see where the projects of wells and latrines will be built.

E/S Miles don’t have a vehicle to drive!  Sometimes in Africa their ways don’t compute with our logic at all!  Their boss told them to ‘get acquainted’ (for three months!) until their truck became available the first of the year!  I have thought of ways that they can get around, but in the end they will be renting a vehicle that Prince can locate them for $50 a day, a real bargain in Africa.  Elder Miles checked with a regular car rental place and they told him he (1) had to use a driver (2) it would be $175 a day!  The NGO’s don’t mind paying those prices, but we certainly do! 

This is behind a marketplace and it is where they have some old latrines.  Even though it is again littered with garbage, it is not the huge mound we saw last time we were here.  They said they would clean it up.  But, will they ever change and keep it that way?  I doubt it.  It is a way of life here, what to do with your garbage.

Elder Miles is former military and a farmer and I don’t know what else.  His wife no doubt likes to drive tractors, but even so yesterday’s jaunt left her rung out.  They went in Bundor’s car and he doesn’t have air conditioning so you just get hotter and sweatier as the day goes along.  By the time they got back at dinnertime, I think they wondered how they would do here!  I assured Sister Miles that it would get better.  Their truck would have air conditioning and it would make all the difference. 

This is the dip well that they will use to flush their new latrines when we build them.  Bundor was having a fit seeing the filthiness here.   Wherever he goes he is always training the people in hygiene practices, not that they need it or anything…

Back at the hotel I found that if I walked in the morning before 9 AM I would not melt.  It is the cooler time of year, raining off and on during the day and night.  As I made my jaunt I was a curiosity to the workers who wanted to talk to me to find out why I was walking.  I assured them it was because we drive everywhere and we have to walk for exercise—they don’t need to belong to a gym or ‘walk on purpose’, going nowhere in particular like we do.  One man wanted to walk with me on his day off—I told him I was going to be in church on Sunday.  Africans are always so sweet to talk to, so friendly and nice (of course, often after that they want you to ‘sponsor’ them, send them to school, take them to America, etc.)  Today as I walked I saw them removing the garbage from the day before from the kitchen area—it makes you not want to eat the food, although I’ve never gotten sick here before.  I walked with the smells of rotting fish and garbage in my nostrils.  I didn’t envy the guy having to clean it all out.  One man called me grandmother as I walked and I said that indeed, I had 27 grandchildren, to which he replied, “Praise God.” 

Bundor was to arrive here at the hotel at 9 AM.  He finally did, at 11—even that is pushing African time…as for me, I find plenty to do in my room, including some sort of a perverse pleasure of doing my wash by hand.  I think they frown upon this here at the hotel, but I can’t seem to help myself.  I have to wash just enough to get us home again.

In honor of E/S Burns’s experiences and now E/S Miles, I’m adding to my increasingly silly song, which I thought of while walking:

Accidents are happening, you see them everyday;
Elder Burns is now a part, of the country way. 
Hot contentions do abound, we see them everywhere,
Sister Burns will be a prayin’ they will not have a care.
Elder Miles and Sister Miles arrived with their high hopes,
Now they fear they will not drive and cannot learn the ropes.

Love, from Liberia

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Warm contentions and panic attacks

Tuesday evening, Accra, Ghana, October 2, 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

More adventures: while I was at the office again the others, Turay, Jim & the Burns’s, went to look at the last three wells in the Freetown area (connected with the Waterloo project), and afterwards went downtown to visit with Robin, the man that supplies our water pumps, because he knows some people that could give us bids on a borehole that we will be drilling at the Mercy Hospital in Bo.  The downtown area is like most of the pictures we send home, incredibly crowded.  It is difficult to find a place to park so most people double park in front of shops.  There is no room because vendors selling their wares set up in front of the ‘official shops’ taking up any parking spots.  Turay said to just leave the car parallel parked in front like most everyone else does. 

Turay captures the keys!
Returning to the truck they see that the police had put a boot or lock on the front tire with a handwritten note saying that there was a 100,000 Leone fine (about $25) for double parking and to call the phone number to get it removed.  Everyone was milling around including various policemen that were showing up from time to time. One policeman came by and seeing that they were locked up said that this was no way to treat a missionary couple that had come to their country to do good things.  A couple of other policeman said it was none of his business because he wasn’t in the same department so he left.  Turay ends up calling the number and tells the original policeman to unlock the boot and he’ll pay him the money, never intending to do so because it is a bribe.  When the guy shows up he locks up another car that had pulled up behind our vehicle.  Turay tells the new locked up guy that if he is a witness, he’ll get his tire unlocked too.  Turay and the policeman go around the corner so that he can give him the lesser amount of 50,000 Leones, which he had offered the guy (he didn’t want to be seen taking this bribe).  When they returned to the cars he unlocks the boots on both vehicles but denies he ever got the 50,000, which Turay demanded back.  He again said he did not get any money, but Turay had his witness.  There were many who joined this argument and as things became rather heated the policeman decided to get out of there.  As he starts up his bike Turay pulls his keys out of it, venders and others joining in the fight.  They take the guy’s bike and pull it into the shop while it is still running.  The policeman really wants to leave now because the issue has become very hot and he wants to get away; he finally gets his bike and leaves, but Turay still had his keys!  He had ALL this policeman’s keys, so even though he didn’t get the money back (it came from Jim’s pocket), he felt triumphant.  He was going to go on the nightly TV news because they love doing corruption scandals, but then he got called away by his political party that night and couldn’t do it.  He was so happy.  You have to picture this scene, which we see repeatedly, where men get into shouting and shoving matches.  Turay was in his ‘pit bull’ mode and Sister Burns was frantically praying in the back seat, asking them to just pay the fine, but Turay did not want to do that—if they pay now, they will boot every missionary car every time if they think they can get the bribe!  It got very crazy.   Turay finally gets into the car, giggling and Burns’s can’t believe that after all that shouting it is over and the pit bull has returned to laughing?  The Burns’s are getting quite an education.

I hope you are not as confused as I am in telling that story!  I sure missed out on all the adventures this week, but then, I will tell you of a bit of a freak out we had at the airport.  We are at the Novotel in Accra, Ghana, breezing through the airport like we never have before—we would have been so delighted if it weren’t for the stress we’d been under.

Departing Freetown on the Sea Coach, formerly the Pelican.  They have newer boats and reception areas previously absent.  They have no competition now that Eco Water Taxi’s wharf dropped into the sea and they are rebuilding it.

We said our sad goodbyes to the Burns’s and then took the motorboat across the water.  Jim was upset that my luggage showed up on the first trip, but we had to wait for his to show up 20-30 minutes later.  We like to get to the airport before the ferry shows up with a very large crowd, but the airport was not very busy so we were greatly relieved.  However, we got to one man that was checking passports asking us where we were going (Accra, then Liberia the next day) and claims that our visa to Liberia has expired!  What?  How did we get this wrong? 

The airport is as hot as always and Jim was sweating profusely and was not feeling very happy anyway.  As we are fretting about what to do Jim calls Sister Randall who tells us to call Daniel Abeo in Accra, who handles visa problems.  They both told him to stay at the Lungi Airport in Sierra Leone and not go to Accra because we would never be able to get on the plane to Liberia and the only place to get a visa would be to stay in Sierra Leone!  In the meantime I am frantically e-mailing our boss Ty Johnson in Salt Lake City and telling him of our plight, along with Daniel Abeo.  We finally got hold of Daniel and they all claimed again that we would be stuck in Accra and not to go.  We see our luggage being loaded on the plane and Jim is thinking there is no way we were not going to get on that plane even if we skipped Liberia altogether and went home!  Besides, all the boats had stopped running and there was no way back to Freetown and we would have had to stay in airport that has no air conditioning, sitting in a plastic chair sweating all night!

I checked all my records on my laptop and saw from old e-mails that this visa had to still be good.  Here is why he thought it was not: in Africa they put the day, month, year, but in the US we put the month, day and year.  The Sierra Leonean man insisted that it had expired in July, not in December as the date read 12-7-12.  We checked our old visa and it was written the same way—the American way--we were sure it expired in December not July as this man insisted.  I was pretty sure it was good and that we could prove it--either way, we were not staying there!

New reception area for Sea Coach—there used to be just a concrete slab and a few chairs to sit on.  Now they even have a TV and toilets—bad ones, but there nevertheless.

Because we were not sure how this was going to play out, we had a fairly anxious flight to Accra.  When we arrived Jim decided to talk to someone from immigration and the man said very quickly—it was good—that is the way they write it in Liberia!  All that sweating and worrying about whether or not we should stay or go, all because the guy didn’t know that in Liberia, they do it (as in many other things) the American way…relief and whew is what you are getting from us here! 

So, here we are at the Novotel Hotel, having breezed through the airport without any crowds.  We are going to take our first hot shower in three weeks!  I look, at the moment, like a drowned rat.  From my hair blowing in the sea breezes to my sweating in the airport, I plan on looking and feeling like a new woman very soon! 

On the plane I met a woman who was living in a remote jungle village for 2-3 weeks and who has done this a few times over the last couple of years.  She is with some Christian group that volunteered to go and meet with a pastor there who visits more regularly working with this one village.  She teaches school children and has become quite close to people in this village.  We could not believe that we were nearly neighbors—she lives in Simi Valley, and for those who don’t know, it is one of the towns not far from Thousand Oaks.  We had a lovely visit, talking about the challenges of working in Africa.  Most of the people in this village are Muslim, but as in most of Sierra Leone, they peaceably get along with Christians.  Slowly the village is converting to
Christianity with the help of their pastor who is working to help them support themselves, farm more effectively, get clean water, etc.  So many people are trying to help Africa in any way that they can.

Farewell to Freetown.

One of the experiences she told me about is the way these villagers treat their babies.  When our babies cry we comfort them and hold them and try to figure out what the problem is.  When they can’t figure out what the problem is they slap them on the cheek—not hard especially, but to let them know not to cry!  We talked about this and realized that this is why African children grow up tough—in order to survive their environment, they indeed have to be tough.  She did say though that when she comforted their babies and children, they put up with her!

Okay, Jim has had his shower and now it’s my turn—I suspect if you listen very carefully, you will hear the oooohs & aaaahs from here…

Love, from Accra.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

More pictures, Sierra Leone

Check out that very tall man--his wife is standing behind him.  

Someone's pet on a string, missing one part

This road is where Elder Burns got his flat tire.  It doesn't look nearly as bad as the many roads we've traveled, but this one had hidden rebar...

They are sure that Sister Burns's hair is not real and they are checking to see if it is  weaved in like all the ladies do here in Africa.

Last meal in Freetown before going to Liberia.  Burns's, Lauretzin's, Jim,  Randall's.   It was so nice and  breezy by the beach--such a lovely evening.

Pictures, Sierra Leone

Sister Burns and I love to take pictures, most of these are from her camera.   We just love the trees in Africa.

We didn't realize that the wheelchairs we ordered to be made were on the same compound as this  handicapped orphanage.   We have been here several times and handed out donations.

Mugging for the camera--so cute!

They always want to see the picture I just took of them.

Puddles, puddles everywhere.

Forging streams on Thunder Mountain.

Forging traffic in Sierra Leone cities.

Baby asleep in a head pan.

Frolicking in the river.
Ladies, looking beautiful, while living in the dirt.

The African kitchen--always camping.

Check out the little girl in the printed pink dress and beaded hair.

The African bathroom.

Elder Greding training Elder Burns, looking overwhelmed (or bored).
When E/S Burns first arrived on left, with Randall's and Lauretzin's just off the dock.

We had just arrived, and happy to see Burns's again!

We can't stop taking pictures of how people get around.

At the amputee camp--they hit rock, only to be solved with a jack hammer.
While checking out the last of the wells Turay took them to see this infamous  place.   While  these people were selling each other to slavery, they brought them here so that relatives could not rescue them.  You go down these steps and there is a prison where they kept them.  There is also an underground tunnel that leads to the sea where they would put them on slave ships, never to be seen again.  

Bars on the holding cells.

We had promised these boys that we would bring them a soccer ball and some shirts, so on Saturday we took them down (they live just below the Burns's house).

This is the coach, who keeps all the shirts and the ball so that the shirts don't  'walk away.'

Here is the little team--cute!

They wanted us to see them play, so at the appointed time we watched their game.  It was fun to see that they even have warm-ups!  An older team plays before they do.  We were late, so they waited for us.
Beautiful African children, these are in Ghana.

All swimming, bathing & laundry, no matter the pollution.

These women are making palm oil--a very smelly affair--it looks like a witches  cauldron!

A ship near Freetown.

It's always raining this time of year, and it goes away--would be nice to keep it for later.

Water Problems

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dear Family & Friends,

Noon Saturday: no water.  We had been trying to conserve, but we knew it would eventually run out.  It is always a shock when it finally happens though.  We had alerted Elder Randall, who is the one that handles water deliveries, that the pipes would not be fixed and to arrange for water delivery. The entire group of old and young missionaries deal with this regularly.  Many collect rain water in buckets and try to conserve, but if someone can’t fill up your water tank, Elder Randall brings you barrels of water.  We had about 6 Jeri cans of water to use.  Even with conserving, they seemed to be used up quickly so Jim said he was going to go down to the springs below our house and bathe with the natives—they actually did have more water then we did!

Jim saw this mosquito pond near a well and told the community to fix it, NOW.  When they didn’t move he began to fix it himself, and eventually they were shamed into helping him.

There is a curfew every last Saturday of the month till noon.  The purpose is that the people are supposed to clean up their area.  If they see you on the street walking or driving they give you a ticket. This may work on the main streets but they ought to go to the places we do, where the garbage never gets removed!  Anyway, the Randall’s came to meet the landlord at Burns’s house so they could review some of the problems that needed to be fixed.  Even though they had dealt with him on the phone, they had never seen him before.  We were all surprised that this was a fairly young man—hard to tell their ages, but he had to be less than 40.  He was very tall, slender, and handsome and very well educated and is going to school taking international studies. Sister Randall told us that he is a rare landlord because he really cares about his several rental properties.  He agreed to replace the dryer that spins around but doesn’t dry the clothes, was going to figure out why the washing machine tries to walk out of the laundry alcove each time it spins, and to fix a few other minor problems.

The first topic of conversation though was about the water, how the city had cut it off.  He confirmed that the city was working on the waterline above to make improvements.  He told us that it would be three weeks before it was fixed (the date keeps getting moved back).  He did assure us though that he knew this for certain because his cousin was one of those working on this repair. 

The moment that we all did a happy jig in our minds was when we heard that he was going to hand deliver many Jeri cans to our tank! He was going to see how much was used over a week’s time so that he’d know how many cans it would take to keep the tank full!  We were so surprised and delighted!  Sure enough, on Sunday morning as we returned from church we saw a young man who had delivered a number of cans of water to our tank.  I never thought that the sound of a flushing toilet could be such music to my ears…but the shower, it was still cold.

In the meantime, we asked E/S Randall if it would be cost effective to add a rain catchments system to the tank here and they said it would.  At the mission home they have several tanks above and some below.  They catch the rain off the roof, which goes into the tanks on the ground, after which they pump the water up to the others above.  Thus, during the rainy season they only have to use rain water, saving on delivery till the rains quit.  They stopped off at the mission home to see the system so that Jonathan could give Burns’s a price for the system, which will probably be paid for by the mission. 

This councilman tried to take credit for one of our wells by etching his name in the concrete.  Notice though that someone else knew what he was doing and added his own words to refute what he was claiming after the man left.

We were also told that the electricity bill needed to be paid—city power is on about half the time now, saving fuel.  If more money is not added to this bill, we’ll be burning fuel all of the time for the generator—just another thing to worry about making sure we don’t run out, but then learned that Elder Randall went down to pay the bill and load up a lot of months on the card.  Even though there are many months that no one gets electricity, they still have to pay a monthly bill!  Also, when city power is on the microwave won’t work because the power is weak.  Whenever the generator is on the lights are brighter too.  I can’t begin to describe the rigors everyone goes through to get things done in Sierra Leone.  Sister Randall said that each couple takes on a project while here to help things run more efficiently.  For Elder Peterson long ago it was to remove the squatters by the mission office so that they could complete/move their wall—it took his 18-month mission to accomplish that task.  It is the same for everyone.  They have a saying here, “We’ll let the next (couple, mission president) take care of it.” Indeed, they fix some problem or other knowing they won’t be able to fix most of the problems while here.

When we see this, we are not inclined to help them.  If they do not clean the well, they also don’t fix it when it breaks.

We were sad to learn that Turay did not get elected.  He did say that if his party gets elected in his area, that they will give him another post so that he will have some government job.  He and another older man were having a runoff election.  The other man had run three other times so the delegates asked Turay to give him the vote and support him and then they’d give him something else to do.  If they took it to a vote again Turay would win; so he will campaign for his party so that if they get in, Turay will also have a government job.  Jim saved just three wells to look at on Monday and wanted Turay to go with them as he takes a break from the campaign.

Jonathan and Amarachi ate dinner here on their last night and then they discussed all the things Jonathan needed to do in Kenema and then Waterloo.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jonathan so sad before and so reluctant to leave, knowing the soonest they’d see us would be in 18 months when/if we train the new couple.  And because things change, who knows if we will come back or not?  We gave long hugs and said our tearful goodbyes.  That’s all, love from Africa