Monday, August 15, 2016

Last Days in West Africa

August 15, 2016

Saturday evening E/S Wollenzien come by the hotel so that we could buy them dinner as a thank you for all their assistance. On Sunday they picked us up and we drove to the nearest Church Branch, which was not far away.  They were meeting in a nice, converted home.  It looked like they had added something onto the front of the home to make a nice, large chapel.  We were overwhelmed with the friendliness of this Branch.  We were surprised that there were three missionary companionships—each consisted of and American (from AZ, ID & UT) and an African.  I asked about the 3 sets being there and they said that they had a lot of activity in the area!  Still, I had never seen that many missionaries in one Branch before.  During the meeting they had two confirmations, and one other man was given the Aaronic Priesthood, so he obviously was a new member also.  I can’t believe how great the work is here!

The added on part of the converted home, so that they could have a nice, large chapel.  There are bars on all windows and doors to deter theft; but they often figure out a way, usually through the roof.

We drove back to the hotel and finished packing and checked out.  We departed for the airport and arrived a bit early.  It was raining, and we wanted to be sure that we didn’t have any problems as sometimes that road washes out and it takes a long time to take another road to the airport.

Our flight wasn’t too bad coming back here to Accra, even though they picked us up in Liberia, flew us back to Sierra Leone where we sat for almost an hour, and then flew us back to Accra for two hours for a total of 4½ hrs.  Even though it didn’t seem terrible, by the time E/S Baker picked us up at the airport, I looked like I’d been on the two long trips home—I was a whipped doggy.  The next morning Elder Baker said that it looked like I had been ‘resurrected.’  Showers and sleep seem to do that for me.

The Baker’s work in the office here in Accra, but are over West Africa water and sanitation projects as assistants to John Buah.  John is Ghanaian and Baker’s are here on a mission for 23 months and are from Idaho.  They had invited us to stay with them instead of going to a hotel, so they brought us back to their two-bedroom apartment.  It is a nice place and had a wonderful shower, and Sister Baker fixed us homemade food that was delicious!  Having 13 children keeps her in the ‘taking care of you’ mode. 

Comfortable living area and dining table.  Two nice bedrooms and a lovely balcony.  There is a pool in this complex and several of the couples live here.  It is close to the airport, but not as close to the office. 

Balcony, at Baker’s apartment.  Jim said that the water in the complex’s pool was quite warm.

The next morning we drove with them to the office and hung out till we met up with our friends, Wendell and Mary Herr who are serving in an area that is 1 hour away from the office.  We served with them in Kenya so many years ago.  They are now on their 5th mission since then, and she said she is ready to retire, but they have a while yet to go.  Well, at least she is ready to retire from serving in Africa!  They looked great!  We had lunch downstairs in the cafeteria at the office and enjoyed talking about our old and new adventures.

Meeting up with old friends, Wendell and Mary Herr!  We served with them a dozen years ago in Kenya.  They are now working with Branches doing MLS an hour away from the Accra office.  This is their 5th full-time mission.

Afterwards we had our visit with John Buah, reporting back about our travels, even though he has seen our reports.  He is lovely to work with!

We had nothing left to do, so by 3 PM we were back at the apartment.  Baker’s didn’t seem too upset that we brought them home early; they were happy for a rest! 

We were able to take a nap, shower, pack, have a wonderful meal again, and then departed for the airport.  They live very close by.  It is as always, great to be going home!


From West Africa

Last Days in Liberia

Friday & Saturday, August 12-13, 2016

Today Elder Wollenzien needed to be on the job to check on another bathroom that he is having built at the small school we saw the other day.  He was to pick us up later on in the morning. Finally, after hanging out and writing reports, Sister Wollenzien showed up at 11:30 with Sister Kimball (served many times in Liberia over the years) and Sister Degomez (arrived here the same night we did)  and brought us to the Church offices.  The roads were excessively crowded, probably because there were a lot of graduations today.  The Church offices are in an older building that also has electrical problems, but has a view of the ocean and many rooms for the various workers.  The Charities room is on the bottom floor.  After the entry there was a large room that was filled with supplies that needed to be delivered to various chapels, things such as TP and cleaning supplies, etc. 

View at the back parking lot behind the Church office building.   


They deliver supplies here to take to various church buildings.       The Charities office is directly ahead through the double doors.  There are several offices on this floor and also an upper story for many other offices.

As we waited for Elder Wollenzien to show up, we walked down the street with E/S Degomez and Sister Wollenzien to have lunch at the Anglers Restaurant. Elder Wollenzien showed up in time for us to all eat lunch together, and it was good.  We went back to the office and waited for Morris.  He didn’t show up so we drove to Wollenzien’s new apartment and waited for Morris there—it is a little bit closer to his area.

We ate lunch at the Anglers Restaurant, a very short walk from the office.

  A much better apartment on the 4th floor overlooking the sea except sometimes they don’t have water or electricity…always there are problems…

When we were last in Liberia many years ago we saw the apartment that E/S Miles had to stay in.  It was so dark and almost permanently dirty-looking and so depressing.  I was so glad to hear that they had found another place to live.  This apartment complex where the couples live is really lovely, and they got a huge discount on the price as many NGO’s departed after Ebola got under control.  It is on an upper floor and they overlook the ocean.  In time the church might build something there in that location so that all the couples and the office can be in one place.  Their apartment was like a breath of fresh air.  I was so happy for them!

This swimming pool is supposed to be for their complex, which is behind the apartments.  They already have a wonderful gym.  They can see the ocean from their balcony.

So, we waited, and we waited…after a very long time Morris finally showed up.  We had a list of all the places that we had needed to see and found out that we had seen a lot of our water projects but many of them were not on the list of those we really needed to see.  So, poor E/S Wollenzien are going to have to do it for us.  We didn’t have a full week to do it because of the two days with Water Aid, but I still thought we’d see a lot more of what we needed to.  By the end of next week though, they will have seen nearly all of the ones that we missed on both projects, and then we’ll have a more accurate report.  Most of what we saw were area projects…anyway, they certainly were good ones.  The others won’t have nearly as good a report as what we saw, but I realized how important it was for us to see all these area projects—they are VERY successful and when we have couples that are good at what they do, we could ask for more area monies so that we can do many more area projects—more latrines here and water projects on a smaller scale that can be watched better and be very successful—and this we have seen, so I don’t feel what we did was wasted time after all.

Saturday we met with Water Aid for their last meeting with us.  They came by at noon so we could have a lunch/meeting. We probably learned more about them at that meeting than we did the two days we spent with them before.  The rest of the time we wrote reports. 

Tomorrow we fly back to Accra.  Almost home…

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Just pictures, life in Liberia

The lady on the right is VERY proud of her well; she is the caretaker.  Her friend also wanted to be in the picture.

Cute kids, everywhere...

E/S Wollenzien on the left, Morris in the middle.  The old gentleman used to work for sewer and power and he is tired of waiting for the government to act; while the lady over the area tries to remove the man in the government waiting for his bribe that he won't get from us, this man is organizing the community to hook it up themselves, even though the city claims that only they an do it.  The fees have been paid; the bathroom has sat for two years unused; they are going to do it!

Jim years ago showed Liberian kids how to play hopscotch--it either caught on, or they already knew how... 

Repairing their fishing nets.

A kiln that they use to smoke their fish.

Elder Wollenzien helping out--bringing in the fishing boat.

New bathroom for deaf school boys.  They didn't have any sanitation facilities.

Elder Wollenzien even had them build a shower room as part of the bathroom for the deaf school boys

They use clear panels on the roof of the bathroom so that it won't be so dark inside.  It is like having a skylight.

This is a poster child of a will soon be dedicated and used, an area project of E/S Wollenzien's.   There is also a new bathroom for the school.  It is beautiful and wheelchair accessible.

A lady making soap.  I think they use palm oil as its base.  

An interesting day in Liberia

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I don’t think I’ve ever slept so long.  I took another cold pill and took it early.  I slept for 2 hours before waking up briefly at 11 PM.  I briefly turned on my lamp by my bed.  In Africa they typically have the on/off switches attached to the electrical cord.  After a short time I turned it off and it blew up!  It also blew the circuit in our room so we had no electricity.  We called the desk and they sent the electrician to reset our breakers so that our power came on.  When he carried my lamp away I noticed that the entire cord had been severed!  Like I said, this place has some serious electrical problems.  The good thing is that I went back to sleep anyway, and slept till 8 AM. 


Jim had felt so bad that he didn’t know if he’d be able to go this morning, but by 10 AM he was feeling better.  This time we were gone till 6 PM; it was a very long day, and in the middle of it the sun came out for a long time and so it was even more tiring.  The humidity is so high right now--adding the sun sapped our energy even more.  Elder Wollenzien drives so fast on bad roads that we wildly fly up and down in the back seat.  The best thing I did later in the afternoon was to eat an ice cream cup.  It is locally made and very good. It was pure comfort food and got me through me through to the end of the day.

These boys were playing ‘pool’ on this little table.  I am not sure how it works when there is nothing to catch their rocks when they hit them apart and they fly off. 

Today we saw more latrines, all working and surprisingly clean—most were public bathrooms with septic systems; we saw more wells and again all were working.  We did run into one that was not collecting money, so Morris is going back there on Saturday to rework the water committee and get them to start charging.  These pumps are lasting a long time, but most are still collecting, and that is the key to longevity.  The latrines are actually making money and most have added to their leech fields.  We told one group that if they wanted their septic tank cleaned out, that they could run a pipe to the street, put another tank there so that a truck could come and clean it out.  Then they wouldn’t have to build more leech fields.  I suspect that they will do it.  They have already done more on their own.

Two years ago a public bathroom was completed but it was in an area that also could not be reached by a truck, so the city said that they would hook it up to the city sewer if the community dug a trench and laid the pipe to the hook-up point.  They did that, a long time ago, and the city has been paid.  The official kept making excuses (this means that he was waiting for a bribe). The Church will not pay the bribe.  In the meantime the local lady that is over that area, is trying to get him removed for corruption.  The community is so tired of waiting for this to happen that they have finally decided that they will simply do it themselves.  They are capable but the government claimed that they ‘had to do it’ (the final hookup).  We are glad that the community is taking matters into their own hands.

This gal is missing one leg; she was demonstrating for us how she will get to use a bathroom on her own from her wheelchair when the turnover ceremony takes place.  What is holding up the turnover is that the community has to secure an open well for safety reasons, and remove the old, very horrible outhouses that are made of metal.  These new latrines have wheelchair ramps.  They have a few light-colored panels on the roof so that the bathrooms will not be so dark.  It is like having a skylight.

We had great fun when we watched the fishermen trying to bring in this fishing boat.  It was a tedious process, waiting for the waves to help them along.  They do this every day—getting the boats in and out of the water. Even Elder Wollenzien helped them pull.

There were rows and rows of beautiful, old fishing boats.

A hard but interesting day, checking on projects in Liberia.

Love, from the Palm Spring Resort Hotel

Checking on old projects in Liberia

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Nyquil comes in pill form and it knocked me out for the night; Jim had to wake me up at 8 AM so I could get ready to go.  I felt a bit better after having such a good sleep.   E/S Wollenzien picked us up at 9 AM and then we drove to pick up Morris.  He is their site monitor extraordinaire.  I think this means that he does a bit more than just monitoring.  He teaches the community development and hygiene training; he constantly goes back to check on the work that has been done to make sure that well committees are still functioning and to see if there are any problems.  He is also always on the phone checking with people.  LDSC has the reputation that ‘we WILL check on your project’; they know this, and it helps keep them working.

Everything we saw today was functioning, but maybe that was by design; we know that not everything will be.  We saw a variety of projects: hand pumps, latrines, and water towers.   There are several more paved roads in this area, but that didn’t keep us from leaving the tarmac for some jarring rides.  It didn’t rain much, but we still drove through deep, wide holes filled with water, but the worst were the small, muddy potholes that jerked us around as we drove, making us wish we were either walking or on the back of a motorbike.  Morris sat with Sister W. & me in the back—luckily Morris and Sister Wollenzien are small people. In the large marketplace areas the paths were narrow, muddy and strewn with trash. 

All the wells that we saw today were working; they check on them frequently; they are collecting money; they have a strong well caretaker; each had painted on them the donor (LDSC), the contractor, and the community that was to maintain it. (below)

This is a public latrine in the marketplace; they are collecting money and therefore making some extra.  They have already had it pumped out once and are planning on making the septic tank area larger.  

This is one of 3 water points we saw.  The tanks are on a high tower and they get city water; it is then gravity fed to the taps below.  They sell it because the caretaker pays a fee to the city for his or her water bill.  This one was very clean and the concrete was good.  They found a way to lock the taps—it needs a special key to get the water, which effectively keeps people from using it without paying.  The tank is on a tower above left in the picture, not shown.

We stopped by a small school where E/S Wollenzien are building a latrine.  They required that the young man who runs the school build them a bridge over the large ditch so that they could get into the school to work; he built a very nice bridge, wide enough for a car to drive over.  He was also required to clean up his area.

 8-month-old little girl, watching as her mom pumps the water.

We stopped by another school where LDSC had built them a latrine.  LDSC had also given them desks a while back.  When asked to see the desks, they learned that they had all been broken.  So Elder Wollenzien is requiring his carpenter to make furniture with screws instead of nails.  He bought a drill that he lets the carpenter use and buys Philips screws, which are hard to find, for him to use in his work.  If they build this way, their desks will last a whole lot longer.  He told his carpenter to start saving money to buy his own drill so that his product will last.  They use just nails for the hinges on the latrine doors, and that is why they are usually hanging on one hinge shortly thereafter—all they need is better tools and equipment and things would last a whole lot longer.  Elder Wollenzien is showing them how to make a proper mix on the concrete also.  
These projects were completed in either 2013 or 2015.  The latter project was completed even during Ebola with no oversight by LDSC couples.  They have done a pretty good job of it.  The key is having a good team on the ground and then everything works better. 

By the end of the day I felt quite a bit better; Jim, on the other hand, got sick again and felt terrible…

Love, from Liberia

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Water Aid Travel Day

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Last night I fell asleep quickly but awoke at 3 AM, never going back to sleep.  I could have nodded off about 5 or so, but since I had to get up at 6 I knew I would never wake up at the appointed time.  I was coming down with Jim’s cold last night, but was hoping to feel okay today.  I thought about staying home but also thought I shouldn’t be such a baby.  The Water Aid driver was on time so we departed at 7 AM.  It was raining fairly heavily and I began to feel worse.  I devised a way to go back without having them turn around.  I knew that the Royal Grand Hotel was near to where the Wollenzien’s live and it was also right ahead of where we were going and on the main road.  We called the Wollenzien’s and they didn’t answer.  They decided to drive me back.  I felt really bad because the traffic even at that hour was heavy and in the rain it was very slow going.  But they didn’t complain and took me back without making me feel bad.  I was so relieved.  I slept, washed lots of clothes, read, watched TV and slept some more.  I felt lousy all day so I was glad to be at the hotel.  I never left my room, even having them bring my lunch to me.

When I heard Jim’s report of the long jaunt of the day, I was so glad I didn’t go, and he said it wasn’t all that bad getting out of town and on their way.  He also said that the car was very full with other people joining them, so maybe they were glad to get rid of me!  All I know is that they were very unruffled about it—very kind.

They drove a couple of hours to get to the offices of another NGO that would be the implementing partner for Water Aid.  The further they went the worse the conditions got in the rain so they stayed in 4-wheel drive. They introduced each other at the offices of SLPP (Sustainable Livelihood Promotion Programme).  Water Aid has worked with them before and feel that they do a good job.  They are using another group for the other area that they want to work in; it is a group that was recommended but one that they had not used themselves yet.  They are located in the other part of the project, going in the opposite direction, in Montserrado County.  There they are using PHIL (Public Health Initiative) because they work in that area.

The offices of SLPP in Gbarpolu County, an implementing partner of Water Aid.

They drove out to see two schools where this group had built latrines with water stations and hand pumps.  There was a community in the distance that they say will also benefit from the hand pump.  Water Aid likes to work in remote areas that are hard to get to and watch—I think these schools were another 20-30 minutes away from their base, a doable distance for monitoring a project. 

The latrine block for the school; 4 stalls for the boys and 3 for the girls—what?  Isn’t this backwards?  Some of the doors stuck because they had swollen—if not fixed the locks will be broken in the first week.  The concrete work was pretty good.  It is a vented septic and latrine system—nice.  They have pictures on the building to remind the children to wash their hands at those 2 round concrete water containers.  They will bring the water from the well to wash with and a larger bucket and then smaller one to flush with.

The construction was okay on the latrines and hand pumps, even though there were still a few typical construction problems with the latrine doors.  No matter who does the work, it is still going to be with local standards and not ours.  But the concrete work both on the latrines and pump were good, at least they look that way now—since they have just been completed and are not being used, they look nice.  Their well fences were of bamboo, but beautifully done.

A decent design for the toilet.

They went to lunch at an African place, so Jim bought a soda and some crackers/cookies from the local people.  They are so cheap (about 20 cents) that he bought some, ate some, bought some more, and gave them back to the kids around there including the girl that sold them to him.  He said you would have thought it was Christmas by how excited they got.  This never gets old…

I like this fence that they built around the entire well, including the soak away. 

This was the poorer of the two schools.  There are weeds growing in the dirt and some rocks here and there.  It reminds me of a school we worked on while in Kenya, except the Kenya school was even worse than this one.

Love, from my room at the Palm Spring

Water Aid and the Palm Spring Resort Hotel

Monday, August 8, 2016

Today we were out in the lobby by 8 AM, but the driver did not show up till after 8:30.  The driver took us to the offices of Water Aid, which was fairly close except for the traffic that made it seem further away.  They spent the entire morning presenting their philosophies, values, how they work, meeting their staff, showing us their offices, all with a power point presentation.  We went to lunch nearby where the driver, Amos, and our main host, Pius, had African food such as foo foo and spicy hot foods to go with it.  He had to ask the waitress to bring us a menu for continental food.  Jim had a steak sandwich and I had a fish burger that tasted a lot like hamburger.  Both were good and ‘almost’ American. We had to wait a long time for our food—Amos and Pius were finished by the time it showed up, but we eat fast.

The boardroom at the offices of Water Aid.  They have a parcel of workers from drivers to just about everything else you can think of, more than are shown in this picture; they also had a small fleet of land cruisers and sedans. 

After one more power point presentation at the office, they drove us an hour or so out of town just to look at a job that they did not implement, but supported.  That is apparently the way that they do their work.  They had rehabbed a drilled borehole well and gave them a new generator to pump water to a tank way above the building that is being refurbished by the government.  It is a large clinic.  The well and the tanks on high towers were already there.   It was a total mess inside but some rooms already had tiled floors.  There were also other partners.  One of their goals (Water Aid) is to assist the local governments to do what they are supposed to do, but the WASH sector does not receive enough funds to do very much on their own.  They are trying to get all government agencies to come to these meetings to coordinate all their work.  This is the same meeting that NGO’s also attend, and they have them in each District.  In Kenema District they received two motorbikes and refreshments for their meeting with NGO’s—all from Water Aid.  They don’t want to take over their work, they just want to help them do what the different government ministries are supposed to do.

This is the building being refurbished by the government of Liberia, with a few donors to help them, including Water Aid that refurbished their borehole and water supply system.  Water Aid tries to help local governments do what they are supposed to do; local governments don’t have enough money to operate at this point. This will be a nice clinic when they are finished.

This structure was already there; Water Aid fixed it so that it would work, including a new generator; there is no city power available here.

During our drive we noticed how much better the roads were (bless the Chinese).  I wonder what resources they received from Liberia for doing this.  We noticed a marked improvement on the main roads that used to have hills of trash, especially near the main, open marketplace.  That was all gone.  We did see trash, but it was in certain areas and they only had a layer of garbage instead of the ‘mountains’ that we used to see.  Pius said that they have garbage collection companies now and that they are independent and it is working.  It will be interesting to see if the inner communities still have their hills of trash that we saw before.  We also noticed some of our earlier hand pumps that were out by the road.  We drove by too fast to know if they were still working or not, but they all appeared to be.  They have hours of operation and we were passing by at the wrong time of day to know for sure. 
It has been interesting as we travel around in West Africa that workers at the airport and in other places are always sticking one of those temperature wands towards our ears to see if we have a fever.  Even when we got to the Water Aid office they asked us first to wash our hands.  Now this was interesting, because anyone that knows anything about hygiene would not just wash their hands with running water—you are supposed to use soap. They had no soap.  So here we were washing our hands with plain, cool water!  I wasn’t sure how that could work.  Afterwards they also stuck the wand near our ears before we entered their offices.  Everyone is still worried about Ebola, obviously. It was just another devastating thing to happen to their countries—first the 14 year war, a nice break of several years, and then Ebola.
Our hotel: yes, it has deteriorated a bit since we were last here several years ago, but it is doable anyway.  One of the biggest problems is electrical in nature: all their plugs are loose, so our lights flicker on and off if we accidentally touch a cord.  We thought it was our power strip that didn’t work, but it was the socket for the main cord that was the problem.  I nearly pulled out the entire socket in the bathroom after putting my blow dryer in it and then trying to get it out again—I thought I’d ruined the whole thing, but I shoved it back in the wall and it is still working.  The handle on the sink faucet is very loose also, so we hold onto it when we pull up on the handle so that we don’t jerk it out of what’s holding it together.  We asked for a new lightbulb in the bathroom but we think it is the socket and not the bulb, but they haven’t fixed it.  We asked for the hand towel that we used have, but they didn’t bring it either.  But the bed is fine and the air conditioner works great and there is a TV and it is roomy and comfortable. 

This is a beautiful pool.  The hotel is on the right across the drive.  Sometimes we don’t have time to use it; today it is not only the weather that deters us (it is not that cool but a bit rainy) but we have colds and thought it would not help us get better…perhaps next time we’ll be here in the dry season and we’ll be dying to get in here for a swim at the end of a hot and humid day.

We noted that they also now have a very nice gym and a beautiful pool across the drive in front of the hotel entrance.  They are still re-building the structure next to it, but it appears that the bathroom works in case you want to change clothes.  It sounds wonderful except that when we might want to swim it is in the middle of the day when the sun might be out.  By the time we get back we are too tired and too late and it is usually raining.  The water was neither cold nor warm to the touch.  I also wish I had the food at the last hotel, but what we’ve had is okay.  We are happy enough.
I had a terrible night’s sleep last night so hope to get to bed early and have a nice sleep.  Tomorrow we meet them at 7 AM for a long drive (2-3 hours) out to one of the areas that they want to work in.  And we aren’t supposed to get back till late dinnertime.

Love, from the Palm Spring Resort Hotel

Monday, August 8, 2016

Not so fun travels to Liberia

Saturday, August 6, 2016

I spent Thursday and Friday working on reports, and on Saturday Jim and I worked together writing and sending our reports; I’m happy to say that we are finally caught up.  We got to say goodbye one more time to Amarachi as she had to take a bus here to drive Jonathan back home; he has been slow to recover from malaria.  E/S Carley came by so that we could visit one last time before we left for Liberia and discuss some of the water projects that he will be doing as area initiatives.
E/S Miner, the office couple, took us to Church in the morning.  We attended the 9-12 meeting, and returned to the hotel, ordered lunch for all of us, and finished last-minute packing and changing of clothes for our travel back over the water and then on a plane to Liberia.  We had a lovely visit, getting to know them a little bit.  At the beginning (at Church) of the meeting they had confirmed a young man, another man a little older, and an older lady, members of the Church.  The Church is exploding here!  Sunday school went 20 minutes over, and then it was R.S.  We left right at 12 though because we had to get to the boat dock and they tend to not care how long the meetings go—they don’t have much else to do on Sundays. 

Elder & Sister Miner at the boat dock.

Did I tell you how much I dislike our travel days?  This one was even worse than I expected.  Miner’s drove us quickly to the boat dock after departing from the hotel at 1:30—I was sad!  I loved that hotel room and the food!  When we arrived at the boat dock it was pouring rain, but men were there with large umbrellas to get us inside without us getting too wet.  We were supposed to leave at 2, but it left by 2:30.  The sea was still rough, and this one African woman was freaking out—they are terrified of water because many do not swim and she wanted them to slow down.  It was a little stuffy in there with all the plastic on the windows to keep us dry, and I could tell some were a little seasick, but it only takes 30 minutes now with the newer boats.
After our journey across the water it became an uncomfortable experience.  It was very hot and humid and even though they have stand-alone cooler units, they didn’t seem to be on or couldn’t get ahead of the stifling heat and too many hot bodies.  Jim had his little piece of cloth like they use here for sweat, and he was whipping his face and body continually.  I could see that he had sweated right through his shirt.  We waited in endless lines but finally got to the check-in desk.  Jim showed them our itinerary and they said someone had cancelled our tickets!  I guess they expected us to check-in online.  I don’t know why—they refuse to assign seats until you check in personally.  Thankfully they had room for us, and then we were trying to get our seats; she couldn’t understand us and we couldn’t understand her.  It was also very noisy in there.  So I ended up on an aisle seat at the back of the plane, the very last row.  Jim ended up in the bulkhead at the front of the section—he has all the luck... 

After we had gone through the check, they took my empty water bottle.  Another guy asked why they did that because Jim got to keep his. Then we bought another bottle of water right where you go out to get on the plane.  Then they checked our carry-on and took THAT bottle away too.  I was so annoyed!  We had just bought the bottle in the same room!
We were on a Brussels Airline flight to Liberia that was just under an hour.  After the flight we were last to check in with our passports to get into Liberia because Jim had to wait for me to catch up to him.  The flight was short but so were our tempers…you have to realize that I write in this journal/letter to vent my frustrations.  It helps a lot to make me see the funny side of things.

It was otherwise a nice flight in a larger plane than we thought it would be.  When we finally got out of the airport we saw that two couples had come to pick us up.  The Wollenzien’s were there since they are the humanitarian couple, but the Mission President and his wife were also there and we wondered why.  It was because another couple was on the same plane that we never saw.  They will be doing MLS.  I think they lost some luggage so it took them forever to get out of the airport.  Luckily we got to leave with Wollenzien’s for our hotel.  We are expected to be ready at 8 AM tomorrow so that Water Aid can convince us to be donors for a water and sanitation project that they want to do here in Liberia. 

Wollenzien’s drove us to the Palm Spring Resort Hotel somewhere in between the airport and Monrovia proper.  They had told us that others were staying at a better hotel in Monrovia, but we declined, even though they said that the Palm Spring had deteriorated and was not as good as it used to be; we decided to stay there anyway because of a significant difference in the price.  It will just have to do.  But I sorely miss the hotel in Freetown, with its chefs and wonderful food and American mattress and American bathroom—it was a lovely place to stay and so pristine—and with the Church discount is was more than reasonable.

One of our favorite dishes at the Brookfields Hotel restaurant.  All the food looked pretty, and tasted as good as it looked. 

We arrived after 10 PM, so we had a lot to do to get unpacked and ready for bed so as to be up in time to get ready in the morning.  I am glad we are here long enough to unpack!  We went to sleep very late.