Wednesday, August 10, 2016

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

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