Week 1 – Charge, Rinse, Repeat

First, some GPS coordinates for you…This is where I’m staying in Phebe (7° 1′ 32.12″N, 9° 33′ 6.67″W). This is where the property is (7° 1′ 12″N, 9° 30′ 25″W).

Second, I have not been able to send emails since the weekend (I can receive fine, but outgoing emails are blocked). My theory is Verizon sees an IP address from Africa and categorizes with those Nigerian-prince-wanting-to-transfer-money spam emails. I’ve done tech support chat with Verizon and did what they told, but no luck.  Since I can’t email anyone, I’m appealing via this blog to Kathy and anyone else who might be able to contact Verizon to get this fixed.  Here is one of the error messages I get: email error

I started off today with a nice bowl of oatmeal that I cooked for myself on the propane stove in the kitchen and enjoyed on the screened porch (a nice setting but what you can’t see is how humid it is already!). I bought some supplies in Monrovia, unsure of what I’d find for markets in Phebe. I also brought some maple syrup and honey from the US…the oatmeal was awesome with syrup! I do miss my orange juice, though, so I’ll be in search of some bottled juice at the gas station market.  The guesthouse is a bit like camping in an Appalachian Trail hut.  There are bathrooms with toilets that don’t flush, bedrooms with bug netting, a kitchen with a camp stove, and a screened area. Power only goes on between 6:30pm and 7:00am, the water only goes on between around 6:30am and maybe noon (otherwise there are buckets filled with water in each bathroom for flushing/bathing), and cooking is on a match-lit propane stove with a rusted burner trivet that almost doesn’t hold the pot.  It takes some coordination to remember to charge my phone/computer only at night, shower quickly in the morning since the water may not last, cook before it’s dark during the “dead zone” of 5:30-6:30pm, and hope that a thunderstorm doesn’t knock out the power (like it just did 5 minutes ago…only got 30 minutes of electric tonight). There’s an interesting mix of 110V and 220V outlets that are identical to our US outlet prongs so they have duct tape signs that warn of 220V…luckily I haven’t fried anything yet. Here are photos inside the guesthouse:

1bed1office1pantry1bath1kitchen1porch    1hammock

There is an older gentleman, Steven, who is the caretaker for the guesthouse I’m staying at and he is available for cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, etc.  No offense, Steven, but I spent a good deal of time cleaning around my bathroom before I felt comfortable in there…guys– especially older guys- are “cleaning impaired”. I had taken time in the evening to wash a complete set of dishes, utensils, and pots to my standards and set them aside.  Apparently when Steven arrived in the morning, he put them away for me…oops.  I’m keeping them in my room now since the utensil draw has spiders crawling around and the cabinets have cobwebs on many of the dishes. Because the kitchen, ironically, isn’t a place I want to store food, you’ll see the small pantry I’ve set up on the shelving unit in my bedroom.  Anything that is open or may have an attractive odor to some creature is in a ziploc bag.  That’s one of the best things I packed (next time, I’ll bring more).

Our meeting under the tree

I neglected to share that my driver, Saah, is a 28 year old quiet guy who navigates the potholes very well. He sleeps someplace near my guesthouse and is basically on call for driving me anywhere. I pay for fuel as we go and eventually I’ll be paying him a daily rate. This morning we drove about 5 minutes down the road to Cuttington University so I could check out the only bank ATM near me (I wanted to make sure it actually existed!). Then, on about another 25 minutes due to road construction the St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.

Sengbey (L), Jon, Rev. Weekie (R)
Sengbey (L), Jon, Rev. Weekie (R)

I met with Pastor Weekie, Nathaniel Sumo (they call him an “evangelist” and will be the one we work most closely with for this school project), Jackson Sengbey (council chair), and another gentleman you’ll see in the photo that I can’t recall. We will be getting a good deal of their support including 20-25 volunteers to brush the land and carry building materials in (which is a long walk!). One of the village “mothers” will be cooking and providing water for the work crew. We need a place to store building materials (mostly 350 bags of cement @ 110lbs. each) so they can be transported to the temporary warehouse we need to build first. We drove to a small village, parked the truck and walked through the bush to the property. 1bushjon 1bushwalk 1property

Much of the brushing that was done before the January 2014 groundbreaking is overgrown. I took some GPS coordinates and attempted to get some elevations but my iPhone wasn’t much help. The big issue we have in making any progress is getting a road in. With the rainy season, they still don’t seem to work on roads. Not sure how much Sam can do once the brushing is done…and there’s a lot of if to be done. Sam is coming from Monrovia tomorrow to visit the site and talk about our next steps–I hope he sees some steps we can take!

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