We last left our star-crossed lovers as the warm ocean waves crossed the atoll and gently washed their bod…OOPS! That’s my other blog…sorry.
I meant to say…We last left Sam on his way back to Gbarnga as the cement delivery truck preceded his path to the work site. Sam and the cement arrived safely that evening and the plan made during last night’s phone calling was for youth volunteers and some community members to help him unload the 16 tons of cement bags. The only hitch was that the youth didn’t have transportation to the site so an agreement was made that Sam would pick them up in Gbarnga by the police station and also at St. Mark’s at 6am sharp. Another of my luxurious air conditioned nights at the LCL compound came to a close with the sound of my phone ringing…6:45am and it was Sam. This couldn’t be good. The cement delivery truck got stuck in the mud on the access road, plus Sam couldn’t get his jeep around it to get the youth helpers. On top of it, no community members were there except two elderly men. I made some phone calls trying to re-arrange transportation for youth and investigate why community members hadn’t arrived. The issue of no-food-no-volunteering came up again…wasn’t this resolved?! I said I’d feed them if they would just get there and help unload. I was assured men were on their way.
10am rolls around and I checked in with Sam…no community members. The few youth that did show up thought this was training for how to use the blockmaking machine (where this confusion came from I’ll NEVER understand!) so they were not there to help. Sam and his handful of guys unloaded the entire shipment themselves. This entailed unloading from the truck to ground level then carrying each 110lb. bag about 100 yards down the wet access road, over the log bridge, and up the incline leading to the temporary warehouse. I’m sure it was exhausting to say the least. I’ll be having a serious conversation with the locals when I get back to Gbarnga….hopefully tomorrow.
While stranded in Monrovia, I decided it was time to take action and start truck shopping. We need a big truck to haul supplies over the next several years as this school campus is constructed and it’s time to separate ourselves from the rental costs (and liability) associated with the LCL vehicles. After looking at a few places, I took the plunge and purchased a new FOTON 3-ton flatbed cargo truck with drop-down sides on the bed (spec’s for the auto geeks: FOTON partners with MERCEDES DAIMLER, 195″L x 74″W x 88″H, 3-ton hauling capacity, GVW 8,311 lbs., ISUZU BJ493ZQ/Euro II 2,771 liter 4-cylinder engine). Here’s a photo of my bouncing new 3-ton baby:
The registration process will be completed by the dealer which involves him paying import duty, filing registration papers, and then giving me a receipt with the paper temporary “plates” (finals could take 3 days or 3 months). At that point, I take everything to get insurance. At home, the process is reversed such that the state requires insurance before registering (which makes more sense to me). The dealer registration processing fee is $50 which he says only partially goes to them…the rest is used to “ease the process” along the way (wink wink!). Payment was wired today so I hope to be back in Monrovia next week to pick it up…then load it up with supplies for the return trip.
After my online banking was completed (which entailed having a conference call with Bank of America and Kathy), I was informed the LCL’s truck repair would not be completed until Friday morning so I’m in for another night at the Monrovia guesthouse. I called Dr. Henry Konuwa, president of the Gbarnga Rotary Club because I was scheduled to join them this evening at their monthly meeting. I received an email a few days ago confirming our total “mega grant” through the Rotary for water wells, sanitation system, toilets, educational supplies, and a vocational training project has topped out at a whopping $90,000. I really wanted to meet this group since we’ll be working closely over the next 10-11 months of the grant. Fortunately, the Rotary “District Governor” will be in town next Thursday and Henry invited me to speak to all of them at that time…good news! the rest of my day was spent revising some drawings, entering receipts and expenses, a phone call to Leon, and a delicious chicken Caesar wrap at the Royal Hotel.
As I sat consuming my rolled sandwich of delight and a mound of steaming french fries, I surveyed the well appointed dining room with a nationally diverse clientele. Eavesdropping on several conversations, I realized I was surrounded by the international movers and shakers of the development world. A man with an embroidered CDC logo on his dress shirt, a woman discussing a draft grant from the World Bank with a colleague, someone from the UN Mission in Liberia, a pair of women with uniforms (one from South Korea, the other from Eastern Europe), still others discussing entrepreneurial ventures aimed at lifting people out of Liberia’s poverty. Hints of French, English, German, Asian, and African voices accented by head scarves, pinstriped suits, and designer accessories. Sheltered diplomats, sipping their lemonades (with ice cubes of pure filtered water) and cappuccinos, surfing the free wifi on laptops and smartphones, enjoying the sanitarily cleaned mixed greens and the themed buffet line…while women on the street outside deftly balanced trays of 5 cent goods they hoped to sell to feed their families just a portion of what might be discarded tonight by the elite inside. I wondered how many of my dinner companions making decisions from such comfort have actually sat next to–and talked with–a 40 year old woman (who looks 60) in a mud-built village in the bush while she weaves a fishing net from reeds, fearing her children wearing American secondhand clothing won’t have much of a better future.
Let’s pray for a better tomorrow…an equally better tomorrow…for everyone.
“Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13)