When I was a child, one of my favorite Matchbox cars was a yellow Land Rover with the spare tire on the rear. I had always loved Africa from the Tarzan-Jane-Cheeta-the-chimp viewpoint and definitely not in the go-build-a-Christian-school perspective. So last night was, in a way, fulfillment of a childhood dream as I drove alone down the bumpy access
road through the bush from the school property using Sam’s LandCruiser. After being blockaded by the two sand haulers making their final deliveries for the day, it started getting dark once I hit the Gbarnga Hwy. Driving at night in Liberia is a syncopation of flashing high beams, beeping horns, and swerving to avoid potholes. I was glad to arrive at Phebe in one piece…I liked driving in the bush better than the highway!
After my Sunday morning oatmeal breakfast, I dressed for church and watched a line of people heading down the dirt road outside my guesthouse. I decided to follow some of them and asked if they were going to church. They acknowledged and I joined them. I ended up in Sunday School with at least 75 kids ranging from preschool to high school in a single room. I decided to stay for the experience. Initially there was order as the children sang and listened to the leaders (3 twenty-something men). While one teacher shared the story of Jonah, another teacher strolled back and forth among the crowd of kids with a stick that he occasionally wielded to create order among inattentive or sometimes sleeping attendees. Some of the girls (probably aged 12-14) held sleeping babies that they deftly cared for throughout the lesson. As with most school rooms, the rowdy group was way in the back. Gradually the relative harmony of such a large class disintegrated after two hours and turned to a cacophony of Bible teaching, roaming preschoolers, and disinterested high schoolers, Late in the class, visitors stood up to be acknowledged and they asked me to come forward to explain my visit. Apparently my English was not Liberian-English enough because the teacher had to translate everything I said and the kids finally understood my goal of a school in Gbarnga.
After lunch I tried to take my weekly Sunday siesta but was interrupted by several phone calls. I ended up meeting with Sumo to work through our “volunteer feeding” issues. I emphasized my desire for a better partnership that was less adversarial feeling. Thanks to contributions that were made online via this blog, the volunteer feeding will be financially supported (although I encouraged the Liberians to fund raise a bit on their own much like the youth did during the 4 1/2 hour long service to share in the financial sacrifice). I dropped Sumo off along the highway and stopped at the work site to meet with Sam Bundo. Several women had been transporting crushed rock so I needed to pay them their daily wage. I stopped along the access road to visit the rock crushing crew who was putting in a Sunday shift also. You’ll notice in the photos that they use fire to make the boulders crack easier so they can break chunks off for easier crushing.
Sam and I also met with the owner of the boulders, Abraham, from which we were extracting our crushed rock. After the usual negotiating with Abraham, we agreed on a price for enough to do our entire school campus. His wife (I think) gave me one of the fresh-picked squash she was unloading from her harvest. I enjoyed some delicious ramen noodles with squash for dinner that evening…the first real crunchy green vegetable I’ve had in weeks.