My Phebe guesthouse-mate, Bruce Moilan, is a retired hospital administrator, now Lutheran lay minister, who has been coming to West Africa for the last three years. He has some interesting connections with staff members at Phebe Hospital, including the hospital administrator, Dr. Sibley, whom he hosted for a month in the US some time back. He’s been sharing a lot of tips for life in Liberia as an American, some more useful than others. He is well stocked with food and generous with his sharing. This morning he offered some of his ham and salami for my lunch plus had a delicious looking breakfast of pancakes with a side of ham and eggs prepared by Steven that he encouraged me to partake in but I had already filled myself with another delicious serving of oatmeal. I think pancakes are on my menu for Sunday breakfast!
Today was much of the same at the work site–in a good way. Block makers were very busy molding blocks to let them dry thoroughly in preparation for Monday while the masons have moved skyward with the newly constructed stick scaffolding in place. Shouts of “mortar, mortar, mortar” and “block, block, block” (more like “mawta, mawta, mawta” and “blah, blah, blah”) in rapid fire succession echoed across the site as the elevated masons demanded more supplies to buoy their brisk block laying beat. Occasional words were exchanged as the skilled masons complained of the slow supply chain management skills of their lesser-skilled assistants. Sand hauling continued with baby FOTON and I opted out of accompanying every load to save myself from the side-splitting rutted-road ride into the bush. I only joined the sand crew when it was time to negotiate and purchase more sand piles. We’ve gotten into a rhythm with the “sand people” by the river across the highway and we seem to have an understanding about how much a particular sand pile is worth (we’re averaging $30-40 now compared to the other location which was in the $70-100 range). Several of the teenage girls by the school property are acting like teenagers everywhere as they plead to ride in the back of the truck just for the fun of it.
In this photo you’ll see one of the “sand women mothers” crossing a creek on a narrow log bridge with a heavy bag of damp river sand balanced on her head. This woman and I have negotiated for a number of her sand piles. After giving her the cash for our agreed upon price, she accused me of cheating her on this pile of sand as we began bargaining for her second pile. I explained that if she was not satisfied she should say NO and walk away just as I would do likewise. She smirked and negotiations continued…she never mentioned being cheated again knowing that we will be continuous customers for the duration of our school project.
I spent some time today doing a “perc test” to see what issues we might encounter during our septic system construction. Sam dug a 24″x24″x30″ deep hole into which we placed 2″ of crushed rock and a measuring stick. We filled the hole with water hauled in buckets by a couple of young kids hanging around the site and began timing a 1″ drop as the water infiltrated the ground. Perc rate numbers looked good to me (Doug Larson this is for you: 1st run=40 sec, 2nd run=1:05, 3rd run=1:28, the full 6″ drop to the crushed rock on the 3rd run took 11:10). Although this wasn’t precisely where the school’s septic would be (the “volunteers” haven’t brushed that far yet), I think it gives me hope that a septic design can be accomplished without hauling in literal tons of sand and gravel.
As the day came to a close, the crenelations of our warehouse castle had been completed, awaiting the top steel-reinforced casting to stiffen the upper perimeter’s structure. These six crenels will be protected by cast-in-place square steel rod to allow light into the warehouse and hopefully nothing (or no one) else. As this was the 2 week construction milestone, it was pay day for the primary workers who receive their wages biweekly unless they opt to “stay” (we hold their earnings until a future date…maybe this is a method of self-limiting their spending habits?). I had prepared envelopes for each worker last night based on a thorough checklist system that Sam uses to track time, rate, and total wages…very easy for me except no one likes US singles so payments like $28 are made via a combination of US$20 + US$5 + $255 Liberian dollars (the exchange rate up here is around $85 Liberian dollars to $1 US dollar). It’s hard to imagine it’s only been 2 weeks. Truss construction starts Monday and the building is just a week away from having a roof on it!
Tomorrow I plan to attend worship at the Deanville mission church where Sumo is the evangelist. I told one of the 11 year old boys, Big Boy (yes, that’s his name) who attends this church that I would be joining him and needed a friend to sit next to. I hope he seeks me out, although there are about 40-50 members so it shouldn’t be hard to find him.