The rainy season was supposed to have ended a month ago, but it has showered nearly every night I’ve been here. Fortunately, the sun has been out more, drying the roads, and helping us to get stuck in the mud less often. The road conditions have swiftly aged our little FOTON truck. I’d say it’s equivalent to dog years except every day in Liberia is more like a year of wear and tear on a vehicle. Let’s see, the paint is scraped off the sides of the bed, the driver’s side quarter panel has been dented, the passenger side tail light is broken, one of the drop-down sides of the bed has lost one of its hinge pins, and the windshield has a crack in the driver’s side corner that has begun to creep. Who knows what the suspension looks like. For kicks, I used an inclinometer on one of the apps I have and it hit about a 30° side-to-side angle on one road as we hauled a heavy load of sand…it feels more like 90° when sitting in the passenger’s seat.
Back on more level ground, I spent time relocating some of the school building markers…again (I fear situating buildings in the wrong place!) so that I felt comfortable with space for a road. As I walked over and around piles of brush, the red ants shared their anger with me for disturbing the place by crawling up my pants. Yes, they bite! It reminded me of the time when I was little and I upset a bees nest in an old well by playing with the hand pump. I got stung by something like 14 bees with the last one getting me when I got home as it waited up my pants for just the right moment. I don’t know how these people can stand wearing just flip flops everywhere with these kinds of critters around. I still can’t believe how at least half the construction crew works in nothing but flip flops while using a power tools, mixing cement, and laying blocks.
The plastering was completed today and we picked up the welded steel security doors. Unfortunately, the welder didn’t construct the big door as we discussed but I think it will work fine. It’s a massive item to move and quite a few men were needed to carry it to its final resting place in the concrete opening. It’s being welded in place to steel rods captured in the poured concrete pillars.
While sand was being hauled, about 5 men continued brushing the last areas of land around the new building locations so burning could begin for clearing the mounds of accumulated grass, branches, and stumps. Clearly this is not an environmentally friendly method but there’s no access to heavy equipment or places to dispose of construction/yard waste. The surrounding undisturbed bush is so thick, green, and moist that the fire doesn’t spread. As this was happening, I walked to the nearby village to visit with the family of my little friend, Moses. I met his Mama, Papa, two sisters, and one brother…but not his other sisters and brothers that “live in the bush” (whatever that means). It’s common for men to have multiple wives (if not girlfriends) resulting in large extended sibling groups. In this picture, you’ll see Mama roasting peanuts in a pot. She puts them in small plastic bags (maybe about 1/4 cup of nuts) to sell on the street or at the market for about 10¢. She taught me about “tobbogi” (pronounced “toe-bah-GEE”). When you add “soda” to a soup like cassava greens, it becomes “cassava tobbogi”. They seem to like it quite a bit.
His Papa was very proud of a new chicken coop he constructed and brought me over to show me all the details of how safe the chickens were. To earn some money, he weaves mats from reeds collected in the bush. I took the left-hand photo of him last year (nearly 2 years before I knew who he was) and you’ll notice he’s still wearing the same red shirt (kind of like what I do!).
I found out the school property is adjacent to one of the unfinished mansions being constructed for former President Charles Taylor (embezzler of government money, supporter of child soldiers, and generally evil guy). It looks like abandoned Roman ruins (seen in the background of this photo). Most of the locals call the road we drive down “Charles Taylor Road” so when I’m describing the dirt road cutoff to our property, that’s usually the name by which they recognize our location.
I just got a phone call from Sam (it’s around 7:00pm) that the truck loaded with 525 bags of sand and over 250 pieces of steel rebar arrived from Monrovia, subsequently got stuck on the muddy road, and the driver wants to unload it tonight. I will not be joining them but Saah, my driver, will head over with the truck to assist. Every day seems to have one surprise or another.