Spoiled Cement Truck

I dropped off John 2 at Cemenco in Monrovia at 8:00am to accompany the flatbed truck driver back to the school site. We met our contact person, Schaacks, who informed us the cement had been loaded the night before and all they needed to do was load the 1/2″ and 1/4″ steel rebar. I departed with baby Foton to do my errands and drive back to Gbarnga and I expected to see John 2 again around 2:00 in the afternoon.  Well, I got a call around 11:30am that they were finally on the road…what took that long I’ll never know.

You’ll recall I was picking up supplies at Eagle, solar panels, and a hydrological report.  The Eagle shopping was short because I only needed a few items and wanted to make sure I had sufficient space for the solar panels.  I departed Eagle and knew approximately where IMG_4357ELWA Hospital was but not the specific shipment pickup location. I drove in the general direction after agreeing by phone on a meeting place where the Water Missions people would escort me the rest of the way.  It was a beautiful site to see those solar panels being loaded on baby Foton. I strapped them down with heavy-duty ratchet straps in the hope of keeping them from falling victim to the rough ride ahead to Gbarnga.

I arrived at the Lifewater Liberia compound across from the University of Liberia – Fendall campus and found some of the solar panels had shifted.  With the aid of a guard at Lifewater, I repacked the stack with cardboard spacers to cushion them and re-affixed the straps. I met Saye Woquoi from Lifewater and reviewed his hydrological report.  I had a few suggestions and asked if he could make a revision to email by tomorrow.  He agreed and I was on the road again.  I drove as carefully as possible given the pothole potpourri (or is it “pothole-pourri”) I encountered, especially on the dirt detour around the town of Kakata…a very crude roadway!

I was expecting to see the flatbed truck because I had arrived around 2:30 (they estimated around 2:00) but it wasn’t there.  I pulled into the warehouse with my precious cargo and we began unloading…wire, connectors, solar controller, chlorination piping, level switch, then the solar panels. I was very distressed to see the third one from the bottom in the stack of 9 panels was shattered.  It looks like tempered glass with a clear film because it was tiny pieces rather than large cracks but everything was still contained and fortunately not scattered across the truck bed. It was a sad moment!

The delivery truck had not arrived so we finally reached John 2 around 5:30 and they were still slowly making their way north. Recalling the last late-night cement loading event, I decided to leave baby Foton to be used in hauling cement back and forth, and I’d take a motorbike back to Phebe.

Our cement delivery saga continues…I hadn’t heard from John 2 in a while then the next phone call I received was at 7:45pm – yes, that’s nearly 12 hours from when he was dropped off – that the flatbed had broken down in Totota (about 1 hour away in perfect driving conditions).  As they say here, the truck was “spoiled”…I later found out the brakes went and had to be replaced before proceeding.  I didn’t expect to hear they had a mechanic there until the next morning so I thought it best to get up early to purchase a small batch of cement in Gbarnga to keep the workers going while the truck situation was resolved.  I took an early motorbike to Deanville, walked the path through the two small villages while people greeted me and one of “my boys” joined me on the path to our school site. As I’m nearing the clearing, I hear the sound of baby Foton in the distance…it was down the access road.  Turns out the mechanic fixed the vehicle that evening, John 2 and the truck driver completed the late-night journey then slept in the truck on the roadside.  When I walked up to the workers to find out what was going on, many of them weren’t around because they were down the road hauling cement with baby Foton.  Looks like John 2 had a long night, but the cement delivery was not going to delay wall-building work.

IMG_4362The guesthouse walls have been rising. In this photo, the workers are standing near the future sink and toilet in one of the two bathrooms. With the assistance of my under-aged work crew, I’ve been doing plumbing in the school bathrooms (yes, Kathy, I’m doing “actual work” and not just eating bon bons telling the Liberians what to do). The boys have been enjoying getting to cut PVC pipe and chisel through foundation walls to lay it in position. The sun has been intense the last couple of days so half a day of digging and plumbing is exhausting for this spoiled American laborer.

PLUMBING_School_Bathrooms (5)IMG_4366

My daily slice of “Liberian Surprise Pie” came this afternoon when the two women who planted the cassava farm came and sat on the foundation wall. I greeted using my hack Kpelle and talked to them to make sure they were aware we would be invading their cassava when drilling the next water well and during construction of the future phase of school classrooms.  They appeared unaware and started down the “we need to be compensated” road.  I referred them to Sumo who had earlier assured me the farmers were aware of the cassava’s impending fate.  The conversation continued so I deflected back to Sumo by calling him to let the women speak directly with “boss man” in order to resolve it.  I think it’s resolved…not quite sure based on the discussion tone.

On a side note…I need to thank my sister-in-law, Sharon, for the awesome “inflatable solar lantern” she gave me for Christmas.  I use it every night as my “bedside light” and any time the power goes out in the evening.  Because it comes deflated, it’s very light and compact for packing in my suitcase. Thank you, Shaz.


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