Liberian Lobsterfest

The church service this morning seemed livelier than others with even more songs by the youth and senior “choirs”.  They also had a “youth rally” which means the 20-30s aged “youth” sing while they try to “rally” the congregation to donate in support of their upcoming convention. I had the pleasure of holding baby Kathryn for part of the service…I rocked her until her eyes rolled back to sleep…and she just looked beautiful.  It’s amazing how much the women will dance with babies either being held or wrapped on their backs – a new level of shaken baby syndrome.  (video here:  https://youtu.be/wlQFl5_DoSw)

After worship, I held a meeting with the women of GROW to get feedback about how they feel the farming has been going, what’s working and what’s not, if the division of labor and scheduling is going as expected, what crops have grown and sold well compared to others, etc.  It sounds like the big success has been the corn and onions (actually they are now calling them “onion leaf” which goes along with my theory that they’re more like chives than actual onions).  The corn was in very high demand and they could have sold twice as much.  We discussed why this was true so they could recognize the fact that they

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Dusu and Kou with matching hair for church.

planted slightly off the normal schedule from other communities, thus no one else was selling corn in the market at the same time they were (ahh – a real life experience with supply and demand!).  They’re working on another full report for me which would detail income, crop harvests, etc.  We had conversations about difficulties with using the “water pump” to fill the large barrels from which they draw water into smaller watering cans and possible solutions for this.  Having a bit more insight into Deanville after interviewing about 40 family units, I tried to hold some accountable for their lack of involvement and willingness to help themselves (like the single mother with one child I met that basically does the girl’s hair all day and expects food support from her neighbors) followed by encouragement to the overall group to dream “bigger” than just “getting by”.  I reinforced the interconnectedness of GROW’s success with providing income and food for the school children – their children! – and their own family’s financial success.  I also got their feedback and input about the possibility of developing a poultry farm.  Other NGOs have been coming through the area promoting poultry farming so I think it’s an idea that is starting to gain traction in Liberia – but slowly!

I spent some time afterwards to get some photos of families I had already interview but for whom some of the members were missing at the time.  They’ve all been very excited about

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Sumakai and his basket gift for me.

having their family photos taken and it’s fun to see.  I continue to have some coming up to me, complaining that I haven’t interviewed them yet.  I guess that’s a good thing that they want to be included.  I hadn’t planned to interview anyone today, but I was persuaded to do a couple of families.  The husband in a deaf couple, Sumakai, that I interviewed a couple of days ago is a basket weaver.  Today he presented me with a special basket he made.

I finally got back to Phebe around 4:00pm after arriving for services at 9:30am.  Just after changing my clothes and sitting in the bathroom, someone came knocking on my guesthouse door.  It was my neighbor and former Minister of Health, Dr. Gwenigale.  Dr. G was inviting me to join him and several Peace Corp health volunteers for dinner.  So around 6:00 I walked over with Mary, a nurse anesthetist, and joined Shakira, a nurse midwife, and Courtney (I think?) in OBGYN – all from the US and three months into a yearlong commitment.  Dr. G loves entertaining and had out wine, cheese…and Pringles.  After some intro conversation, he brought out the boiled Irish potatoes, boiled yams, and boiled lobsters!  I told him this would be my first lobster tail – and in Liberia of all places.   He’s a very congenial man and has many connections as you can imagine.  He was recently in Boston at a world health conference at the invitation of Dr. Paul Farmer (he co-founded Partners in Health which started in Haiti and is the subject of Tracy Kidder’s book “Mountains Beyond Mountains” which I recommend).  I discussed the idea of a vaccination clinic and mosquito netting for which he offered some great advice.  Apparently he’s hooked on the US presidential campaign and wants to watch the debate tonight which will be aired at 1:00am Liberian time.  He’ll go to bed and set his alarm to get up.

Tomorrow the flurry of activity will begin once again at the school site.  Lavela and his crew will be back to do a variety of finishing touches.  Edwin, the electrician, will arrive to install the first solar powered security lights on the upper guard house.  Lifewater will be installing the submersible pump and training me and several Deanville community members (women included) on pump maintenance.  Then I’ll be meeting with Sumo and Kebbeh do discuss teacher contracts and the like.  Should be a busy Monday.

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