For anyone that knows me, this is the most challenging month for me to be in Liberia. Today I turn 54. Age is not the problem…I’m really a child. However, I usually celebrate the entire month of March by forcing Kathy to create a continuous stream of desserts to satiate my sweet tooth – from dreamy chocolate cream pie to heavenly cream puffs and beyond. My celebration today entailed listening to a group of Liberian children sing “Happy Birthday” and “How Old Are You Now” in Liberian-English…yes, they sing the same song with a bit of a different meter. My special dinner tonight was a freeze-dried hiking meal of sweet and sour chicken over rice followed by a sampling of honey roasted peanuts I brought from Market Basket. Like a Russian oligarch with a hankerin’ for Crimean tartar, I might take April by force and annex it as my birthday month this year!
I did break out a couple of balloons I brought for the school opening celebration and we played out on the screened-in porch for a while. The kids had a blast. As I laughed at their antics, I couldn’t help but think of how much their lifespans were so directly impacted by where in the world their mother happened to give birth to them. The fact is that (according to UNICEF) Liberia’s infant and under-5 mortality rates remain among the five highest in the world. More than 15 per cent of children die before reaching their first birthday. Not really a “happy birthday thought” but it’s there. As a treat with the kids I shared a package of dehydrated strawberries. They’ve never seen strawberries so they must have been doubly confused by these dry, bright red slices in a foil bag. Regardless, they liked the sweetness.
I don’t have much to say or photos to share today. I primarily worked in the plumbing world – with the help of Sando and a half dozen kids. The double sink in the kitchen is now functional so I’m one step closer to habitability. I installed towel bars, TP holders, and shower rods with curtains in the bathrooms so now I’m two steps closer. I also partially hooked up the gas cook stove so I guess that makes me 2 1/2 steps closer.
Tomorrow will be a long day of sweating starting with church at the Deanville preaching point then a “celebration service” at 3:00. Off to bed.