We set off for Gbarnga around 7:30 this morning with our first stop at Eagle Electric for a few supplies. Amin, the boss, says business has been slow leading up to the election. Next stop was Red Light to purchase rice. While waiting for Sumo’s son, Lee, to guide us into the chaos that is Red Light, I decided to convert some US $ to Liberian $. To give you a sense of the Liberian economy, back in October 2015 the rate was 85LD to $1USD…today it’s 124LD. A 55lb. bag of rice was 1,500LD….now it’s 2,000LD.
When Lee showed up, he jumped in the truck bed and motioned in the mirror for John 2 to drive forward. It’s a bit like sending an 18-wheeler into the starting crowd of runners at the Boston marathon….we just couldn’t fit. Sellers with wheel barrows full of goods, wide metal pans filled with smoked fish sitting on rickety wooden stands, little tables overflowing with small red and orange peppers – all surrounded by hundreds of people – leaving little of the pavement even exposed let alone accessible by our truck. Lots of honking and yelling ensued as John 2 and Lee tried to intimidate our way to the rice dealer. After forcing numerous vendors to move so we could park (sort of), I jumped out and made a deal for 50 bags of not just any rice but “Bella Luna #1” rice. This guy sold about 10 different rice brands and stocked probably thousands of bags in his warehouse. After loading and tarping our load, we made the decision to turn around instead of diving deeper into the market madness. More yelling and honking, honking and yelling, oh yeah and some hand waving…and some vendor relocation…honking and yelling. Eventually the three-point turn of the century and we were headed for the exit!
The rest of the trip to Gbarnga was uneventful. We arrived about 1:00 and were greeted by a banner-led procession of singing school children (I can’t upload photos with my bad network connection).
We gathered in a classroom by entering a doorway surrounded my woven palms and a welcome program began. Words of welcome were shared by Sumo, the teachers, the helpers, the cooks, the security guards, and the PTA plus the children recited two Bible versus and sang two songs. Lots of welcoming!
When I went to the guesthouse to unpack a bit, it also had handwritten signs welcoming me. I had various visitors so I wasn’t really able to get organized. Sumo left me with a gift – a papaya (“paw paw”) larger than an NFL football prior to “deflate gate”. Annie, Sando’s replacement as classroom helper, appears to want to take over some of Sando’s other tasks. She started sweeping the floors and wants to do my laundry. A group of young children gathered on the porch so I gave them a Velcro paddleball-type game to play that I brought along (actually just trying to keep them all from wondering around the guesthouse). I managed to put some of my Stop & Shop booty away and tested the chlorine level in the water before taking my first drink.
I had a chance to speak privately with Amelia, the woman who is now caring for Dusu. I found that another woman named Mieta is caring for Kou. You may recall I mentioned Mieta back in my March blog along with her photo holding an enormous cabbage that I purchased from her patch. Both women sound committed to incorporating these orphaned girls into their respective families as daughters. I now understand that neither girl knows the actual status of Sando…I’m not sure that’s the right way to handle it.
After all my visitors had departed, I took a shower and began to prepare dinner only to find I had no can opener. I probably used my pocketknife last time but it is nowhere to be found. Put that on tomorrow’s list. I moved on to the Plan B meal which involved a pull-top can of soup.
With my solar lights ready and the sun down, I moved to the shelter of my bed. A wind-driven rainstorm cooled it off a bit but the insect sounds are back in force now that the rain has stopped.