I picked up Sumo in Gbarnga about 7:30 this morning so we could visit a new Liberia Reads school in session. This is a private secular school with limited facilities to say the least. It’s about a mile off Gbarnga Highway on a rough (Liberians would say “ugly”) road. The program works well and it forces Liberian teachers to learn correct phonics themselves – to compensate for their Liberian English – so they can better teach their students. The word boat is hard for them to spell because they don’t pronounce the “t”…most ending consonants are dropped. Other words like “forward” would be spelled “fawad” or “fawa” because they just don’t hear eggs R or the D. I remember as a young lad growing up in New York with my Long Island accent not understanding why “all” and “awl” weren’t spelled the same because they both sounded like “awl”….”ah yoose tawkin’ tah me heeah? Get me a glass ah wadda!” There’s a lot of variety in how material is presented and the students take turns leading the class in exercises (see photo) which makes it fun and holds children accountable for being engaged learners. We witnessed 1st and 3rd grade classes which was a helpful comparison of both student ages and teacher experience (the 1st grade teacher is brand new, the 3rd grade teacher is experienced). I think Sumo was impressed and interested in moving ahead. He’ll talk to his staff…I’ll work in the funding part (unless you blog readers want to get a jump on this and make an online donation…hint hint!).
This took most of the morning but I was able to return to ca mpus in time for the ABC class dismissal and capture this photo of me with Shadrach. He is one of the students that did not re-enroll for this year….until he received a letter of encouragement from his sponsor. His sponsors are my Mom and Dad.
After lunch I headed to Phebe for a visit with Dr. Sibley (Medical Director) and my friend, Bruce Moilan (from Global Health Ministries…we shared the Phebe guesthouse together for a couple of months). I was waved into the hospital by a staff person who said Bruce was available only to find I had to sit and listen as he and Dr. Sibley were on a conference call about a symposium in Berlin, Germany where the good doctor would be a session panelist. After about 20 minutes the call ended and we had a chance to catch up. I’m still paving the way for Bruce’s organization to help ship items for us because they send a container full of supplies that arrives each October. Besides a social call, I had a practical reason for the hospital visit. When Sando died, she left a collection of prescription drugs in a bag that were delivered to me by her friend in the village. I wanted to dispose of them properly since some were antibiotics and others were unused antiretrovirals for her AIDS regimen. Phebe seemed like the most responsible place for their disposal and I assumed Dr. Sibley would know best. This drug transaction segued into the story of Sando and our poor experience at Phebe when Sando learned she had AIDS. I was hesitant to complain/criticize on my first “social” visit this trip but he seemed genuinely interested, so I shared it. Though he was disappointed and acknowledged a sever protocol breakdown, none of the staff’s behavior really surprised him.
I was soon on my way after a longer than expected visit. Into Gbarnga for a few supplies and to ask our mechanic to install a small broken spring he had agreed to replace but had apparently forgotten. I stopped at Silla’s woodworking shop to see progress on my furniture order and witnessed the woodwork for the bed frames in process. All looked good. I noticed some young children gathering up saw dust and wood shavings and inquired about their fate (the wood shavings’…not the children’s!). They would be “chunked” – Liberian English for “thrown away”. I told him of our poultry farm need for his dust and shavings. He said to simply drop off empty rice bags, he’d have them filled, and we could load our truck for free. Nothing but the best pro bono bedding for our budding family of egg layers.
I ended the day by attending the Rotary Club of Gbarnga’s weekly meeting at the Passion Hotel. This meant it was time for the “Passion basket” of fried chicken for dinner. I joined their meeting and was asked to summarize the existing grant status and outline the next grant objectives. My main purpose was to determine the remaining balance in our current grant and get checks for outstanding payment requests. I had requested the balance over 2 months ago so plans could be made for finishing out this grant during this trip. I won’t go into detail, but the meeting did not go as anticipated and I was left defending and debating areas of our school’s operations that were frankly none of their business nor within the scope of the grant…let’s leave it that! I put on my best game face and squeezed out a polite thanks for their club’s “partnership”. And I departed with an appointment for Saturday to discuss the grant balance. Not sure if checks will be in hand Saturday or not.
Tomorrow it’s off to Monrovia because I’ve received confirmation that our 16 boxes have been found by the shipper. Christmas in October!