I met John 2 at 7:00am yesterday morning for a trip to Monrovia, primarily to pick up our 16 boxes at Liberia Shipping Line. Of course, I had a list of other errands including some supplies at Eagle, Stop & Shop, a fee small truck parts, and a visit to LCL for some paperwork. I was unsuccessful in arranging a meeting with Rev. Emmanuel Giddings, director of Alfalit in Monrovia, an organization we may partner with for assisting the adult literacy training at our school. All was going smoothly. When I was shopping on Randall Street for truck fuses and freon to try to revive the AC the shop owner said he wouldn’t buy freon, but instead would go to Auto Link garage at the top of Bensen Street. I decided to give it a shot. Turns out it’s a very well run garage under Lebanese ownership, as many shops in Monrovia are. Though the shop bays were filled with NGO vehicles like Land Cruisers from USAid, the manager put one of his guys on it immediately. I appreciated that they didn’t just recharge the freon, they took some time to diagnose the problem. They fixed a small electrical issue and found the fan was not functioning properly so a freon recharge would have done nothing. While the work was being done, the manager kept a conversation going and shared photos of plans for expansion which were clearly impressive and geared towards a “Western” clientele. With work complete and cold air aplenty, he only charged for parts and no workmanship. Off to Liberian Shipping Line.
I was pleased to find Romeo waiting for us and our 16 fairly intact boxes (a few mushed) stacked at the door. His men quickly loaded the Foton and we were headed back to Gbarnga. About 20 minutes later there was grinding in the driver’s side tire. We pulled off the chaotic Somalia Drive to a mechanic. Disassembly began and the bearing needed replacement. I waited in the shade of the shipping-container-turned-into-shop while John 2 took a motorbike for a new bearing. The Muslim shop owner sat next to me and spoke American politics for an hour. He’s attending university and is well versed in the American system and the insanity currently going on in Washington. He commented how Trump has no political skills, no knowledge of foreign policy, and saw that everything being done benefitted the rich. He had some interesting perspectives including that Bill Gates is a wicked man and is developing a vaccine to stop African population growth. Perhaps he read an article but missed the point that smaller family sizes are a natural byproduct in developed countries and the Gates Foundation is working to help Africans become healthier, better educated, and more prosperous…they’re not vaccinating Africans to stop them from reproducing. He also felt it was strange that American families only have 1 or 2 children and one wife – and we adopt children because we have so much money. His father had 4 wives; his grandfather had 10 wives; many children between them all. Africans should produce as many children as possible because “God will provide”. My effort to counter this line of thinking was fruitless.
Well 2 hours later we’re back on the road with a brand new bearing and no grinding. It’s later than I wanted to leave because I hate traveling and arriving in Gbarnga in the dark with a full truck of supplies. About 30-40 minutes pass with our newly installed bearing, John 2 suddenly pulls over because flames are coming from the repaired wheel! I grabbed the fire extinguisher and John threw a bottle of water on it. The bearing and axle spindle were glowing red hot. Once again, it’s dark, we’re stranded on the side of the road, and there are just small village homes scattered in the bush. We’re about 2 hours from Gbarnga. We decide I should try to get a ride back to Monrovia and John will stay with the truck if we can get it further north to a community called “15 Gate”. I make a few phone calls to people within LCL without luck. I knew that Bishop’s wife, Linda was staying in Totota (an hour north) so I tried her. Turns out Bishop Seyenkulo was also there and he made a few calls arranging for my former driver, Saah, to retrieve me. Meanwhile, John and I crept ever so slowly to 15 Gate where his mechanic friend lives and the truck/contents/John would be safe. Saah arrived and I spent the night at the LCL guesthouse. I’m thankful for so many connections to get out of these situations. The other wrinkle was a Rotary meeting scheduled for today which had to be cancelled and Randell (a Liberian friend from St. Paul’s in Providence and former Gbarnga Mission board member now living in Monrovia) was coming to Gbarnga for a school visit. More phone calls.
Next we had to figure a way to haul all our goods to Deanville which were in jeopardy of theft sitting during truck repairs. Since Randell was heading to Gbarnga, I made arrangements to meet her early and catch a ride. With another divine intervention, Randell had originally planned to come last weekend in a small car but couldn’t make it. Today she is using a driver that has a pickup truck! We met on the street corner in Monrovia and reached 15 Gate around 7:30am. All of our goods in the Foton were then transferred to Randell’s pickup. Off to Gbarnga while John cares for the truck repair.