I hate doing dishes. I know this comes as a surprise to Kathy, but it’s true. Besides having a reliable vehicle on modern roads, I would say the convenience I miss most is a dishwasher (the machine, not Kathy…although I do miss her a lot, too!). I don’t mind cooking every meal but I need to wash everything immediately or I’ll be quickly over run with insects of some sort looking to scavenge on the missed morsels of my meals, then deciding it’s a cozy enough place to permanently eat, drink, and be merry. I’m not looking for entomological entertainment.
I had an encounter yesterday out of a classic soap opera series where the family member missing for years suddenly appears. I was working in the guesthouse when I was summoned to Sumo’s office. I joined a group of five visitors, Amelia, and Dusu facing Sumo at his desk. A chair was provided to me and small introductions were made. This was the late Sando’s family. In the photo below is (L-R) grandma, uncle (white shirt), auntie, brother of the seated man on the right (yellow shirt), and Thomas (seated far right) with little Dusu in the middle. As the formalities proceeded, it was described that Thomas was Dusu’s father…a bit older man than I expected but certainly in the realm of reproductive possibility. I was introduced with a summary of my brief role in Sando’s life. I had a difficult time speaking without tearing up. The conversation continued and I became more confused as they tried to communicate who the young man in the yellow shirt was because it was becoming apparent that he was more than just Thomas’s brother. We discussed the state of Dusu’s care, how friends in the States were helping me provide school fees and home support for Dusu and Kou, and Amelia’s role as new mom for her. Turns out most of the family lives nearby in the Gbarnga or Phebe area. Sumo explained the goal of keeping the children in school as a first priority and essentially said you can’t have the child unless you’ve got a better plan. (I’m sure this is sending the social workers reading this into a tizzy.) The family stepped outside for a private discussion. Meanwhile, Sumo explained to me what was happening and how yellow shirt man was indeed Thomas’s brother, but yellow shirt man was actually Dusu’s biological father. By Liberian tradition, the older brother assumes both the role and title of “father” of the child in this situation (confusing for an American). Yellow shirt man’s age made more sense given Sando’s age. No one knew he was in Gbarnga the whole time because Sando told me (and her friends in the village) that her boyfriend left for Guinea after Dusu’s birth. Either she didn’t actually know or just didn’t want to. When the family returned, they thanked us for the child’s care and support to get her educated. They agreed that Amelia would continue as caretaker and would make arrangements for the blood relatives to spend time with Dusu so she would know her “family”. It was also revealed that Sando has two other children (boys) somewhere. No one knew that either.
I moved on from family dynamics to financial issues. I spent some time with Sumo reviewing a draft financial report for the first months of this school year. I didn’t so much offer fiscal feedback as I did translation services. The report was very thorough but some terms were clearly Liberian English. I thought for posterity’s sake, future report readers might not understand without some “dialect enhancement”.
I changed monetary monikers from GLTC to Rotary. Communication and responsiveness have been a tad difficult over the past two years. I’m trying to close out this current grant to prepare for our next one starting early 2018 and to do that, I’d like to spend every available dollar so we don’t have to relinquish unused funds. I’ve got a detailed spreadsheet of what’s been spent, however the local Rotary has had ongoing banking fees for which I have not been privy. In order to spend, I need the official grant balance. I’ll just end with the fact that over 8 weeks ago I started this process and I still don’t know the balance. In fact, yesterday I received a call they were trying to get a bank statement but didn’t have the correct signatories present. Welcome to Liberia.
I’m between all of this “unproductive” stuff, I managed to complete laying floor tile in one guesthouse bathroom and make arrangements for a “manager” and “caretaker”. Furnishings should be ready by week’s end.
At the end of the day, I took the opportunity to visit the home of one of our classroom helpers, Annie. She lives in the Green Farm village which is considered part of the Deanville community. You’ll see Annie standing in front of a house she and her husband, Emmit, are building. Annie’s daughter, Faith, attends GLTC. I also met her 11 year old daughter, Rebecca. Right now their family of four lives in the “family house” with other related family units under one roof. The labor cost to build what you see is only $450USD (plus materials). They started last year during the dry season and build more as they earn money. Emmit owns a large piece of property which has a variety of trees including palm, coconut, grapefruit, bread fruit, and banana. She grabbed a long bamboo stick with a wooden hook on the end, reached up into the tops of the grapefruit tree, and knocked off fresh fruit for me. Of course, I then showed the kids how to juggle with them. There was a beautiful tree with low horizontal branches that I couldn’t resist climbing on. I also got this photo of the Annie’s two girls with Moses who came along for the ride. I love seeing where our school families live.
Lavela arrived today from his home in Lofa (northwest of Gbarnga). We reviewed construction drawings I did for the poultry structures so he could work up a final cost estimate. We also discussed small campus improvement projects like putting insect screens on the security booths. I grouted the tile floor so one bathroom floor is finished. I spent the afternoon as a silent observer in the K1/K2 class, making copious notes about teaching style, content, student behavior, etc. I’m even more convinced the Liberia Reads program will be a great asset for our school.
This is a photo that Randell captured of me walking through the village with children in tow. I’m holding hands with a girl named Norah who has one of the greatest smiles. Below is Norah (though not smiling) dressed for church holding a flat basket of water green seeds that were drying in the sun.