It’s a national holiday today – it’s Thanksgiving! Schools and shops are closed. The campus is buzzing with activity despite being a holiday. It appears to be a sort of community work day with people tending to overgrown grasses and much of the school staff here on the campus tending to our various garden plots to benefit the lunch program. I’m very proud of them for stepping up where my initial efforts failed in getting our women’s group to take ownership of this campus farm. There’s also a band of twelve men brushing a road area along the property edge to allow truck access for hauling building materials to the future poultry farm construction site over the knoll just past the water tower.
Progress continues towards rental income from the guesthouse. I met with Henry the sign painter today. We’re installing a “sign board” at the Gbarnga Highway near the new checkpoint which should be a very visible advertisement for directing customers to our facility. In deciding what information to put on the sign, various bullet points were included like clean drinking water and 24 hour security. Sumo asked that we include a bullet point for “mini conference center” because we have a generously sized screened porch where a group can gather or an empty classroom could be used in the evening. John 2 starts welding the frame tomorrow so Henry can paint on Monday then install on Tuesday. Henry is charging just $30 for this 42″ x 48″ two-sided three-color sign. A guest registration form has been printed out and beds with some other furnishings will be picked up at the carpentry shop tomorrow.
Sumo and I had a meeting with two gentlemen regarding our stalled block making business. A man named Sunday Binda was asked to be the work group leader. He went through our 2-week training, lives in Deanville, and helped produce many of the blocks from which we constructed the school. Because Sunday is illiterate, we’re pairing him with another man, Matthew Logan, to work on the business side of things (writing work agreements, receipts, etc.). Matthew lives directly across from Deanville proper in Klee Village (another subset of the Deanville community) and his wife is one of our school cooks. We’re requesting that a small sample display of our blocks with a sign be placed on his property because it is close to Gbarnga Highway but also level with it. Deanville land is about 10-15 feet above the road, thus any display or signage would be hidden from normal traffic view. Because of the complex family dynamics pertaining to who owns what and which man is head of which, Matthew needs to speak with his uncle first.
I sat down with Lavela this afternoon to review his detailed materials and workmanship costs for building the poultry farm structures. I like to dream big and I was concerned this time I might have out-budgeted myself despite the impending financial support from our next Rotary grant. I was a bit surprised with his initial numbers which seemed very high compared to our last projects together. With much dissecting, calculating, alternative sketching, and financial volleying, we came to a figure that mitigated my monetary misgivings. With dedicated donor funds in hand for use now in kickstarting this poultry project, I gave him the green light to begin foundation work so they can take advantage of the post-rainy season soft soil conditions and I could help with site layout before heading home end of next week. The familiar smell of burning brush is already in the air as the access road is cleared – more brushing at the building site will just add fuel to the fire.
I’ve been getting more produce donations than on previous trips – cucumbers, squash, papaya, and coconut all show up at my door. I never experienced the taste of a coconut immediately after it was picked..,not the same as a dry well-traveled version at my Market Basket supermarket back in Chelmsford. There is an enormous amount of “coconut water” inside and the flesh is sweeter and more tender – easily scooped with a spoon right off the concave half shell. I need to find a use for coconut shells because they’re just tossed and you’ll find piles of them near the coconut sellers in the market. Even corn cobs are disposed of (I thought pigs would eat them but these Liberians say no???).
We’re having a rat problem in an unexpected location…the school office. I know it stems from our staff leaving extra food in there that sometimes isn’t well contained or little morsels remain. The wooden office door has a corner chewed through from these vermin to forcing entry. This photo shows that one even chewed into a cardboard box of donated children’s books and shredded half into bedding material. I hate to say it but I may have to agree with one recommendation that a cat would be the most effective solution. I hate the idea of rat poisoning scattered around an elementary school!
Take a moment to give thanks for our school on this Liberian Thanksgiving Day!