In a post earlier in October I mentioned how the cooks needed a better way to store their onions and other items. I had John 2 weld a frame together and a worker named Flomo build a set of wooden frames with screened bottoms. These frames act like drying drawers in a skeletal metal dresser, allowing airflow which minimizes rotting…they seem happy with it.
I’ve begun showing how to prep and install the two-part epoxy floor coating (previously tested in the guesthouse) in the school starting with the office and the unused classroom #3. There are little colored flakes that get thrown onto the surface for visual effect and my Liberian helpers likened it to broadcast seeding their rice fields. Half of the office is done along with the closet where our in-process rat house was discovered. As with any paint project, prep is key and I hope they stick with it.
One of the serendipitous side effects of having a rat trying to make nesting material of our boxed up school library books is that some of the books actually get read while we’re waiting for shelving. I was at the upper guard house this morning and our head of security, James Woi (Woi is pronounced “way”), was sitting on a deteriorating bamboo bench made a couple of years ago for enjoying the shade of the palm tree. In his hands was not the mutual funds listing from the Wall Street Journal but the Mercer Mayer children’s book “Just Helping My Dad”. I sat with him and asked if he knew how to read. James, who is 42, finished high school in 2005 because his education was interrupted by civil war. He said he knew how to read back then but really hasn’t kept up with it so has a hard time now. I asked if he would read a little for me. He had the slow deliberate annunciation of a new reader with a predictable stumbling over unusual spellings or unfamiliar words. As he read about the naive personified rodent character in the story mowing the lawn, painting the house, and exterminating a bees’ nest with his Dad always behind him to fix his mistakes, I firstly wondered if James knew about lawnmowers then, secondly, wondered about his family. We got on the subject of wives.
I know many of you saw the title for this blog entry and immediately thought I was referring to Kathy…wrong. I asked James about the title “wife” and discovered that in addition to being “your woman” without a formal wedding ceremony, there’s really no dating involved to attain “husband and wife” status. He said, “You pick a girl you are interested in and approach her to talk.” A short time later…you’ve got yourself a wife. In fact his father picked a girl for him when he was 13. Eventually the girl had a child with another man and James moved on to selecting his own mate instead of the arranged coupling. He found a woman he liked, she became his “wife”, and they had two children together. During the 1990s when their family life was interrupted by civil war, they decided the wife and children should flee north as refugees to Guinea and James, as “man”, would go to Monrovia. His wife was captured at the border after James had already left them in apparent safety at the crossing. He later found that she was wed to a rebel leader – the rebel wife! Eight years ago he met his current wife with whom they have one boy, Kwoiku (QUAY-coo), who now attends our school.
Back in the guesthouse, I’ve been trying to get the many miscellaneous boxes of things that were shipped in some sort of order and moved out so bedroom furnishings can go in. With the help of my usual band of boys, we assembled two of the three newly crafted beds then added screw eyes for securing mosquito nets. There’s a couch and coffee table in the living room as well as chairs at the opposing end of the room awaiting a table to properly call itself a dining area. More tiling progressed in bathroom #2.
As I’ve spent more time here and people have come to visit the school site, my name has started to get around. A pastor from a Pentecostal church met me yesterday asking if I could stop at his property and possibly give I’m a sketch for a church building. A few days ago I received an email from the LCL General Secretary asking if I’d consider leading a group of Liberian construction interns accompanied by a team of Americans coming in late January to do some building renovations on the Lutheran Training Institute (LTI) up in Lofa. Since Lavela is from Lofa, I recommended him for the job (as long as it doesn’t interfere with our poultry project!).
I’ve been wearing a few Thrivent T-shirts as work shirts and had a bunch packed amongst those shipped boxes. I started distributing a few today and now everybody wants one. I got this photo of me with Annie’s family wearing theirs. A group of twelve guys brushing the acccess road now have them and want a photo together on Monday. It’s funny what strikes a cord.