I sit at the Monrovia airport so it’s blog time….
The last day in Liberia is usually the busiest – except for this trip when the last three days all seemed like a last day. Everyone who wanted to have “a talk” came visiting me at the guesthouse. The Makor family (which has three children in our school and extended family back in Providence) came to share appreciation and get a family photo. Moses needed help writing letters to both “Auntie Kathryn” (my wife) and his “friend” (my daughter Kim…I’m not sure she’s aware of this friendship but she’ll know soon). Annie, the guesthouse caretaker, made a loan request so she could buy flour, oil, sugar and other ingredients to make “small bread” or donuts to sell. Two school children brought enormous freshly harvested pineapples as gifts for me. My mutual friend of the late Sando, Mary, came to see me, cried a little, then wanted a photo together (see below…we’re standing next to one of the many banana trees planted by Sumo). Since I saw her last, the mud home her family was living in collapsed when strong rainy season wind gusts literally huffed and puffed and blew her roof in. You may remember Mary from posts a year or so ago when she had given birth to a boy and three days later was sitting on the ground scrubbing a huge tub of family laundry. Her neighbor in the village is Moses and his grandparents. The roof on their home hinged open at the ridge line from the same winds so they came asking for assistance transporting planks to rebuild it. Then there was the woman from Bishop Seyenkulo’s nearby farm who asked me to visit their poultry operation because she heard we were starting a poultry farm. Bishop used to raise pigs until they were stolen by the caretaker, so he’s switched to chickens. It’s hard to believe there are 400 chickens in this photo.Then there are the guys brushing and destumping the access road to our new poultry farm area who wanted a photo wearing the Thrivent t-shirts I gave them. There’s a definite appeal to having a “team t-shirt” from the security guards to the cooking staff to our now “Team Thrivent Day Laborers”.
In between visits and photo ops, the sign painter, Henry, finished the GLTC Guesthouse sign and the city approved its location along the highway. It was installation time. It seems with many things, a two-man job becomes a community event which could be one of the ways they build ownership in all of this. I had more meetings with the block making leaders and guesthouse staff as both ventures head towards viability.
I then sat in on Patrick’s ABC class to see his teaching style and classroom dynamic. With assistance from the classroom helpers, I photographed every student individually so we can share updates with sponsors. And then there was Kortuma, the truck mechanic, requesting I buy him a particular diagnostic meter in the States and carry it back for him next trip. Vehicles are getting more computerized and Liberian mechanics are woefully under-skilled and under-equipped. Then there’s the pastor friend of Sumo looking to have me do a sketch of his “dream” for building a new church sanctuary with a “cathedral” feel that could seat 1,000 on his small property in Gbarnga. And then the cooks…another photo request.
I finally received the last furniture items promised days ago from Silla’s woodworking shop. The bathrooms have mirrors and small side tables while every bedroom now has a desk and chair. If I didn’t see woodgrain I would swear these chairs are cast concrete – very heavy!
And then there’s the Rotary. My saga of waiting for information and checks for grant expenses came to a close as predicted – on the last day before I leave when my time is strained. After 8 months I received one check and after two months we determined the final grant balance. All money will soon be spent and this very generous, very important grant will come to a close but will continue to impact our school and health of this community for decades to come – thank you Rotary Clubs of Montachusett in the US and Gbarnga in Liberia….I think of you every time I drink right from the faucet at our guesthouse or see a child in another community hauling water from the river.
And there’s Barbar. We last left this story after is visit to our school. One of the things discussed at that time was the very long road getting into our property. I explained our longstanding efforts to get the “real” road completed by the county, as promised many times. He offered to talk with the head of the county development office, Anthony Sheriff, whom I had met back in January 2016 and since had many phone calls. The next day Barbar calls me and puts Mr. Sheriff on the phone. Barbar explained how this road needed to be done for the benefit of the community and we arranged a meeting for the next morning along with Sumo. Another unexpected use of my time – important nevertheless. We had a brief meeting and got a slightly more definitive commitment from Mr. Sheriff, though he did reference the same broken down machine that I’ve seen sitting idle for two years. The next day Barbar assured me his continued pressure would result in a road…”they’re afraid of me,” he said. Barbar then asked me to visit the “Catholic compound” on the edge of Gbarnga to see the blocks their buildings are constructed from. Wanting to keep him in good graces despite my limited free time, I went and met with the man responsible for manufacturing the blocks with their machine. It makes compressed native soil/concrete blocks as ours does, however it is completely manually operated for forming and compressing compared to our diesel-operated equipment. Thus output is lower and block shapes are different. It was worth the visit just to see the extensive building network the Catholics have along with an array of K-12 and vocational training classes, all within a walled, well manicured “estate” feel with tree-lined concrete roads.
Back at our campus, all the classroom and office floors now have epoxy floor paint on them. Numerous people have inquired about this “tile alternative” and asked to purchase the product if I ship some to Liberia for them. I said, “Show me the money!” One man said he will give the money for three cases to Sumo and I could then ship it to Monrovia.
Clearing and de-stumping continues at the poultry site…here’s a panoramic shot (note the water tower in the background).
My waiting at the airport continues. Possibly more blogging later should I get motivated to move my thumbs in rapid succession on my iPhone again. All of my blogs this month have been “texted” since I didn’t have electricity to run my laptop much. It feels like my digits are slightly shorter now.