First let’s set the record straight…the Kathy I’m mentioning during this trip is not my wife Kathy. One of the comments I received on my last posting implied it was my “stop-asking-me-when-I’m-going-to-Liberia-with-Jon” spouse. Nope.
After attending the morning devotions at LCL (which was attended by my new friend Dave…Andy’s father) and extending my greetings to Bishop, his assistant, and others, we walked to the new Orange (formerly Cellcom) store to get SIM cards for the two phones Dave and Becky brought to give to Andy’s neighbor friends. The purchase seemed relatively painless even accounting for the registration process. We made a side trip to the Royal Hotel to grab prepared lunches for the road trip to Gbarnga. As we walked back to LCL I was accosted by my usual street seller, Michael, who typically persuades me to buy something made of spent bullet casings (purportedly from the Liberian civil war). I went for a nativity set and reminded him that he still owed me an item from my last trip.
We met Saah and John 2 back at the LCL Guesthouse with our luggage neatly bundled under a tarp in the Foton. Off to Stop & Shop for a quick grocery run then on to Eagle Electric for supplies. Sumo had emailed a request for 35 bags of rice for our school meals over the next several months and John 2 knew of a place just on the edge of Red Light that had a good price that was about $3 USD/bag less than Gbarnga. As rice was being loaded, our four guests took the opportunity to take some photos.
At some point (I don’t recall the exact timing) Becky discovered the afore-mentioned SIM cards were too large to fit their phones. We made our way to a Total gas station for filling up the two vehicles and to see about replacement SIM cards at the Orange store located inside the gas station. New cards were tried but only one seemed to work. The representative changed to another card and went through a revised registration process. Eventually it worked itself out and we were on our way once again.
Our next stop was Kakata, about an hour north. Andy was headed to the Peace Corps Office there for some in-service training. We pulled over to ask for directions at a police station and noticed a Peace Corps driver pulling in behind us. We hopped out and spoke to the driver, discovering that (of course) he knew Andy. Since the office was only 2 minutes away we made a quick side trip to see the place and find out if Andy was there yet. We easily found the place but Andy was still en route. Back to Gbarnga Highway and we were once again on track to Gbarnga. But wait, another quick side trip in Totota to drop off some 5 gallon plastic containers we carried from Monrovia as a favor for Bishop.
We finally arrived at the new Iron Gate checkpoint established at our school access road around 4:00. As we traversed the dusty road, making the sharp left to continue on towards the campus, we were welcomed by two stands of woven palms adorned with beautiful flowers…and then again as we crossed the small bridge at the swamp. When we reached the corner of the warehouse wall and made the final turn, we were overwhelmed by a crowd of smiling and singing GLTC students and staff. I couldn’t wait to exit the car and hug them all – and they gladly reciprocated.
We marched up to the classroom for the “formal program” filled with spirited songs (with intense volume) and reciting of Bible verses by the children along with greetings and prayers by the staff. They welcomed my four travel companions as “honored guests”. Afterward we walked the campus with Sumo and saw progress on the poultry buildings (photos to come later).
The truck was unloaded and the five of us retired to the guesthouse. Speaking of retiring…I need to get to sleep. The rest will have to wait till tomorrow.