Yesterday was tour day. Andy’s parents, Becky and Dave, walked the path to Deanville with me and a band of boys including Moses while Kathy and Gary caught a ride with Saah and Annie to the front of the village. This give our guests a bit of time to see mangoes hanging from trees, pineapple sprouting near the ground, and children carrying water from the river in buckets on their heads. We talked with friends, saw inside a mud block home, and shared greetings with Chief Dean. We stopped to visit Moses’ family and I was summoned to see his sick grandmother lying in her bed. They say she doesn’t move much and doesn’t speak. I’m not sure how to deal with this to help them get care for her. Along the path we met Mieta (caretaker for Kou) who brought us to her massive egg plant and bitterball gardens bordered by an irrigation ditch that pulls water from the river. We purchased a handful of bitterball to try with our dinner.
One of the ongoing issues in Liberia (and many developing countries) is well maintenance. Within the past year an NGO drilled a hand pump well at the front of Deanville. They already had one at the rear of the village. We discovered during our walk that both pumps are spoiled (non functioning) because no one has money to pay for parts. The villagers collected money and attempted a repair with someone they hired but it only lasted a few days. Thus, villagers are reluctant to contribute again from what little they have for fear the next repair will be unsuccessful….and there’s “free” water in the river.
After regrouping near Gbarnga Highway we set off for a tour of Gbarnga with our first stop to visit Silla and his carpentry shop. Silla is an animated guy so it was fun to see him and his expanded shop. He now has 45 workers, some of whom are in the apprenticeship program he has. The apprentices work for free for about six months while receiving training and a meal. As they gain skills, small money will be given until they have a full wage and responsibilities.
We walked up Broad Street just before my favorite bread seller and tucked through an alleyway into the heart (or bowels!) of the market. Annie led us through the dimly lit labyrinth of narrow paths between rickety stalls and varying aromas (or stenches) that are common to the congested markets here. From hair care, underwear, and flip flops to rice, smoked fish, and chicken feet….oh yeah don’t forget the termites sold by the cup…this is the place to go if you need anything in Gbarnga. I can’t imagine it in the height of the rainy season. Kathy and Becky bought lapas at a shop with mind-exploding loud music from the adjacent market stall and we exited to the mayhem back on Broad Street. I brought a couple of pieces of bread from my usual spot and we jumped in the car to have Saah take us home. We made a slight diversion so I could greet Barbar at his store to keep the relationship going. He asked about our project and I shared about the impending poultry farm. He was very happy about the eggs and said he could easily get his Lebanese friends in Monrovia who own the Stop & Shop to buy our eggs along with shipowners up in Ganta. We’ll see…
After lunch back at the Guesthouse, walked the campus for a little assessment of repairs and materials. I was swamped with kids following me so it was a bit difficult to maneuver. It’s still a process to get the staff to take initiative for making small repairs like replacing a broken toilet seat without being told it has to be done. Later in the afternoon I shared some of the various letters and gifts to specific people (both children and adults) that were given to me to carry here by supporters in the US. I read some letters to the recipients and spent time explaining the significance of some phrases or concepts they didn’t understand.
Later, I gave some math sheets I printed off the internet to Moses who seems to have interest and aptitude (probably the reverse) for it. He enjoyed demonstrating his skills and receiving positive affirmations from me and our guests. Dave spent time giving him more challenging multiplication problems and guiding him through some of the equations. As dusk approached and a brief rain ended, Moses was shuffled off by the security guard who told him it was time to leave.
Gary was the head chef for our dinner, whipping up a pasta meal with sautéed bitterball and corn with onions and garlic. Good stuff for not knowing what to do with bitterball!