No visit to Liberia would be complete without a trip to market day at a nearby village and for us, the closest and biggest is in Suakoko. We made plans for Annie and Amelia to prepare a meal last night and tonight so a market trip for gathering cooking supplies was a necessity anyway. I also suggested we visit my friends at the leprosy center and get fresh fish directly from their fish farm. I made arrangements with John Yarkpowolo, the fish farm manager, to meet us at 9am and he greeted us with a collection of about fifty small tilapia swimming in an old cooler. We took the opportunity to tour their farm, see their rice paddies, and witness one of the village girls threshing the rice which they don’t sell but use to feed the community being cared for at the center.
With our stock of fish safely in a bucket of water, we continued further into Suakoko to the massive market swirling with throngs of people like a bright Friday lightbulb drawing a flitter of mothy merchants and buzzing buyers from its environs. Saah maneuvered through the mayhem to park at the far end of the market. Amelia kicked into gear and seemed to have specific spices from particular stalls so we followed closely behind as she selected ingredients for fried rice, jollof rice, and fufu. Along the way, a bucket of large bush snails caught Dave’s attention and we purchased a couple to round out the night’s dinner.
On our drive back to campus we stopped at Annie’s home where she proudly showed off her nearly-completed house being constructed on family land. She and her husband, Emmet, have spent $1,300 USD and are still saving for doors, a toilet and pipes, the ceiling, and more interior plastering on the mud block.
We returned to campus in time for Dave and I to play a little football with the students before lunch. Friday is PE day and the kids were looking good in their PE uniforms. We set up a line of children excited to take a shot on goal with Uncle Jon as goalie…who seemed to miss the block more often for the younger kids (in exchange for seeing a smile) than for the older-more cocky-students like Moses, Rueben, and Love. Actually Comfort, the oldest girl in our school, had the most powerful kick of all. They all had a blast.
After lunch I checked in with John 2 to see the status of the steel he was cutting which I had measured out the previous day. We needed the generator/welder for our next steps but I found out the main portable generator wasn’t working. I told him to pack it in the truck and take it back to his friend in Gbarnga who agreed to fix it for free (due to issues with a prior repair). Dave and Gary joined me for the ride as well as four from my gang of boys. After dropping off the generator, we bought a few supplies and Dave/Gary got to meet Mr. Barbar (and partake in a mango juice and banana snack with some interesting conversation). We departed with some steel and headed up Broad Street for a few more things. As I exited a market, I saw a white guy with a backpack who looked familiar. It was Isaac, the Peace Corps guy we met on the flight from Brussels. We had a brief conversation and I directed him over to say hi to Dave/Gary waiting in the truck around the corner.
Back at campus again, I continued marking steel parts from my cut list of sizes needed for constructing the two sets of welded solar panel frames. All parts are now ready…just need the welding machine.
Over at the guesthouse I was approached by James (Moses’ brother) who informed me that “old ma died”. I told him I was sorry and said I would bring a bag of rice (gifts of rice or money are common when a family member dies). Amelia and Annie sat on the back steps by the kitchen door with a bucket of fish guts as they prepped our dinner. Moses appeared and wanted to share to sad news about his grandmother with me also. There were far too many fish so we agreed to give them to Moses’ family. By mid-afternoon they had frying oil splattered over the cookstove and countertops, a full pot of fried rice, and saucepan with some snail soup ready for dinner. Amelia agreed to carry the remaining fish to Deanville for Moses.
Our adult literacy class meets four weeknights (no Wednesdays) starting at 4:30 so I and our four guests sat in to experience this aspect of our school’s programs. I found there are two simultaneous classes – one taught by Emmet Anderson with four adults who had completed up to third grade when they were children and a second taught by Matthew Logan with six students which focused primarily on adults who have never been to school in their lives. We sat in on Matthew’s class. I was impressed with his teaching style, the content and examples used in his lesson (you need both a vowel and a consonant to make a “word child”), and the willingness of these adults to try despite the long road ahead. All of these adults can now write their own names for the first time in their lives. It’s amazing to see the contrast in opportunity as Gormah (in her 40’s) concentrates to write her name while her 20 year old son, Joshua, is the first member of their large extended family to graduate high school and now attend university. I hope they stick with it.
FYI – The fried rice and fish, though small and bony, was good. I passed on the snails but was informed they were like tough clams in a spicy sauce.