I forgot to mention that yesterday one of those lingering to-do items got off my list with the help of Becky, Dave, Kathy, Gary, and a band of boys. Back in 2015 at the start of the project I began having workers (and children who helped) sign some planks of wood with the intention of making them into hanging signs that recognized those who were “founding builders” of the school. Each trip I see it kicking around the corners of the warehouse like an old yearbook yearning for attention. I pulled it out a couple of days ago and suggested this could be a project for my guests who wanted to contribute in some way during their time here. Soon, the boards were cleaned and the varnish was flowing. Yesterday, a final location was selected, the screw eyes installed, and the three “signature plaques” were hung from the porch trusses along the wall. Immediately people stopped and stared, intently searching for their names like a visitor to Ellis Island scanning the immigration logbook for an ancestor. They’re proud to be part of this and I think it’s another piece placed in the ownership puzzle.
My guests joined me for services this morning at the Deanville preaching point. We arrived a little early and the Bible study wasn’t finished so we had time to visit and see some gardens at the edge of Deanville. During the service they got their share of animated-Baptist-like preaching from the guest preacher complemented by the beautiful Liberian sounds of Kpelle singing. It was a bit longer than a typical Sumo service but a good experience with a warm welcome from the church members. Becky stood up as visitors were acknowledged with a lump in her throat and a tear in her eye to thank the members for welcoming all of them so warmly.
We went to see Amelia’s house afterward for a visit under a tree in her front yard. We ate bananas and talked about Liberian life while I had a chance to hold Dusu in my lap and give her hugs. Amelia has two biological children but has absorbed several others (including Dusu) as her own. Dusu looks happy and healthy so I’m happy. The sores on her legs and arms that I’ve witnessed on my last couple of trips are mostly gone. Out if curiosity I asked Amelia’s husband, Anthony, if he was part of the men’s society called Pollum. I was fairly quickly told it was a secret society and got the clear impression it wasn’t a topic to publicly pursue.
We headed back to the guesthouse for a quick lunch before the PTA meeting scheduled for 3:00. Amuchain showed up and joined us on the porch. She looked good despite being pregnant and having been hit by a motorbike about a week ago while stepping onto the side of the road in the dark (and the motorbike didn’t have its lights on). Patrick also came in anticipation of the meeting, joining us for a cup of water and a banana. During our conversation Amuchain leaned over and told me she was “bereaving” because a classmate of hers died of “slow poisoning”. Patrick explained that many times a classmate may become jealous as others excel and want to take out their anger by hurting or killing someone. Apparently slow poisoning through food is a common enough means that classmates don’t typically eat together at university for fear of this happening. Amazing that jealousy trumps encouragement as someone begins achieving in Liberia.
Sitting in the classroom at 3:00 with just Sumo indicated I could expect a severe case of Liberian time delay. We waited until 3:30 and began the meeting with about a dozen parents, one teacher, Sumo, and me. I got to speak first since my guests had plans to go out early for dinner and my time was limited. After some words of thanks and general encouragement to the parents about how well their children are learning, my main goal was to address the ongoing issue of school payment delinquency. I decided an object lesson with Monopoly money was the solution. In general, one parent was given an amount equal to what each family is required to pay and another held the actual per-child cost of running the school (staff wages, food, toilet paper, etc.). We discussed what a small percentage it was, what benefits they receive that other schools don’t (meals, uniform, PE uniform, pencils, etc.), the quality of education, the love and dedication of the teachers, and the support they are receiving from child sponsors in the US. Many did not have a complete understanding of how much of their cost was being supported by sponsors since they never see any of the money directly in their hands. I think it worked well to deliver the message.
We had a good dinner st the Passion Hotel but broke my wife’s rule of food ordering when all five of us got the same fried chicken basket with French fries. We had hoped to catch some of the soccer game with Bong County playing in the championship game but the Passion didn’t get that channel. We headed home and viewed some of the many photos taken by Becky and Kathy.