As students gathered at the flagpole for the morning opening, I seized the opportunity to grab a stepladder and climb up for a group photo. I took one with the traditional hope-they-smile look. Another where they stuck their tongues out at me. And then the shot below for your viewing pleasure.
One of the blessings our American children have (because they happen to be born or adopted into a wealthy country) is having leisure time. Which is why every Friday I stand in awe as 57 Liberian school children dressed in their pristine PE uniforms spend a few hours doing yard work and sundry chores around our campus before they get to play football, kickball, and other group games. Imagine if your six-, ten-, and fifteen-year old children had to weed and cut grass at their school with rather simple hand tools like whippers and hookers (see photo below with the four girls “hooking”). First, they couldn’t because the cellphone in their hands would prevent them from holding a tool. Second, the callouses resulting from sudden physical labor would prevent the “Touch ID” on their cellphones from working, causing them to go into Instagram withdrawal.With the campus looking cleaner and neater, the games began and the kids had a blast.
I moved on to drilling a hole in the roof to allow the solar wires to run down into the “control room” in the office closet. I brought a rubber boot used by plumbers in the US when they install a roof vent so I could create a water tight seal around the 1″ PVC electrical conduit. The shipper promised the solar panels would be at his warehouse on Monday…let’s say I’m hopeful with a side of skeptical. I double checked what I wired so far between all the components and found I swapped colors on the heavy gauge wires heading to the inverter. That could have been a deal breaker if connected wrong. The heat definitely affects my focus so I’ll be quadruple checking before I throw that first breaker to power up the system.
From there, I exchanged my electrician’s hat for a plumber’s crack…I mean hat…and got back in the trenches up by the poultry house to lay some of the remaining water lines. They’ve got about 10 more feet of 3-foot deep digging to go and final connections can be made so backfilling will become their priority.
After a lunch of PB&J on that delicious bread (and, yes, I did have awesome French toast this morning), I put on my carpenter’s hat and prepared to build the first layer boxes to give our “girls” privacy when making their ovoid offerings to us. With plywood on the saw horses and circular saw in hand, I asked the security guards to start up the generator. I just got this generator back from the repair guy, Mark, yesterday and hadn’t used it yet. The guard called over and said he couldn’t start it because it had no oil. I was really annoyed since he took a week longer to fix it than promised. John 2 has been dealing with him but he was still in Lofa getting wood. I called Mark and yelled at him for not doing the job right and he needed to get over here within 30 minutes with some oil. I didn’t have transportation with John 2 gone and I wasn’t taking a motorbike to Gbarnga just for oil. It took nearly an hour but he did come and it started up.
By this time, six of my boys had gathered so I had plenty of “helpers” and onlookers. They assisted in clamping a piece of plywood on top of another as a straight edge for accurate cuts and we began going down my cut list of layer box parts. Four sheets of plywood later, we were done for the day.
Time for afternoon tutoring and my teacher’s hat. The six boys gathered on the porch and I pulled out a math game book sent with the recent shipment of school supplies. I liked the worksheets because there were a mix of straight numeric and simple word equations. The boys struggled to read the most basic words like “less than” and “across” on one crossword math sheet. I’m trying to get them to do English and reading more but they mostly like math (because they’re pretty good at it) so I’ve got them doing reading disguised as math problems. It dawned on me last night that I never see any girls around after school like the boys frequently are. I’m sure it’s because the girls have greater home responsibilities. Just another example of how girls miss out on this type of serendipitous extra education support that gives boys advantages they don’t have. Although, I will add that the security guards have come over on some afternoons to yell at the boys for not being home to help their families and have sent them on their way.
With a Dinty Moore dinner in my belly, a cool breeze from the evening’s light rain, and time on my hands, I felt motivated to assemble the layer box. A few screws and a bunch of nails later, the eight-foot long egg-laying row house went together pretty quickly on the guesthouse floor.