Water, wood dust, and pineapple

I was determined to resolve our pesky leaking water tank fittings. I knew the problem was poor quality parts. I also knew the solution was not appealing. I began draining the tank. Lavela was working on a small project so I asked if he could assist. He was willing to climb inside the tank and work with me to install new, better quality fittings obtained at Mr. Barbar’s store. We attached a rope around the WTWTMD which is still mounted on the tower railing. Lavela removed the tank cover and climbed through the 16″ diameter hole into the 6-foot high black cylinder as I began disconnecting everything from the outside. One of my concerns was how smooth the inside surface around the factory-drilled holes was. He ended up using a piece of sandpaper to eliminate some slivers of malformed plastic that had prevented the rubber washer from sealing completely. With a better prepared surface, new fittings, and some PVC glue (or “gloop”‘as they say here), the job was completed. Lavela rope-climbed his way out of the tank. He went in barefoot and about an inch of water still remained inside so I imagined the first cup of water tasting like Liberian feet. Thank goodness for chlorine and 1,500 gallons to dilute that fear. We switched the pump back in and no leaks.

While waiting for the tank to drain, Tumamee was furiously washing and filling the chicken drinkers before his water supply ran out for the morning.

With the water tank fixed and the chicken drinkers freshly replenished, Tumamee wanted to head to Silla’s carpentry shop to fill bags of wood dust in preparation for another batch of chicks expected in about two weeks. John 2 had some family matters to attend to so I needed to be the wood dust driver today. As I was about to leave, Sumo informed me that the man buying the truck had visited his mechanic and wanted to discuss something about the purchase.

I immediately thought he wanted to renege on the deal because his mechanic said it would be too costly to repair. I asked Tumamee to “wait small” as I met with the man. We sat together, once again, in Sumo’s office. The man began explaining about the difficulty of obtaining parts and the time it will take to have it repaired. Without much prompting he suggested two compromises: reduce the sale price or allow him to pay 85% now and the 15% balance over the next three months. I selected option two figuring if he didn’t pay the balance, it would equal option one anyway. We agreed and expect to complete the transaction on Monday.

Free of the truck negotiation round 2, Tumamee and Moses loaded into the truck and we headed to Gbarnga. I dropped them off at Silla’s with a pile of empty feed bags for filling. I continued on to Me. Barbar’s for a few supplies. He was happy to hear his parts had helped resolve our tank leak and inquired how our poultry farm was going. He offered a juice and we talked for a while but I eventually succumbed to his chain smoking and had to leave, opting for the slightly better ubiquitous odor of Gbarnga’s brush burning mixed with diesel fumes (a new men’s cologne by Dior called “Burn Von Diesel”).

With some time to kill before they would be done packing all the wood dust, I parked the truck and walked on Broad St. into downtown Gbarnga to buy some bread. A sat with Musu, the market woman who also sells eggs, and I chatted for a while asking probing business questions that were answered with increasingly confusing statements that never seemed to get to a specific point. I couldn’t determine how much profit, if any, she earned on bread selling. Her daughter, Mamee, is in 11th grade at the Methodist school in Gbarnga. They pay over 30,000 LD (about $188 USD) for annual school fees. Compare that to our fee of 8,600 which our villagers struggle to pay. I found that Mamee was behind her market stall in another stall doing hair plying (weaving). I went over to see her and encouraged her in her schooling as I watched her braid hair extensions into a customer’s natural hair for 10LD (less than 7¢). She always struck me as a very bright girl and she told me she gets A’s and B’s on her report card. She hopes to attend University of Liberia to study biology. I hope her mom’s bread business comes through with enough “bread” for college.

I walked back down the scorching dirt along Broad St. to Silla’s. Mr. Barbar said the air temperature today was 38 degrees C with a heat index of 42 C (that’s a whopping 108 F)…and it felt like every degree of it this afternoon. Tumamee and Moses were still filling and hauling bags of wood dust. I hired three young men to help haul the nearly 50 bags to our truck to speed the process a bit. While sitting next to the one helper I noticed a distinctive scar (not tattoo) on his right shoulder.

We hauled our load back to the farm and unloaded. I went to the kitchen to see how Lavela was doing with his little project: new shelves to allow the cooks to plate 56 more meals and let dishes air dry (inside instead of scattered outside in the grass). I’m sure they’ll be happy with them on Monday.

By late afternoon I was feeling tired. I showered and started preparing an early dinner as more visitors came. Some came bearing pineapple while others came to make various requests for help. I think I have enough pineapple for a while.

4 thoughts on “Water, wood dust, and pineapple

  1. Also grateful the leak is fixed. Your report suggests your days are too long, hence the suggestion that you slow down. Take time for fun stuff, like playing with the children.


  2. Dear Jon,
    Each day is filled with so many opportunities to get things accomplished. Although you go to bed knowing the next day will arrive with new challenges, I’m thinking you sleep well. I’ll bet the pineapple here is nowhere as good as what you receive there. Sharon


  3. Hi, Jon, Curious: What does the dollar sign shoulder scar represent? Is the sign representative of “money,” or does it have some other meaning in Liberia? Stay well, and enjoy those pineapples, Herk


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