As soon as Kathy and Marsha arrived back in the US, the weather got even hotter and more humid. It rained overnight while I was in Monrovia and my guesthouse windows were open so I returned to puddles under my bed. It rained again last night making the humidity thick. Sleeping is much more difficult. The temperature is so high my Liberian friends were complaining today.
My friend and original building contractor, Sam Bundo, came for a visit bright and early at 7:30 this morning. So much for sleeping in on Sunday. We had good conversations about his projects and he gave advice about our next classroom building concept. We discussed trying to include more skilled workers from Deanville along with his concerns about workers being lazy. In one of Sam’s classic Liberian proverbs he shared what he says to his crew members: “Don’t give breast milk to your shovel.” Imagine a man standing around, leaning against the shovel in front of him with the handle positioned against his chest and you’ll get the picture. If the shovel is in use, it won’t be against your chest!
Waiting patiently by the school kitchen as Sam and I talked was my friend, Kalalee. She used to live in Deanville but moved to “her man’s village” called Gbaota (pronounced “BOW-oh-tah”) about 5 minutes north of Gbarnga city. She has been selling baskets made by her mother-in-law over my last few trips. This time she went extreme, hoping I’d buy all of them. We counted them and there were 284 plus 11 handbags/purses — no way could I fit them all in my suitcase! I agreed to pay for them now and store the balance in the guesthouse until next trip. Meanwhile she invited me to visit Gbaota. By this time, Moses was hanging around so the three of us went to Kalalee’s village.
While driving there, Kalalee shared about making palm oil and, as they say, took the opportunity to make “the ask”. She wanted help buying a “palm machine” for $800 USD which would double her oil production from the same batch of palm nuts. She and her husband can produce five 5-gallon drums each month during the four-month season from January to April. Each drum sells for 2,000 LD (about $10 USD) so their monthly income is $50 USD x 4 months = $200 USD. The rest of the year they struggle to farm a small garden for income.
We also had a very interesting conversation about some catfish in a river near her village that are said to possess spiritual powers. Kalalee says the catfish can help you get pregnant if you’re having difficulty conceiving. If you bring bread and crackers to feed them and ask for what you need, they can grant you your request. She feels this is true because she has seen pregnant women there. I shared my thoughts about how it was counter to teaching in the Bible and she listened but didn’t seem to agree.
Upon our arrival, Kalalee was very proud to show me her 4-room mud home and the adjacent kitchen — a separate building approximately 8 ft. X 8 ft. square with a thatched roof and wood plank door. As you see in the photo, it’s complete with a hen that just helped out with a few eggs. The walls are blackened from the trapped smoke (no chimney, just a front door). Woven mats create a ceiling with storage for sheaves of rice.