Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bad Dog

Really? How bad could a doggie be that wears a tiara?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fire Plug Problem

We are pretty sure that this fire plug represents a lack of communication between several government agencies...like maybe city maintenance, the fire department, and public utilities. 
That is our bank across the street. We hope there is never a fire!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Just Do It

Since coming to Liberia, I have learned to do all sorts of things...like how to treat malaria, and what to do for typhoid. I know what the symptoms are for worms and what medicine works for "runny tummy". Countless band aids, children's Tylenol tablets, and stickers have been dispensed. I can make a cake from scratch to feed eighty people. I know what a bitterball looks like, and have learned how to negotiate the best price on a wheelbarrow full of coconuts. Chopping okra, peeling mangoes, slicing pineapples are second nature. I can spot a rotten fish at twenty paces and I no longer panic when faced with a whole carton of spoiled eggs.

Rats in the kitchen? Ha! I scoff at rats! (Not really; I HATE rats.) Do snakes make me run scared? Ha! Well, actually, yes they do. But I do not scream near as loud as I once did. That has to count for something.

Washcloths have been transformed into cute little bibs. Size two underwear has been made SMALLER. Multiple dresses for Christmas gifts have been sewn, bath towels cut and hemmed into hand towels, and the sleeves sliced off dozens of long sleeved shirts. (What were we thinking when we bought that bundle of used clothes from Canada? Of course they wear only long sleeve shirts in Canada! Duh.) Angel costumes have been created for the heavenly host and shepherd tunics sewn for the Christmas pageant. Sunday slacks have been altered and numerous wore-out pants have become play shorts. I have sewn curtains, valances, tablecloths, aprons, bathmats, and hundreds of napkins. No. Really. I know that I sometimes am prone to a little exaggeration, but I do mean HUNDREDS of napkins.

I have glued the soles back on countless shoes (Let's hear it for Gorilla Glue!). Coloring books have been made, preschool workbooks created for newly arrived children, and a zillion Christmas presents wrapped. (OK, maybe a little exaggeration there!). I have supervised the painting of wood birdhouses, the making of bead necklaces, and the construction of many Mother's Day Cards. Special bookmarks have been decorated and laminated. Give these kids some glue, crayons, glitter, paint, markers, and they are ready to go to town.

 Many batches of play dough have been mixed in the kitchen, and dress-up clothes have been mended and washed repeatedly. When the kids made self-portraits using clay, our oven looked like a crematorium for several days as we dried out the little clay bodies ("I see dead people.") 

Are you aware that there is a whole website dedicated to crafts using toilet paper rolls? And we have made many of them? Well, think about it...with sixty eight children living on the compound, that equals A LOT of toilet paper, so this is one resource we have! We have made TP roll Christmas wreaths, TP roll garlands, and TP roll people and animals. We did a whole art show featuring scenes from The Wizard of Oz using toilet paper roll characters of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man. It turned out great and was fun!

And now there is one more thing to add to my resume: "makes alterations to raincoats". Unable to find enough children's raincoats in the market, we purchased several adult coats out of desperation, and made them "thinner" and shortened the sleeves. Ta-Da! They are not perfect, but they do keep the rain off, and that was the goal.

 It is amazing how creative one can be out of necessity; what one can do when there is no other option. You just do. And amazingly, things usually turn out OK. Wishing you a great day of doing!


Monday, July 15, 2013

At The Beach

We have just enjoyed three weeks of break from school. We had some extra people from the States at the village during this time, and many activities were planned to keep children busy and out of trouble! Like a big soccer match and baseball games and kickball games for the older ones. Sand toys and dress up clothes were made available for the younger set. Some days, there was a movie shown for the oldest kids, and story times with sing-a-longs for the little ones.

One favorite activity that was held throughout the three weeks vacation was a beach walk scheduled for each cottage. A mama and her "family" walked to the beach and enjoyed a couple hours there, just hanging out and playing on the sand. Lots of shells were gathered during these adventures and brought back to the village.

Some cottages now have pretty shells scattered around their steps and under the bushes. Many sand crabs were chased on these beach walks, and slower crabs were captured. In the process, a few fingers were nipped by irate crabs. There are some boys who will be a little more cautious about crab chasing in the future!

Sand castles were also sculpted. Budding architects worked carefully to build delightful creations with moats and tunnels. School resumes on Monday, so fun and games are over for awhile. Here are some pictures of good memories of those sandy walks.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

For Your Eyes Only

 Yesterday, I took Trudy (age 12) to an eye clinic being held at an orphanage about 45 minutes away, just outside the Firestone Plantation, at a community called Cotton Tree. The clinic was being run by a group of people from Georgia.  This group comes every year and they go into the bush to an orphanage they began a few years ago. They added this orphanage in Cotton Tree to their itinerary this year, to help another organization, and then the head of THAT organization contacted me (Debbie and I had talked about Trudy's vision before).  I was very excited to have Trudy get a real eye exam.
The eye clinic was to be held from ten until four. We drove up to the building at 9:45am and we were the first vehicle there and everyone thought we were the eye team. I had Trudy, Patience (along for the ride; she is in the same cottage as Trudy), and Amanda and Sydney,  two mini missionaries with me. We were welcomed warmly, and immediately babies were handed to Amanda and Sydney. For the next two and a half hours, they never had their arms empty! And everyone always wants to touch the white people.  So children were constantly touching us. They love to touch our arms and run their fingers through our hair.
The two vans (which we had passed on the highway) pulled up soon after us. The folks from Georgia were nice people, but a bit overwhelmed. For several of them, this was their first visit to Liberia, and they had only arrived in country the day before.  There were hundreds of people crammed into this orphanage waiting for eye exams (or for whatever they could get!). Many of them were children under the age of ten. There were mothers with four/five kids in tow. And lots of babies....people thought the babies needed an eye exam. Not sure how that works. And there was no order. Just a mass of humanity all crammed into a room, waiting expectantly.
The Liberian man with a bullhorn was totally ignored. He told the people that anyone without an eye problem needed to go home. No one left. He told the crowd that only children older than ten and adults would be seen today. The five million kids all stayed and stared at him. Mothers with little babies sat and waited. The roar in the room got louder and louder, as people yelled across the room to their friends and children scuffled in the "aisles" ( I use the term "aisles" loosely, as there were NO walkways. Just people. Everywhere.)
Trudy and I waited on the edge of the crowd, waiting to see what would happen next. Upon their arrival, the team had said we would be first, as we had driven a ways and probably had things to do yet today. Obviously, for most of the others in the room, it was a social event. Cotton Tree is a very poor area and there is not a lot to do for entertainment. An eye clinic would probably be the social shindig of the month!
The team set up a registration table in the adjoining room, and the crowd surged forward. I told Trudy to stay with me and we pushed forward. At times it was a bit scary, as we were pushed from behind with nowhere to go in front! Mostly we stood, and then we moved about four inches. And then we stood again. And Hot! Did I mention how hot it was in the room with a million of people? A few years ago, I might have fainted, but now I am a pro, having endured many a hot, airless room waiting in various medical clinics. Of course, if I HAD fainted, I would not have fallen over, as I was nicely braced by people on all sides. And then the guy with the drum began to play. Ohnminegoodness! At that point, I was really kind of wishing I would faint!
Trudy and I finally made it to the registration table in the next room. There were people leaning over the table, telling the poor white ladies in "perfect standard English" that  they could not see far away or close up, they had runny tummy, their legs hurt, this hand was swollen, they had a cough for many weeks now, the one month old baby needed to see a doctor...it was nuts! The man with the bullhorn was besides us, in the doorway, still trying to get people without eye issues to GO HOME.
This smaller registration room was also filled with people...mostly mothers with babies and lots of children. They had taken their chairs from home to sit and watch the strange white people. (It is not an uncommon thing to do here, to BYOC...Bring Your Own Chair). Trudy registered, was given a piece of paper and told to stand in the next line. Trudy turned around to get in the next line, and she was there. She did not move from the table, but just turned around. The next line was jammed up next to her. The room was so full of Looky-Loos that the ones who actually were to receive an eye exam were squeezed off to one side. That was the last straw! I could not stand it any more. These foreigners from Georgia were much too polite! I asked the ladies at the table if I could clear the registration room and reorganize the treatment line. They said Please do!
First, I kicked out all the Looky-Loos. I made at least fifty children go out the side door, and then kicked out most of the mothers with babies (Yes, I am the heartless one.) I had them all take their chairs outside. After we finally had some space to maneuver, I moved the treatment line to the opposite side of the door leading to the "exam rooms" (which were the orphanage bedrooms).  Meanwhile, Man With Bullhorn was keeping the first doorway blocked, so no one else could enter the registration room.  The room became quieter, organized, and the poor harried ladies at the registration table began to smile again. Man With Bullhorn only allowed one person in at a time now, as a space became available at the registration table. Folks received their treatment paper and walked across the room to stand at the back of the line. It was a beautiful thing to see! A cool breeze wafted through the room (Ok, I might have imagined that it was a COOL breeze, but there was a little air movement) and I am pretty sure that angels in heaven began to sing.
I did have to stand guard at the side door, as several kidlings kept trying to sneak back in. Finally, Man With Bullhorn got a security guard to stand at the side door. Yes, a little order is a glorious thing. Ah-h-h-h...
The optometrist in charge came out to say Hi. He thanked me for the crowd control. I told him that at our village, we do lines well. Trudy thought that was funny. The optometrist had heard of the foundation we are a part of, and he asked some questions about the village. He was wearing a cool t-shirt that said "If not me, who?"  
When it was Trudy's turn for an exam, it was such a delight to see how she could understand the English being spoken and follow the directions. And, yep, she is nearsighted. They fitted her with a pair of glasses. And the optometrist also gave her a pair of sunglasses. He liked Trudy. She was polite and well-spoken and a proper young lady. A wonderful representative of our village. And now she has a pair of glasses and can see. 
Trudy and I fought our way back through the big room on our way out. It was still wall-to-wall people, waiting to see the eye team for malaria meds, or Ibuprofen, or crutches, or burn medicine, or worm medicine, or clothes, or money, or whatever they thought they could get.  Oy! What a deal.
Patience, Amanda, and Sydney were waiting for us outside. They had been playing with little kids for the past two hours. Time to go! Amanda made sure that I did not run over any children as we backed out of the orphanage courtyard, and we got the Land Cruiser headed out of Cotton Tree. Whew!  We were all exhausted by this experience, and I am pretty sure that our new friends from Georgia slept very well last night, also. 
I am very thankful that God provided an opportunity for Trudy to receive an eye exam from a reputable eye team and that she was able to get glasses. Today, at church, she could see the pastor!  I am also thankful that our God is a God of order and peace. And we must demonstrate this whenever we can. If not us, who?
love, Babs

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

Mother's Day in Liberia is a big deal. A "Mother of the Year" is chosen in every church. Names are submitted by the congregation, and secret voting is done to chose the special lady who is to receive the honor this year. The  names of the winners are announced a few weeks prior to Mother's Day, and then these ladies are celebrated and honored throughout the service on Sunday, Mother's Day. These Mother's Day services can go on for hours, as there is special music and "pinning" (candy and ribbons are pinned on members of the congregation who go to the front of the sanctuary and place money in the offering box. We think this money is to pay for extra expenses incurred for the special Mother's Day worship service...like flowers and fancy bulletins and candy and ribbons.)

The ladies of Liberia wear their best outfits to church on Mother's Day, as all women are honored on this day. Attached are pictures of mamas from the orphanage, all decked out in their pretty church clothes. These ladies know how to dress. I usually feel a little dowdy next to the colorful dresses, high heels, glittering earrings, matching head wraps, large necklaces, big hand bags...It's a bit much for me, a simple Dutch girl.

At the village, Mother's day is treated as a  holiday! The tables are set with tablecloths, matching napkins, and fresh flowers picked from the jungle. Handmade cards and small gifts are set at the mothers' places at supper. A special meal is served (like Jolliff Rice with Chicken, or Spare Ribs with Rice), and cake is served for dessert. 

All the children at the village made Mother' Days cards for their mamas. Many hearts and flowers and butterflies (plus a few cars and space ships) were carefully drawn, and sweet sentiments were written inside the card. My favorite sentiments were "Happy Moter Day" and "Happy Day to You" and "Mama, You are all Right!" One little boy wrote a heartfelt note: "Mama, I will try to be good." The kids colored their best and the children vowed to not tell the mamas that they made anything special for them. (Right! Like anyone can keep a secret here!)

It was a fun day, filled with excitement and love. I, too, received some cards from children. One girl wrote "I pray for God to make you strange and healthy." Dave tells me that her prayers have been answered.

And I wish a "Happy Day to You!"


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Taxi Wisdom

Here are the latest life philosophies being proclaimed on Liberian roads these days: