Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oops! There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant...


Well, here we are, week three of being out of touch with the rest of the world! Our satellite dish has not been working. It is Monday evening, September 29, and today we were supposed to receive, via DHL, new components for the dish. But this is Africa, and so “the plane for DHL did not land today”...whatever that means! For us, it means still no easy internet access. Difficult to find a high-speed internet cafĂ© in Monrovia.

Let’s see…what is new? A couple fellas from the Department of Forestry came by on Saturday morning to plant 55 trees. Very exciting, as this place can use all the trees it can get! Counting the ones they stuck in the ground, over 135 trees have been added to this site since we arrived in May.

The gentlemen arrived by taxi. So did the trees. It was pouring rain (of course) so we did not get a picture, but the yellow cab contained two large men and 55 trees. It was just something that you don’t see everyday!

The rainy season should last for about another month, so all the new plantings have four more weeks to get established before the faucet turns off. As we walk past the new trees and bushes, we say encouraging things, like “looking good” and “hey, you have some new leaves.”

Unfortunately, Dave has been overheard threatening some of the less aggressive plants that he “will pull them out by the roots if they don’t do something!” And then we have to go back over our sensitivity training and remember that plants have feelings too, and some are just a little slower than others! Yeah, same as people.

But we are wishing some of these trees would become full-grown overnight because we could really use the shade in the dry season. The sun is intense here at the equator!

So that is about it from Monrovia today.

Wishing you a great day!

Dave & Babs

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Vegetable Order to Remember!

One of the cooks called me into the Village pantry to show me something. As we were peering into the darkened pantry (the electricity was off), I suddenly realized that she was telling me there was a snake in there! "Exit, stage right!" As I slammed the door of the pantry shut, I said in my most adult voice, which was sounding oddly shrill, that I would get Mr. Veneman.
Dave asked the important questions...size, color, etc. Well, it was small (18 inches long) and skinny (about 3/8" diameter), just a baby snake; those were the good qualities. Unfortunately, it was bright green, which meant it was a green mamba. All the staff (cooks, cleaning girl, guards, laundry girl, and groundskeepers) agreed it was poisonous and said "be careful". Suddenly, everyone became very busy (most industrious anyone had been in days!), and no one could help Dave. Sure, let the white guy deal with the snake!
So Dave donned his boots and gloves, and welding a bonifide snake-killing stick (old mop handle), he entered the pantry. As Dave rummaged through the buckets of bananas and bins of fresh produce that had been delivered the day before (yes, that seems to be how the sneaky snake came to reside in the pantry), he suddenly realized that the bugger was behind him, skulking behind the rice bin. It was probably waiting to catch Dave off guard! Snakes are so devious!
But Dave fought a valiant fight and emerged the victor, holding the limp snake aloft. As my still rather shrill voice was voicing concern if it really was dead or just sleeping, Dave took it outside and disposed of it. I then calmly climbed down from the kitchen counter, and proclaimed Dave the hero of the day!
Just another day in Liberia!
Wishing you all a reptile-free day (except for you, Loren, and may all YOUR reptiles be non-poisonous.)
Babs Veneman

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"A Time To Weep..."

This is a hard country. Life here is not easy for the Liberians. Access to healthcare is often limited, and any infection has the potential to be life-threatening. Malaria always is a concern, as is safe drinking water, clean produce, and fresh meat.
We have been in Africa four months now. In that time, four of the national staff here at the Village have experienced the death of a close relative. Two workers lost their brothers. One brother was 42 years old, and the other one was 45 years old. Our laundry girl's sister passed away and left four little children, the youngest being only 6 months old. Two weeks ago, a groundskeeper's daughter fell and died. She was just over a year old. No ambulance, no medi-flight, no trauma center available to those out in the bush.
We have had the privilege to hear several of these people pray during morning devotions, and usually they begin their prayers by thanking God for "waking up this morning." If you ask someone how their night was, they will respond by saying, "I have life, thank God." These sayings are not trite phrases, but come from a realization that life is tenuous. Only by the grace of God are they alive today.
A thankful heart in the midst of hard times...that must make God smile.
Wishing all who read this a day full of thanking God for life.
Dave & Babs Veneman

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"A Time to Plant..."

Hi. Here are a couple pictures we took today when we got back from another expedition into "Jungle Land". We wear boots when we tromp around in the wild, grassy area at the west end of the site. Just in case of sneaky snakes. Very brave thing to do, I might add, walking in snake territory. Or stupid. Could go either way....
We were in search of the illusive "paw paw" tree (papaya). We were trying to find some seedlings, but only found big trees, too big to transplant. We have a small paw paw orchard planted (two rows, four trees in a row) behind the house, but we need a couple of replants. Two trees, which showed such promise at first, just up and died. Sad.
We did find a few crape myrtle bushes and transplanted them in front of the school. The timing was perfect! Thirty minutes after we finished digging them into the ground, the sky opened up and watered the new transplants.
This soil is very humbling for a couple of Californian farmers. Our garden seeds got washed away in one of the first rain deluges in July. Total crop failure! And the orphanage is built on a sand hill, which is just beach sand; few nutrients and the sand gets hot quickly. If something grows here, it is one tough plant! So some of the plants and trees we had high hopes for did not make it, like the paw paw trees. (sigh)
Dave located fertilizer in Monrovia; not an easy feat! He has sprinkled some by everything we have planted. All the plants smile and wave when Dave walks past. Dave is their friend.
Dave has a little nursery growing next to the house. He found some old wooden boxes, and hauled them to the house. They are now filled with good dirt from "Jungle Land" and are under the eaves to protect them from downpours. He has planted tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, peas, and, of course, bell peppers. We had to purchase a red bell pepper to get pepper seed, and they are growing quite well. The challenge is to keep the ants and beetles away from the baby plantings, and believe me, in this country, that is a huge challenge!
Hope everything you plant grows!
Dave and Babs Veneman