Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Goin' to the Chapel, and Gonna Get Married"

I love weddings! I love the celebration of love and happiness. Add pretty dresses, wedding cake, and dancing, and I think it is about the best party ever!

Our Liberian friend's wedding had it all and more! The bridesmaids wore dresses of different colors with co-ordinating head wraps. They slowly danced their way down the aisle. They each carried a wooden bowl that contained different kinds of vegetables (like okra or rice). No, I have not learned what that symbolizes yet; just am told it is an old African custom! The groomsmen were waiting at the front of church in outfits that co-ordinated to the girl's dresses.

The groom, in white, matched the beautiful bride. She carried the traditional African hand bouquet of rice stalks, and she also danced slowly down the aisle to her beloved. They exchanged vows, rings, and publicly signed the official registry as husband and wife.

The minister talked about love being patient and kind (good words we all need to be reminded of, no matter how long we have been married!) and pronounced the couple "Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Jefferson!" (Yes, that is Jefferson's full name.) Clapping, rice throwing, hugging...all the regular wedding stuff completed the ceremony.

The reception was held on the porch of an elementary school. We had a tasty Liberian dinner of spicy rice, chicken, spare ribs, potato salad, and a bread/cake thing (it was pretty good!). Jefferson thanked everyone for coming and expressed his great love for Cristiana. They cut the cake for the photographer and received greetings from friends.
I think there was dancing next, but we did not stay. One of our riders was our very pregnant laundry girl and she was tired and wished to go home, so we loaded her and several others into the car and went back to the village. But it was a fun, enjoyable celebration for Jeff and his bride. Glad we were invited. Even Dave enjoyed himself. But next time, we will stay for the dance!
Hope the pictures will inspire anyone making wedding plans. We thought especially of Brian & Stacey, and Nick & Erin. The headdresses in the U.S. would make quite a statement, I think. Hey, go for it! Oh, there was also an offering in the middle of the ceremony. Dave thought that was a great idea to defray wedding costs!

Have a great week!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

To Buchanan and Beyond!

(Here is one of the sweet little girls we are hoping will join us at Rafiki)
(This little boy made his own truck!  Pretty smart, isn't he?)

It has been a busy week!
We headed to Buchanan at four a.m. on Monday to meet with two local pastors at seven a.m. They rode with us all day, directing us to villages in the bush. We bounced along dirt roads surrounded by palm and coconut trees, bamboos groves,and dense undergrowth. It is beautiful country. Once in a while we would get a glimpse of a small farm, but mostly the land out there is undeveloped. We met with village leaders and a district commissioner, explaining our search for true orphans. By the end of the the trip, we had a letter from a Grandmother who is trying to raise a three year old grandson, and some good leads on a group of children in village deeper in the bush.

We returned back into Buchanan around two p.m, and transported seven children to the local Catholic hospital for physical exams. We had screened these children on our previous visit to Buchanan. Exams and lab work took a couple hours, so Dave went back into the bush with the pastors and a social worker to investigate six other children we also met last week. Once again, Grandma caring for grand kids! Life is difficult enough for an aging person in Liberia; toss parent less grand kids in the mix...well, it is too much!

After finishing with exams and delivering all children to the correct households, we had one more stop to make: a prospective mother interview. It was getting dark by then and the last part of the interview was done via flashlight. Back in the car and we jostled our way home for 2 1/2 hours. We staggered into our house at ten p.m. An exhausting day, but hopefully a productive one. Made some good contacts and furthered the process on a few possible new orphanage residents!

Tuesday was a regular day, as we attempted to catch on stuff that we neglected from the previous day (food service, gardening, maintenance, paperwork, etc.).

Wednesday was a holiday here in Liberia; Decoration Day, which is similar to our Memorial Day. The nationals go to cemeteries and clean up the family plots and decorate with wreaths and plants. It is a day to remember loved ones who have passed on. We were on duty, so for us it was a regular work day, which was good, as we were still behind because of our Marathon Monday!

Thursday, we went into town rather abruptly at 9:30 a.m. when Dave received a phone call about a meeting that would begin at 10:00 a.m. for all those interested in the new social welfare policy manual. This document has been under construction for three years, and this was the public unveiling. It seemed a good opportunity to meet some social workers that we have been trying to touch bases with for a few days, so we headed into Monrovia. We arrived just before coffee break. Perfect timing! We made the contacts we needed, had coffee and a hard boiled egg, listened to a lecture and slipped out at one p.m.

Unfortunately, at our next stop, things did not go as smoothly. We dropped into the office of the airlines where we are purchasing tickets for a flight later this year. Seems there was a problem with the credit card process, and our credit card company denied payment halfway through the transaction. We are glad that VISA is diligent about watching transactions, and coming out of Africa, they are especially vigilant. But it took two hours and three calls to the fraud division in the U.S. before we could get things resolved. That was an ordeal! We are sure that the girls in the airline office are still wondering why those cranky people did not leave and try again another day, but it did not seem prudent to leave the office when we had only paid for half a ticket!

Today is Friday. Once again, we are trying to catch up on stuff we did not get done yesterday, as we were in Monrovia all day. We are looking forward to the weekend. Saturday, we will work around the orphanage and Sunday after church, we will attend our first Liberian wedding. One of our guards is getting hitched! We are curious to see what that celebration will be like. We will take pictures and fill you in on local wedding customs when we write next week!

Hoping your day is productive,
Dave & Babs

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More Musings...

So, we are driving down the road, and Dave says to me, "What do you think about the situation?"

My mind reels: which situation is he referring to?
---The beautiful vegetation and ocean scenes on the Chinese embassy road?
---Does he mean the orphanage with 30 starving children that we visited two weeks ago?
---Or the crippled beggar whose home is the bus stop?
---The fact that we cannot find a Mexican restaurant anywhere?
---Or maybe he is talking about the taxi in front of us with the words "Mama's Boy" painted on the bumper?
---Or that all of our watermelons in the garden have been eaten by some kind of large rodent?
---Maybe he wants to know my thoughts on the malaria outbreak that is plaguing our national workers at the village?
---Or why car owners seem to think that brake lights are a sign of weakness and should be disconnected?
---Or is he thinking about the guard who had a rat (followed closely by a cobra) race between his boots one night?
---Could he be talking about the incredible sunsets viewed from a perfect, deserted beach?
---Or how do the white egrets know to stalk eighteen inches in front of a fire line to scarf up escaping bugs?
---Is he talking about the armless beggar who beats his head against our car window when we go downtown?
---Or is he referring to the little girl, Elizabeth, who lives across the street from our village, who always has a cheerful "hello" for us and yet is terrified of white people and will scream if we stop the car?
---Maybe he means the huge crop of mangoes that are hanging on every mango tree in this county?

So I say, "I don't know, honey. What do you think?" but he does not respond as he is busy avoiding large groups of people walking on the highway, and I get side-tracked looking at beautiful cloth in the roadside shops; so it is still uncertain as to which situation he was referring.

Wishing you all a day with only good situations, and hoping you find a Mexican restaurant tonight.