Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Big Scary Day

This month we accepted fifteen community children to attend the village school. They are the sons and daughters of some of our employees and they range in age from five years old to eleven years old. These ladies and gentlemen fill out the classes that we have going now with the children who live at the orphanage. These day students have been placed in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, or first grade.


In the first picture, you see some of the new students being led by a security guard to the dining hall. This was scary, coming into our compound; some of these children had never had any contact with white people. They were led to the dining hall where they were told a little about our village and the classes they will attend. Paperwork was completed.

They were given a tour of the school and the facilities were explained. Yes, it’s called “Bathroom 101”. This was really scary! What would happen if you fell into the white well while someone pushed that silver lever? Perhaps you can remember the fear invoked, starting a new session at school when you were a new student. Having to use the bathroom did not tend to make you relax in your new setting. Well, in two or three days, the scariness of the commode has been conquered; it has become all fun and games, and the excuses to go to the bathroom are quite resourceful.

The other thing that happens the first day they come to the village is that they are examined by a doctor. Ministry of Health says that all employees and children that are involved in an institution such as this one must have a physical exam and regular checkups. A U.S. doctor who was volunteering in Liberia for a couple of months agreed to come out to our village and exam the new students.

In the second picture, there are four kids waiting for their exam in our clinic. Babs came in with a camera and asked the girls if they would smile for a picture. They were not in the smiling mood, and just stared at Babs. So Babs tried to be funny, hoping to solicit smiles. Finally they looked at each other and giggled about the strange white lady. None of this is lost on the two boys in the background. They find the whole thing hilarious. I think we have some very normal kids here.

Hope you can smile at whatever is going on in your day today.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Ohn Mine Goodness!


From the communities surrounding our village, there is a group of young men who have formed an athletic association. Early in the evening, several times a week, they practice football (soccer) in a sand lot across from our village. They challenged the employees of our orphanage to a friendly game of football. And we accepted the challenge!

Some guards, a cook, and a gardener made up the heart of our team, but we were a few members short, so friends of the guards (read "ringers" here) filled in the open spots. Dave wanted to play, but as the village health manager (and his loving, caring wife!) I told him that he could NOT play soccer with those guys! I have watched them practice, and is anyone else aware that soccer is a full-on contact sport? Only without the protective pads and helmets of American football? Oy! I reminded Dave that there is no Medi-flight helicopter here in Liberia. So he became the unofficial team captain!

A day and time for the game was finally agreed upon by both teams: a Sunday afternoon. Of course, two days before the Big Match, I was informed by the official team captain who is our Head Of Security (also officially known as "Supreme Commander"...no, I am not kidding here; that really is his title!) that our team needed uniforms. What?!? He must have noted my reaction (this is why he is the Supreme Commander, as he can read body language so well), as he then suggested that at least the same color shirts for the whole team would be good. Which is still a daunting task here in Liberia...fifteen matching adult shirts?

But we are resourceful people, and off we went to town, in search of matching shirts. With the help of some Liberian personal shoppers, we finally found new white tee-shirts in the market at Waterside. We stenciled our village initials on the shirts. They looked quite nice, and the team was pleased to be wearing official game shirts.

It was a fun game, with our unpracticed but very spirited team putting on a good show. We attracted a little crowd of spectators, some of which were children and mothers from our village. The mothers enjoyed cheering for our High Commander whose name is Charles. Now Charles is a very proper man and a bit intimidating in size and demeanor. But that did not stop the mothers from yelling at "Charlie" to make a goal! Wow! Never before thought of him as a Charlie.

There was a man at the game who had a bull horn. He graciously did a running commentary throughout the game. His favorite phrase was "Ohn Mine Goodness!" as the ball flew from one side of the field to the other. The crowd cheered every good kick and block, no matter which team executed the play. It was an enjoyable afternoon with our neighbors. Of course, we let the athletic association win (which really means we got slaughtered!). Bottles of water and good natured remarks were exchanged at the end of the game, and our team promised to play them again!

Monday, it was back to work as usual. All the team shirts were handed in, and "Charlie" was Charles again. The medical clinic was a busy place though, as I handed out Ibuprofen to our battered and hobbling football players. And the theme that kept recurring in conversations throughout the day was "Next time, we'll show them!" The competitive spirit is alive and well in Liberia!

Wishing you all a good day!
love, Babs

Monday, March 1, 2010

Very Vexing

I am vexed! This is a normal term in Liberia. We hear it all the time: Comfort is vexed when she cannot open the washing machine; Isaac is vexed that he is not able to go to school yet; Benjamin is vexed because it is not his birthday. Dave had a gentleman tell him that he did not want to vex Dave. And now I am vexed!
Why, you ask? I paid over $8 dollars for three navel oranges! They were big and juicy and looked so yummy; I had to have them. But what a shock at the checkout stand! It was hard for us to take, spending over $2.60 per orange, as we have lived pretty much our whole lives with access to wonderful fresh oranges we pull off our own trees. In fact, our sister in law has the Best Orange Tree in Stanislaus County, and she sometimes would let us have some of HER fabulous oranges.
On this shopping trip, we also paid $4.62 for two bell peppers and $6.70 for four zucchini! No, we do not often buy items like this, but sometimes we just crave fresh fruit and vegetables that are familiar and it is very exciting when one finds them in the supermarket! Just so you know, we opted to NOT get the box of Froot Loops for $36, nor the bag of Nestle's chocolate chips for $18! That would have been just too vexing!
We will savor and enjoy every tasty bit of our extremely over-priced, but "worth-every-penny-because it feels like home" oranges, peppers, and zucchini!
Have a great day, and enjoy the produce aisle at your grocery store.