Thursday, May 16, 2013

Liberia is the greatest place on earth!

I don't have Internet really in Liberia so I haven't been able to post anything on how I am doing or what I am doing, but I have made a list of what I've done each day so I would be able to post it all at once! Overall this has so far, been one of the greatest experiences in my life. I have learned so much about this culture and have truly fallen in love with it and everything else here. I will include a list with a breakdown of the main characters of this story really quickly. 
In order of appearance:
Alex- grad student in enviro science, witty and interesting(in a good way)
Allison- biosystems engineer, been to Liberia before with EWB
Carolyn- biosystems engineer also, rock climber and seemingly granola
Jamie- mechanical engineer, great at cars
Jesse- chemical engineer, sings a lot
Matt- chemical engineer, really funny and the kids loved him
Pastor Sam- the pastor who drove us around and led us pretty much, so helpful
Dolo- works in the church office and is super nice
Luther- lives at the compound and is 19 and a junior in high school. He loves math and physics so much! He is so funny and awesome and sweet!
Sumo- also lives at the compound and is a junior in high school as well (I think). He is crazy and so great!
Sunday Boy- also lives at the compound and is a junior in high school and is 23. He is so loving and kinda suave.
Bicki- helped drive us, reminded me of Reggie so much. Really funny and awesome.
Yasa- works at the church too. Great lady who was a nurse during the war and is so sassy and funny!

Well here's the day by day:

May 4-5, 2013
I included these days together because I flew through the night and it kind of just felt like one huge long day.
I left Charlotte at 11 am and was off to New York for an 8 hour layover! Which ended up being less because we were delayed kind of. Then from New York to Accra, Ghana. We just touched down here to drop some people off and pick up new people. Us Liberian bound people didn't leave the plane. The person next to me on this flight was wonderful! His name was Alfred, and he works as an accountant in Minnesota. He is a Liberian but left for America and returns annually to manage his sugar cane farms which he uses to create alcoholic beverages. He told me that the people who work for him steal from him because Liberia is just so corrupt after the war. I have heard some people say how corrupt it is and some how much it has recovered. But you can very obviously see the damage from the war still. It ended 9 years ago but we saw them rebuilding a bridge that was bombed during the war. Liberia is still hurting from this tragedy, but they have a bright future I think. I heard someone say that 10 years ago the best America could do to help is send troops and now the best we can do is send math and science teachers to raise up a generation of engineers and agriculture students. Then we went from Ghana to Monrovia, Liberia. Flying in was so beautiful because we flew along the coast, including the Ivory Coast. When we got into Monrovia, we had to wait through this huge line for customs and it was SO hot and humid. Then "baggage claim" was actually a huge room with luggage everywhere and we just had to climb around to find our bags which was scary because it took me a while to spot mine and I was afraid that it hadn't made it. But I found it in the back corner. Then we were picked up by Pastor Sam and Dolo and went to head to the CRCA compound which is where we stayed. I met Luther and Sumo that day. They are great. We basically unloaded and went to eat dinner I think and just hung out mainly. I also learned the handshake that liberians do is different than americans. At the end of it you snap your fingers together. Not like individually snap, but make a snap with both of your hands together. Its hard to explain and do too.

May 6, 2013
Today we went shopping for supplies to build our projects. We went with Pastor Sam and Yasa. It was so hot and stressful because we didn't have finals plans for the playground (because we found out we couldn't use wood and the plans my group made were actually not great). So we were buying for the other project, which I didn't know much about. It was a bio-digester (turned poop to methane gas for cooking). Then we went by the CRCA church and met Dolo and saw this little boy who ran away crying at the sight of white people. Then he ran away crying everyday that we went to the church. Also the car broke down this day, but you will realize that it kind of happened most days.

May 7, 2013
Today we got an axel for the main part of the merry go round, and I spent all day cleaning it. Then when I was done we played basketball in the yard of the compound, and I was awful. The other part of our group worked on the digester all day, also at the compound.

May 8, 2013
Today we went to Jungle Farm and worked on the merry go round. We dug the hole and put in the axel and cemented it. We also hired welders to help us with the frame because we had to use metal, and we obviously don't know how to weld. This day I met my favorite kids too. It was a family of 4 kids, but one little boy stood out in particular. He was beautiful and probably about 6 years old. His name is Foni and I fell in love. He has the most amazing smile! I will post a picture of him eventually. There was also a ton of other really great kids! It was nice because we got to play with the kids when we needed a break from working. Another fun side note about Liberia is that the call mangos plums. And there are two different types, both are way better than any mango I've ever had! The end of the day, Luther and I walked to an Internet cafe and I was able to iMessage and check my 86 emails.

May 9, 2013
We made serious progress on the merry go round today! Sunday boy and Sumo came to work with us at jungle farm and it went really well. I also hung out with sumo and Sunday most of the day, so that was so fun! They are so great. Sumo kept telling me how when I was 45 I would be old. But he was acting out a little old lady walking around. Literally laughed so hard! We also had a problem because the generator coupler wasn't on straight, which would cause the generator to break in second. We also decided to wire lights to the church building as well as the playground. Foni didn't come back to play today which was so sad. His sister just kept telling me he was home, like duh he is home..go get him! Also the compound realized that a car battery was missing and it caused some serious drama.

May 10, 2013
Today we put the final touches on the frame for the merry go round! We didn't finish painting or wiring, but the metal part was done. Sunday and Luther came to work with us today and that was great too! Luther cracks me up. He told me all about the Mandingos in Liberia and around the world. They sound a lot like the gypsies. But Foni wasn't there today either. I was so upset. Also Sumo pulled Matt aside and asked if he thought I would marry a Liberian man. I dont know why Sumo thought Matt would know, but whatever! The answer: duh I would marry a Liberian. They are beautiful and have a great accent and are all so nice!

May 11, 2013
Today we went to Jawajeh village in Bomi county. This was "in the bush" aka in the jungle! The drive was pretty painful when your riding on rock hard seats in the back of an old land rover type thing. This trip wasn't very rewarding. Basically pastor Sam had to be there for some meeting and tricked us into going, so we went inside the church and napped on the pews. The culture here was different from the city and so there were a lot of naked kids running around. More than the usual dozen or so we see daily near the city. A lady also came up to me saying "I love you. I love you for my son. I love you for my son" then I gave her a questionable look and she finally clarified "I'd love you to marry my son." Uhhmm no thanks. Also she was holding a tiny baby boy so at first I was thinking she was offering for me to adopt him, which I was much more open to.

May 12, 2013
Sunday! Church day! Church was great, per usual. I was pretty prepared after singing in gospel choir at all the black churches. But they made us get up in front of everyone and introduce ourselves which was a little unexpected. After church we went to eat Lebanese food (a lot of Lebanese people moved to Liberia to start businesses). The restaurant was the first place I had been with air conditioning since America, which was a clear adjustment. I was shivering the entire meal. Sumo ate with us which was good. Any time with him is always something to be thankful for. When we got back to the compound after lunch we worked on the bio digester (aka they worked while the guys and I played basketball).

May 13, 2013
Today we went shopping for African things and for supplies as well. We also went to Kponde (not sure on the spelling, but pronounced Bondus) Town to look at the projects they did last year. Not one of them was still working which was pretty hard to see. I would like to think that our work will last better than that, but you never know I guess. Then on our way home we picked someone up to take them somewhere (which happened often). This lady was special though, she was so funny! She was decked out in a full African outfit and was telling us about the different fruits and when we stopped to buy some, she was like "well where's mine?!" so we gave her a banana and a coconut I think. She was cracking me up most of the car ride. Then that evening Sumo and Luther and I went to the Internet cafe. It wasn't the Internet that was fun, but getting to hang out with them! It was a nice change from wrestling with my engineering group all day. Luther and Sumo were some of the nicest people I know. They are just truly so fun to be around.

May 14, 2013
Our last full day in Liberia. It was a national holiday (unification day) so most things were closed. Which means we went to Jungle Farm and FINISHED the merry go round and then went to the beach! Sumo and Sunday and Amanda (the wonderful woman who cooked us breakfast and is so sweet) came to the beach with us. Bicki also came to watch our stuff mainly. He is so great. The beach was stunning. Much better than Hilton Head. Plus Sumo just doggy paddles around and has to be able to stand up on something (a rock or shallow ground) to be okay with it, so that was fun. When we got back I showered and the trio (Luther, Sumo and I) went to the Internet cafe to try to make Sumo a Facebook but were unsuccessful. Making a Facebook is a lot harder than you would think these days. You have to have an email confirmation and a phone confirmation and no thanks. He claims he will either do it tomorrow or in 2018 though. So whatever happens there.

May 15-16, 2013
Traveling home. Saying goodbye to Luther and Sumo was the worst. When Sumo and I hugged my heart broke just a little to think that I don't know when I'll be back, if ever. I would die if I couldn't go back to Liberia though. We also went by the peace corps office today to talk about partnering with them in the future which would be amazing! But now I am sitting on the plane that is taking us from Monrovia, Liberia to Accra, Ghana. Tearing up as we take off. But I know that Liberia will always have my heart and I have great friends there for the next time I go back. So much love for this place and everyone here.

Here is Foni! <3

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