Tuesday, October 4, 2011

i'm third.

If it were up to me, Africa would be the only thing I talked about all day every day. The topic is more interesting than my classes at Ball State, more exciting than who’s in a relationship with whom on Facebook, more important than the Muncie local weather, and I think I may even love it more than my boyfriend (Sorry, Jay).

However, as supportive as my friends and family are about my passion for Liberia, I don’t think I’d have anyone left to listen to me if every word that came out of my mouth revolved around my love for a country most people have no interest in ever visiting.

(Bless you, dear reader, for being one of the few who have an interest!)

Nevertheless, the fact I traveled to Africa does come up every so often, and when it does, those who are unaware of my story are always surprised.

* eyes widen *

Africa? You went to AFRICA?

* head cocks to side *

Was it hot?

This is the first question 99% of Ball State students ask me- I kid you not.

Yes,I reply. Hot and poor.

At this point I usually laugh at their predictable naivety and my dry humor as I begin to explain that, while clichĂ©, Liberia was a “life changing” experience and that if they ever have the opportunity to go, traveling to a developing country will change their view of the world and consequently, their life.

I’m absolutely thrilled on the rare occasion that someone takes an interest in my experience. Not because I like to hear myself talk, but because it’s awesome to be able to teach. I love learning, especially outside the walls of the classroom. I think most people secretly do.

Occasionally I’ll meet someone genuinely interested in Liberia, but more often than not, the conversation quickly leads to our stress over next week’s exam, or the inconvenience our essay’s due date has on our social lives.

It’s easier than you can imagine to get caught up in my daily life here at school, where the hardest part of my day is getting up in the morning and the toughest decision I’ll make is Jimmy Johns or Subway for lunch. I worry about what I’m wearing, how I look, what I say, and how I act. I care what other people think of me- many of whom I don’t even know and will never meet. I strive to impress my professors and parents, and hope to stand out as either smart, pretty, funny, or some other quality that I feel people will accept and love me for.

I hope writing in this blog will not only be an outlet for me to talk about what’s interesting, exciting, important, and what I love about Liberia- but to help keep me focused on the fact that I’m third.

It’s an idea I learned while working at YMCA Storer Camp this summer.

God first. Others second. I’m third.

Every day of my life I put myself first 99.9% of the time.

"Look out for #1."

"Stand up for yourself."

This is what we were taught to do since grade school. "Look out for others" or "stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves" don't flow off the tongue as easily I suppose.

I hope that in writing about Liberia, I won’t lose sight of what I learned during the short time I was there. I hope it will help me remember that I’m third.

Monday, October 3, 2011

what took me.

This afternoon, Bryan PapĂ©, Founder and CEO of MiiR Inc. asked me, “What took you to Liberia?

After emailing him my response, I continued to roll around the question in my mind the way you roll around a Jolly Rancher candy in your mouth. You can’t simply spit out the hard candy and suddenly stop savoring its flavor. Similarly, I couldn’t simply spit out Bryan’s question and suddenly stop thinking about my answer.

Hence, the blog is back. After four months of abandonment, I am not going to pick back up where I left off, but instead, start a new chapter. Lessons of Liberia, Part 2, if you will.

I think it was a combination of factors that took me to Liberia. Not a combination like a Wendy’s #1 value meal, where the quarter pounder, hot salty fries, and ice cold Coca-Cola go perfectly and obviously together- but more like the combination of nucleosynthetic elements scientists predict produced the Big Bang; an unpredictable and unreplicable scenario.

In a nutshell, it was a cross between my endless ache for adventure and my desire to see the world outside Midwest America. And after seeing many of my friends borrow and waste their parents money “studying abroad” in the pubs, clubs and other drunken corners of first world nations in Europe, I knew I wanted to do something different than “see the world” through foreign beer goggles and meaningless humanities credits.

Traveling to a developing nation struck me as a kill-two-birds way to see the world and embark on a guaranteed adventure. However, due to the lack of universities and increased safety risk in third world countries, study-abroad programs in developing nations do not exist.

I started looking into volunteer-abroad programs instead. After some research, I realized due to the same safety concerns, most programs do not travel to many of the poorest nations in the world either.

I decided I didn’t need a program. I wasn’t thrilled about walking in the footsteps of hundreds or thousands of past volunteers anyway. I was going to go road-less-traveled on this adventure, and try to “change the world” in whatever small way I could while doing so.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

welcome.

thanks for stopping by.

My name is Laura. One way or another, you stumbled across the blog I kept while in Liberia, West Africa in the spring of 2011. To follow my journey chronologically, please use the "Blog Archive" on the right hand side of the page to start with entries I posted at the beginning of my trip in February. Below is my favorite photo from my trip, a link to the charity I started while in Liberia, as well as my email address if you have any questions, or simply would like to chat.


www.theAcampaign.com
lbmerz@gmail.com

Sunday, May 29, 2011

goodbye.

So much to say but so much to pack! I leave today and am so sad to go. I'm headed to the airport around two this afternoon, and am traveling from Monrovia to Accra, to Atlanta, to DC to Detroit.

Many of my friends were over at the Chapmans last night, and it was great to see everyone one last time. Lots of tears, but lots of laughs, too. I read something I wrote thanking my friends for everything, and I barely got the words out. Tears were streaming down my face before I even stood up to speak, but somehow I sniffled through it!

I have so much more to say about Liberia and will continue to post as my journey continues in the states. Thanks again to everyone who made this trip possible, and thanks again to my Liberian family. You will forever be in my heart.


there's something I want to tell you
that I'm not sure how to say
words are going to fail me
but I wrote this anyway

and I struggled to form the letters
that spelled what's in my heart
cause love's a language that can't be written
but I hope this is a start

you've made my time here special
in a million different ways
and made me feel welcome
from my first to my last days

you've shown me how I want to live
you taught me who God made me to be
I'm sad because I'm going to miss
being part of your family

thanks for all the joy we've shared
and the hard times you've seen me through
thank you all for all you've done
you have no idea how much I'll miss you




Friday, May 27, 2011

recovery.

Just got an update about Alberta that I wanted to share with you!:

“Alberta is healing well - she has had a number of dressing changes with no signs of infection. She has a little splint on that is called an airplane splint because it keeps her arm out like an airplane wing. She is cute and precious, such a sweet, little, spirited child. Pain level has been tolerable & we are looking for her discharge to be near the end of June.”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

first class.

Can't believe I'm down to my last few days here in Africa! I have so much more to tell and a million photos to share, so I will continue to blog more lessons of Liberia even after I'm home.

Today I stopped by the Delta office to confirm my flight and pick up my ticket. I depart from Monrovia on Sunday at 5:45 pm and arrive at Detroit Metro at 9 pm on Monday. Somewhere during extending my stay and changing my departure date, there was a mix up with my ticket, and I managed to get bumped up to first class for FREE! I'm super excited to see what that's all about :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

fam photos.

It's been a busy week trying to check off the remaining items on my to-do-before-I-leave-Liberia list, and a few days ago I crossed off shooting the Chapman's family photos! I wanted to give them some updated fam photos as a thank you for taking me in the past few months, and below are two of my favorites.


Monday, May 23, 2011

beginning of the end.

Today was the first day of my last week in Liberia. I fly back to the states on Sunday, and I am not at all ready to go.

The goodbyes started today, and will continue throughout the week. Many Samaritan's Purse employees have projects in the bush, and are always traveling up country for days and weeks at a time. Joni heads up tomorrow and won't return until Monday, so today was the last time I'll see her....for who knows how long.

That's the hardest part about saying goodbye in this situation; not knowing how long you're saying goodbye for. As long as you and your far-away friend are both in the United States, planes, trains, and automobiles can easily get you together. But when cross-continental travel, thousand dollar airfare and visas are required, planning a trip to see your pals gets complicated. I'm hoping that seeing my friends here again is a matter of "when" and not "if," but realisticaly, this week might very well be the last time I ever see some of them.

In three and a half months they have gone from co-workers to friends and friends to family. And as excited as I am to see my family back home, I am very sad to leave behind the one I found here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

good news.

Today I heard from Sierra Leone that Alberta had her surgery!! Doctors say the surgery went well, and she is currently on the ship recovering.

In other news, the well in the Kendeja community was able to be fixed! Not only did this well supply clean water to the Ma Dewelie Orphanage, but was also the ONLY well in the entire Kendeja community that didn't produce salty water. I am so excited that The A Campaign was able to fund the repairs. Thank you to those who have supported the campaign thus far!





Thursday, May 19, 2011

orphanage.

When I learned that the school connected to the Ma Dewelie Orphanage had a soccer team, I immediately asked Seren if LACES could donate a set of uniforms and some new soccer balls. She told me if we had enough equipment to spare, that would be fine. Well I checked into it, and LACES had some extra equipment!

The orphanage barely has enough money to cover the costs of rice and fish, let alone any kind of toys or recreational equipment for the sixteen children living there. When I played soccer as a kid, I remember being SO excited when a box of new jerseys came in. Yes, you can still play a fun game of soccer regardless of what you are wearing...but I think matching uniforms instantly make any kid feel like a part of something special.


The children were excited to receive their new jerseys, but Kristin and I were not so excited about what we found out when we delivered them.

When we donated the uniforms yesterday afternoon, we were surprised to learn that the orphanage only had a few pounds of rice left, and not enough money to buy another bag. In addition to no food, the orphanage had no water.

Let me repeat that. In addition to no food, the orphanage had no water.

Not sure how long it has been going on, but sometime recently the orphanage lost access to its water supply. Apparently the village pump has gone dry, so the orphanage has been forced to spend the little money they had left on buying bottled water from the market.

Kristin, who's family helps out the orphanage when they can, didn't even blink before reaching into her purse to give Ma Dewelie money for more food, and proceeded to offer to drive a few of the older children to the market to go buy it. After saying goodbye to Ma Dewelie an the other children, Kristin, her son Samuel, three of the orphanage children and I loaded up into Kristin's land cruiser and took off to get some rice!

As soon as Kristin got home, she started making calls to find someone who knew something about pumps and wells. Soon enough she found them, and today at 10 AM we are all heading over to the orphanage to see if the problem can be fixed.

I'll update tomorrow about what we find!

In the mean time, please consider a financial contribution to the Ma Dewelie Orphanage. It costs $25 to buy a 100 pound bag of rice, which feeds the sixteen children at the orphange for about two weeks. Visit http://theAcampaign.com to give!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

prayer request.

Alberta is getting surgery TODAY. While I am very excited for her, I am very nervous as well.

Whether you pray five times a day facing Mecca, once a day at the dinner table, or not at all; I am asking you to keep Alberta in your thoughts today.

If you believe in God, ask Him to bring wisdom to her doctors and comfort to her family. If you believe in something else, do whatever it is you do when things are out of your control.

I'll post updates as soon as I receive them. Thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

dinner table.

Typically three-year-old Stephen is the one dropping food on the floor or tossing silverware over his shoulder at the Chapman house. Lately, however, six-year-old Samuel (aka Boba Fett) has been having some issues at the dinner table. Unlike Stephen's actions, Samuel's are all accidents; equally as messy, twice as funny.

First, Samuel flips an entire untouched bowl of Ramen noodles onto the floor (see below). Total mess. Fast forward to the next night's meal, and he is practicing his martial arts moves. "No Tae Kwan Do during dinner, Samuel," Kristin says. Thirty seconds later he punches a full glass of Tang across the table. Then today, in an attempt to transfer a large amount of rice from one bowl to another, he accidentally transfers a large amount of rice from one bowl to his lap.


It's been an entertaining few days at the Chapman residence. Can't wait to see what happens during dinner tomorrow!

Monday, May 16, 2011

the bag.

I had a very busy (and very fun) weekend here, and have SO much to blog about! First, I want to update you on what I am most excited about: the A Campaign! Here's a sneak preview of an email going out tomorrow to supporters who have already purchased a bracelet:

First you bought the bracelet. Now you can buy the bag.

The A Campaign is excited to share with you an update about Alberta, as well as introduce you to newest way to wear your support.

With your generous support, the A Campaign’s mission of helping Alberta was accomplished. Alberta and her grandmother journeyed safely to Sierra Leone, and Alberta is currently on the Mercy Ship and scheduled for surgery this Wednesday.

On behalf of Alberta and her family, we at the A Campaign would like to thank you for your financial support. Now let's talk about what happens next.

Instead of calling it quits after helping one child, the campaign continues. We would like to introduce you to Ma Dewelie, tell you her story, and how you can help.

During Liberia’s civil war, countless innocent children lost their lives to senseless violence. But for as many innocent children that died, just as many lived, only now, however, they live as orphans.

During the war, a woman named Ma Dewelie found herself in a group of people fleeing from rebel fighters in Bong County, Liberia. When the group of people came to a bridge, they pushed and shoved to all cross at once. In a mess of panic, Ma was asked by a stranger to watch her three children while she crossed back over the bridge to find the rest of her family. Ma agreed, but as the woman ran back across, the bridge collapsed.

Years later, a friend of Ma’s fell ill and was hospitalized. Ma offered to take care of her friend’s daughter, Mary, until she was back on her feet. As time went by, Mary’s mother never recovered, and she passed away in the hospital.

In the decade that passed since the day on the bridge, Ma Dewelie has taken in sixteen orphaned children as her own. While Ma’s biological children are fully grown, her new family consists of children age three to sixteen. Four years ago, Ma was offered some property to accommodate her ever-growing family, and in 2007, the Ma Dewelie Orphanage was opened.

While some of Ma’s children are true orphans, many have parents that simply cannot afford to take care of them. At Ma’s, however, they are fed and clothed, respected and loved, and sent to school every day to receive an education.

In order to support her sixteen children, Ma sells handmade skirts, and her husband Otis sells handmade drums. As you can imagine, they are struggling to get by, especially with surprises like a leaky roof during rainy season last spring, and the need for measles medication for four kids last summer.

Your contribution to the A Campaign goes directly to the Ma Dewelie Orphanage, helping cover costs of bare necessities like rice for tiny bellies and clothing for growing children.

Support the Ma Dewelie Orphanage and buy the bag THIS WEEK ONLY.



Handmade from authentic African cloth, the messenger-type bag is coming to you all the way from Liberia, home of the Ma Dewelie Orphanage.

If the bag is not your style, donate your voice instead. Tell those who have much how they can help those who have little, and the two different ways they can wear their support.

Friday, May 13, 2011

boba fett.

I present to you, the amazing Samuel Chapman Boba Fett!



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

scheduled.

Just heard from the ship that Alberta is scheduled for surgery May 18th- a week from today!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

sierra leone.

I mentioned earlier that I drove Alberta to Sierra Leone on Saturday, and I wanted to share with you a little more about the trip.

Around 6:00 AM, James picked me up from my house and we headed out to Harbel. The thirty-minute morning drive was refreshingly quiet, as the city had not yet woken and the typically hectic streets were empty and still. A few minutes after I had dozed off in the passenger seat, James tapped me on the shoulder and told me open my eyes and look. I blinked wearily, slowly sat up in my seat, and was taken aback by the amazing view in front of us.

Words are going to fail me here, but I will try to set the scene anyway. We were just peaking a hill, and could see for miles in every direction. There were no people, houses or cars in sight, just a never ending forest of palm tress. The sky was a combination of pinks and golds as the sun rose over the horizon, and a thick mist fell over the palm trees, blanketing the forest with fog. Typically the roads are a mess of pedestrians and taxis and honking and insanity, so this was quite a sight to see.

When we arrived, Alberta's grandfather shook my hand and told me how thankful he was for what I was doing. While it always feels nice to be thanked, a big part of me felt like I didn't deserve his appreciation. God had answered his prayers, not me. All I did was take a few photos and make a few calls.

Alberta and her grandmother loaded up their two small bags, said goodbye to their family, and we were on our way. Alberta was very excited for the trip, as she had never been on a long car ride before.


After listening to many songs come from the backseat that I didn't know, I smiled when I recognized the lyrics to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." An hour or so into the trip, the singing subsided, and I looked back to see Alberta asleep on her grandmother's lap.


A few hours later, we arrived at the border. We pulled into the immigration office to get Alberta and her grandmother the documents they needed to cross into Sierra Leone. The process went smoother than I thought, and only took about twenty minutes. We were even given permission to drive Alberta and her grandmother across the border, something we didn't think we would be able to do. This was very good news, because we could now make sure Alberta and her grandmother were all set with a good taxi to take them to Freetown, the city about six hours away where the Mercy Ship is docked.


Once we found them a reliable car, we said our goodbyes and wished them luck on the rest of their journey. The send-off was bittersweet, as I was excited that Alberta was finally getting the help she needed, but at the same time sad that I may never see her again.

After a night of worrying and wondering if they made it, I finally heard confirmation on Sunday morning that they had arrived. Yesterday Alberta had her evaluation with the doctors, so I am currently awaiting news of when her surgery will be!

Monday, May 9, 2011

birthday.

Even though I was unable to celebrate yesterday with my own family, the Chapmans did an amazing job of making me feel like part of theirs:)

I joined them for their annual Mother's Day trip to the Royal Hotel, a hotel/restaurant that has a killer buffet on Sundays. The girls and I had a fun the car trip of taking photos, playing word games, and making up songs.



I'd never been to the Royal before, and had only heard about its famous buffet, so my jaw dropped when I laid eyes on the all-you-can-eat awesomeness. The food tasted as delicious as it looked, and like true Americans, we all ate 'til we could barely move.

After an afternoon of digesting, Kristin made us some amazing flatbread pizzas, followed by an equally amazing chocolate cake. Little did I know, I was in for the most hilarious Happy-Birthday-singing/candle-extinguishing of my 22 birthdays thus far.


During the singing of "Happy Birthday," Steven, age three, wasn't being his usual happy self. We figured he was a little nervous about the giant candle flame (more like a fourth of July sparkler) blazing on the cake in front of him. Upon completion of the song, however, we noticed he actually had something stuck up his nose! "Get the tweezers!" Kristin yelled as the rest of us laughed hysterically. Our laughter only got louder when Kristin extracted a giant piece of STICKY-TAC from little Steven's nostril. A huge grin spread across his face as soon as he was sticky-tac free, and he proceeded to help me blow out my candles- which had been burning the entire time! We all burst out into a fit of laughter yet again when we previewed the last few photos on the camera- the sticky-tac that was lodged in Steven's nose was visible in ALL the photos we had just taken!

The hilarious/hectic event was the perfect way to end the day. Definitely a birthday I'll never forget!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

mother's day.

It's fitting that my birthday falls on mother's day. My mom did all the work on the day I was born, and she deserves to be celebrated!

So a big HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to all the moms out there.


Love you, Mom!!


Love you, too, Grandma!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

graduation day.

Today, the majority of my friends graduated from college- and I couldn't be more proud of all the 2011 grads! Way to hang in there for that final semester.

During their final semester, through the miracle of Facebook, I've watched my friends live out their last months of college without me. While I love staying updated on what they've been doing, there have definitely been times when I've felt left out, too.

The majority of my friends will remember May 7, 2011, as the day they graduated from college. I, however, will remember today for a different reason; not as the day my friends all graduated and I didn't, but as the day I drove a girl named Alberta to a country named Sierra Leone.

As my Ball State classmates slept this morning, I drove to Harbel to pick up Alberta and her grandmother. As my classmates flipped their tassels, I waved goodbye, possibly seeing them for the last time.

I am sad that I won't be able to take part in the graduation festivities this weekend, but at the same time, I am happy with my decision to be here this semester, and I am excited to celebrate with all my friends when I get back!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

theAcampaign.

Friends and Family,

I have very much appreciated your support during my stay in Liberia, as well as your concern about my new friend Alberta :)

For the past two weeks, my friend David and I have been collaborating on a project that we hope will raise enough money to support Alberta and her grandmother during their trip to Sierra Leone, as well as throughout Alberta's two to three month long recovery.

We are launching the fundraising campaign today, and would love for your to be part of it!

If you would donate your Facebook status for the day, David, myself, and Alberta would be very grateful.

Check out the campaign at www.theAcampaign.com and tell your friends to do the same!

Thanks guys!
+   laura

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

three days.

In only three days I will be sitting next to Alberta on her way to Sierra Leone for the surgery that will change her entire life!

As you can imagine, Alberta's journey isn't free. For the the past two weeks, my friend David and I have been working on a fundraising campaign that we hope will generate the support Alberta and her family need. We are calling the fundraiser The A Campaign, and it will launch TOMORROW!

Stay tuned:)

Monday, May 2, 2011

aqua photography.

My friend Taya has a waterproof point and shoot camera that I tried for the first time Roberts Port. I had so much fun dodging waves and surfers, I can only imagine how exciting the career of an aqua photographer must be!

Here's a few shots of my friend Danielle:




And a few others of random surfers:



Sunday, May 1, 2011

sandy.

Just got back from an incredible weekend of surfing at Roberts Port! Yesterday morning a group of eight of us packed up two land cruisers full of tents, snacks, and surfboards. After three hours of driving, I was greeted by these two cuties playing in the sand, and had to snap some photos!


Saturday, April 30, 2011

update.

I'm headed to Roberts Port for the weekend with no internet access, and wanted to update really quick before I left.

I've been busy fundraising for Alberta and her upcoming trip to Sierra Leone that is just around the corner! I will be accompanying her to the border by car on May 7th.

I have been working with my close friend from Ball State, David Bond, on a fundraising campaign that I am very excited about. As soon as we finish up with the details, I will let you know how you can help! Our goal is to launch the campaign sometime next week.

Alberta in my lap YELLING "cheese!" at the camera!

Friday, April 29, 2011

new wardrobe.

While waiting in line for lunch this afternoon, a co-worker told me something I never thought I'd hear:


"You look almost Mennonite today!"

I laughed.

Because it's so hot here, I often wear long skirts instead of pants to the office... and I guess with my blouse tucked in and a skirt past my knees, today I resembled a Mennonite!

For those of you who aren't around me too often, this is particularly funny because there could be no greater contrast than in the wardrobe of a Mennonite and my typical summer look of jean shorts and cowboy boots. When I first arrived in Liberia I felt awkward and almost imposturous dressing a different way. After some time, however, I actually grew to like comfort and lightness of the long flowy skirts! I'm still not sure if I will rock my new look when I go back to the states or not, but I'm thinking about it!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

things i miss.

THE CHAPMAN'S ARE BACK!

The family I'm living with has finally returned from three weeks in Sierra Leone. The house is back to the way it should be; filled with sounds of laughter and little trouble makers.


I've missed the Chapman's lot this past month, and decided to make a list of some other things I miss!

FRIENDS / FAM
If it wasn't for email/Facebook, there's no way I would have survived these past few months. Technology has made it incredibly easy to stay in touch with all of you at home. I talk with people in Michigan, Indiana, Arizona or Iowa on a daily basis! I absolutely love getting emails from you guys telling me what's new. Keep 'em coming:)

SALAD
I barely even like lettuce, but after having my first salad in TWO MONTHS last week, I realized how much I miss it. It's a rare thing to come by here because good lettuce is hard to find. I'm headed straight to Olive Garden for their endless salad when I get home!

GRANDMA'S COOKIES
There are plenty of cookies for sale here (or biscuits, as Liberians call them), but they don't even compare to my Grandma's. More than the actual cookies, I miss being able to walk down to my Grandma and Grandpa's house and hang out with them whenever I want!

 
TELEVISION / HULU
While I have gained more hours to my days by not wasting them away in front of the tv, I am still excited to catch up on Glee, Always Sunny, Grey's Anatomy, and Desperate Housewives when I get back!

Monday, April 25, 2011

easter sunday.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend with family and friends!

My Easter Sunday this year was very different from those in the past. Typically I celebrate the holiday in Columbus, Indiana with food, family, egg decorating and your average Sunday church service. This year I celebrated with food, friends, surfing, a sunrise beach service AND a Liberian church service!

The sunrise service was a few houses down from mine at 7 AM, and was BYOC (bring your own coffee)! About twenty other ex-pats and I sat in lawn chairs and in the sand for some acoustic worship, a few scripture readings, and a short message. Afterward we all enjoyed more coffee, hot cross buns, and a few other delicious desserts!

About an hour later, James picked me up to take me to Locasha Baptist Fellowship, a Liberian church in Pipeline, a district about twenty minutes away.


On the way, we drove through Red Light, an area of Monrovia that is named for the one stoplight in the entire city (even tho it doesn't even work). The area is CRAZY congested, and requires a lot of laying on the horn! Check out the video below to get an idea of what Red Light is like on a GOOD day.

video

The Liberian service was awesome. Luckily it had been raining all morning, so the church wasn't crazy hot like they usually are. I was the only white person there, had no idea what words we were singing, but I had a blast clapping and dancing along anyways! Reverend Kumara, a man that I work alongside at Samaritan's Purse, gave a sermon, and then we sang some more. I got really excited when I recognized a hymn that we sing at my little UCC church at home. The hymn was Gloria Patri, which I'm guessing is sung at a lot of American churches (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Amen.).

This adorable little girl slept through the entire two hour service!
James, Reverend Kumara, me and Mrs. Kumara after church!

After church, I asked a Liberian woman where I could go to the bathroom. I've peed in a lot of different places since I've been here, but yesterday I was faced with a type of toilet I'd never seen before. After staring at the thing for about thirty seconds wondering logistically how it worked, I made a first attempt and failed when realized i was backwards. No worries- I got it right the second time!

When I got home from church, I changed into my board shorts and headed out with my friend Taya to surf. With no car, we had a one and a half mile walk to Kendeja, the beach where we usually drive to to surf. Even though it was still raining, the walk was actually really nice. The surf, however, was horrible; super choppy and too big of waves. After about two hours of not catching anything, I decided to give up, and slowly began paddling toward the beach. All of a sudden, I felt a sharp pinch on my leg, and realized I had gotten stung by a jelly fish! This not only confirmed my decision that I was done for the day, but also freaked me out to the point that I began paddling like crazy toward the shore! Surfing fail. Exercise win.

After the long walk back I had worked up quite an appetite. When I got home, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few friends busy preparing an Easter feast at the house! We had an AMAZING dinner of garlic chicken, cheesy potatoes, mixed vegetables, watermelon, papaya, and sweet tea. I can't explain in words how delicious the food was! I hadn't eaten that well since the Chapman's left three weeks ago.

After dinner I went over to the house next door to watch "The Blind Side." Besides the lizard that kept crawling through the picture that was being projected up on the wall, it was a very nice movie night!

All in all an awesome day. Definitely an Easter Sunday I will never forget!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

whipped.

I am so whipped, I am almost too tired to blog! On Monday I started a new running regimen; three miles at 6:30 AM and three miles again at 6:30 PM (sunrise and sunset, the coolest times to run here). So far I have been kicking butt! I've averaged an 8:40 mile, with my fastest three mile time at 24:30 and my slowest time at 27 minutes. Let's see how long I can keep this up!

Update on Alberta:

Alberta has an examination on the ship on May 9th, and her surgery will be scheduled then! I am unable to take her all the way to the ship (because a Sierra Leone visa is $131 USD!!), but I WILL get to drive her to the border on May 8th, my 22nd birthday! What an awesome way to celebrate :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

wild thing.

Joe and I learning some new Liberian dance moves from Chris last night!

video

Friday, April 15, 2011

all smiles.

Just heard this morning that Alberta is getting put on the schedule for surgery in May! This photo pretty much sums up how I'm feeling right now:)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

to be continued.

Read part 1 here, part 2 here, and watch part 3 here:



video


[shot by Joni Byker]

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

looking forward.

In just a few hours I will be in Harbel telling Alberta's family about her upcoming surgery!

Alberta and her sister, Mariah.

In addition to looking forward to delivering this good news, here's a few other upcoming happenings that I'm excited about!

1. Guess what? I am extending my stay! Right now my return date is May 8th (also my 22nd birthdayyy), but on Thursday I am going to make a trip to the Delta office here in Monrovia to change my ticket to May 29th.

2. Before I hit up the Delta office, I am going to stop at the Ghana Embassy, and look into getting a visa. All Delta flights departing from Monrovia stop in Accra, Ghana, for about an before continuing on to Atlanta. If getting a visa isn't to difficult, I plan to change that one hour layover into a four day layover and explore Accra before leaving West Africa!

3. A few friends here are discussing plans of an upcoming jungle trek. What is a jungle trek you ask? Well, you walk into the jungle...and keep walking until you come out! They think it will take about seven days to do. In high school I went hiking for about a week in the Rocky Mountains and LOVED it. I can only imagine the awesomeness of hiking in the African jungle!

4. Yesterday I submitted a request for a seat on the UN helicopter that flies out on Friday, the 22nd, and returns on Monday, the 25th. If my request goes through, I will be flying to Foya, a city about nine hours away by car, where Samaritan's Purse is doing some amazing work. Joni, who works for SP, recommended that I make sure to check out the adult literacy classes and a fish pond harvest while I'm there. Everyday I hear about all the incredible projects SP is working on, and I'm excited at the opportunity to see them for myself!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

mass grave.

DuPort Road is a city just outside Monrovia where one of our LACES leagues is. A few days ago, James took me there to show me something.

During the car ride, James began to tell me about the site we were going to visit. All kinds of atrocities were committed during the war, and since I’ve been here I’ve heard horror stories ranging from pouring melted plastic into a woman’s eyes to burning men alive. This was the first time, however, I’d heard of any of the atrocities against children.

In 1990, the then president of Liberia sent out trucks to Nimba, a city five hours away, to collect as many children as the trucks could hold. James said that soldiers told the children they were going to go somewhere to celebrate, and promised the children food and games. Little did they know, the children were literally on the way to their grave.

The trucks took the children from Nimba to DuPort Road, where a giant pit had been dug. Every single one of the children was thrown into the pit and buried alive.



I felt weird getting out of the car and stepping onto the ground on top of the mass grave. I looked around and wondered how big the pit must have been to hold the hundreds and hundreds of bodies burried. I looked down at my feet and wondered how far beneath the dirt their bones were now.


James and I talked with some residents of DuPort Road about the massacre. While the laughter from children around us provided odd background noise for the horrific story I was hearing, it was also comforting in some way. Even after all the evil that had happened at this very place, the sounds of children laughing somehow proved that good had triumphed.



Monday, April 11, 2011

alberta part 2.

For the past few days all I could think about was Alberta. I’ve pulled up her photos at least a dozen times, half of those times crying silently in front of my computer screen, wondering why the world is so unfair. I’ve had my email open 24/7, refreshing the page over and over waiting for Keith to reply with news from the ship.

Well guess what? He just did.

AND ALBERTA IS GETTING SURGERY!

Direct quote from Joy, the woman on the ship who schedules plastic surgeries.

We will make space for her, it may not be until September but if I can squeeze her into May I will (it's possible Dr Tertius may want to do more than one surgery).”

I am so excited! I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. I can’t wait to tell Alberta and her grandmother (hopefully tomorrow?) and also get the information about her that Joy needs to get her on the schedule.

Alberta and her grandmother, Mariah.

SO EXCITED!!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

alberta.


Today I spent the afternoon in Harbel, where I met five year old Alberta.


Alberta and her older sister live with their grandmother, who is also a LACES coach in Harbel, a city where one of our leagues is. I noticed the scars on Alberta's forehead and asked her grandma what happened.


Two years ago Alberta accidentally fell into hot frying oil,


and her left arm, back, chest, and part of her scalp were badly burned.


Miraculously, she survived. But when her arm healed, it became attached to her side and is now severely deformed.


In addition to the disfigurement, Alberta also suffers from reoccurring blisters/cuts under and around her arm.


I just emailed Keith, the dentist I live with, to ask him his opinion. He has lived and worked in Liberia for a few years now, and is pretty knowledgeable about the country's health care. Him and his family are currently out of town in Sierra Leone on a Mercy Ship, which is essentially a floating hospital that travels to third world countries. The Sierra Leone border is about a five hour drive, and then another two hours to the ship- and I'm wondering if there is any possibility Alberta can have surgery there.

Alberta is only five years old, and shouldn't have to live a life of disfigurement and pain. I am praying that I will be able to figure out how to help her get the medical care she needs.