Monday, February 28, 2011

sleep tight.

Don't let the bed bugs bite? Easier said than done.

This morning I woke up with about 40 little bumps from my toes to my shins that itched like crazy. After a morning and afternoon of scratching my feet raw, I asked neighbor/supermom, Kristin, what she thought they were. She told me to talk to Paul, another neighbor, who has had BED BUGS before.

Gross.

I showed my mystery bug bites to Paul, who told me that it definitely looked like I had a case of bed bugs that could easily be taken care of, but might take a few days...

Sleepover at the neighbor's tonight!!

bush goat.

So I've spent what seems like forever trying to identify some of the furry (and scaly) friends I met in Konia last week, and I think I finally figured out what they are!

The reason my detective work took so long (besides the fact that the internets are really slow here) is that Liberians refer to animals using very different names than we do.

When I asked a man what type of rodent I was holding, he replied "bush goat."

Me: "Sorry, what?"

Him: "Bush goat."
 
Me: "Is it some sort of sloth?"

Him: "Bush goat."

When I got home I figured I could just google image "bush goat," find something that looked similar, and see what the unidentified rodent was really called. My results were extremely unhelpful.

President Bush reading a book titled, "My Pet Goat."

A goat in a bush.



After more thorough research, this is what I discovered about some of the wildlife I met in Konia:

What Liberians call it: What Americans call it: What it's actually called:
bush goatmongoosekusimanse
crocodilegiant lizardnile monitor
meatsquirrelafrican rope squirrel
Follow the links (in pink) to learn more about each animal if you're interested!




Here are some photos I took of the animals:







And photos friends took of me hangin' with my new pals:



Sunday, February 27, 2011

back in the city.

Konia was incredible. So many new things to try, so much to learn, and so many stories to tell! I have hundreds of photos to sort through (and lots of clothes to wash!), but you can bet I will post them as soon as I can.

Living in the country is extremely different than living in the city. Wandering chickens speckle the landscape opposed to trash littering the street, and the sounds of children constantly laughing replace the noise of cars constantly honking. It's nice to have electricity and running water again, but I already can't wait to go back!


A young boy plays in a construction site in Konia.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

photography.

While it's awesome to simply witness incredible sights and breath taking views with your own eyes, there's something even more amazing about capturing that scene in a photograph and being able to share it with others who weren't lucky enough to be there in person.

A young girl helps carry bricks for the construction of a school in Konia.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

dady.

Meet Dady (pronounced dah-dee) - a little boy I met on Saturday at Duport Road. He was carrying around a collection of bottle caps that he used to play some sort of game. It looked like a combination of tiddly winks and checkers!






Monday, February 21, 2011

to the bush.

Tomorrow I leave for Konia, a remote village about six hours north of Monrovia. I'm a little nervous to rough it in the the bush, but also very excited! In Konia they grow all the food they eat, and live without electricity or running water. All of the expats here who have been to Konia have great things to say about their experiences there. They talk about how much safer and peaceful it is being up country opposed to being in the city.

Because I won't have internet for the week (I return on Saturday), I have scheduled my blog to automatically post a few updates while I'm gone!

I hope you all have an awesome week in America. Wish me luck!

thumbs up.

Yesterday afternoon we visited Harbel, a town about 45 minutes away, to take photos of the 100 LACES kids there! The sun was hot and the day was long, but overall our trip was a success. Here are a few photos from the day!





Sunday, February 20, 2011

liberian po po.

On Thursday Seren and I had a little run in with the Liberian police. A few run ins, actually.

Getting pulled over by the police for no apparent reason happens frequently in Liberia. Officers often pull drivers over and ask for money, and because Liberians assume all white people have money coming out their ears, being white means getting pulled over a lot.

On our way to the grocery store, a police officer waved us over to the side of the road. Seren was driving and I was in the passenger seat.

"Hello mah man," Seren says in Liberian English. "What news?" she asks.

After a few friendly words are exchanged, the officer looks at the vehicle's registration and lets us go about our business.

No big, I thought. Getting pulled over is kinda entertaining!

False.

On our way back from the store we are pulled over again by a different officer. This time, however, we don't get off so easy. Because we had just bought a new car, our vehicle didn't have metal plates on it, only temporary paper ones. This is unacceptable to this particular police officer, and apparently a violaiton punishable by seizing the vehicle. The officer instructs us to pull the car around, park it, get out and leave it there.

"But how am I going to walk home with all my groceries?" Seren asks the officer, totally calm and collected.

WHAT?! I am thinking. Who CARES about the groceries?! We are losing our NEW CAR!

The officer and Seren talk for a bit before a few other officers come over and get involved in the conversation. Seren shoots me an annoyed look, as if this whole ordeal was simply inconvenient.

In the mean I am in panic mode in the passenger seat. A million things run through my head: We are losing our car. We'll have to walk home! How far is home? I don't have any water. But I can buy some water! But I spent all my money at the grocery store. WE ARE LOSING OUR CAR!!

Fast forward 15 minutes and the conversation has gone no where. The police still want to take our car and Seren is still complaining about walking home with the groceries.

An officer walks up the the driver's side window. "You whine too much," he says to Seren. "Go ahead and leave."

And just like that, on our way we go.

I let out the breath that I've been holding for the last 15 minutes, thrilled and relieved we didn't just get our new car taken away.

Seren looks excited as well. Probably because she's not carrying home the groceries.

Friday, February 18, 2011

moving day.

For the past week I have been living with an absolutely amazing family. The mom in particular, Kristin, did an incredible job of making my transition here an easy one. She was always eager to go above and beyond to make sure I was taken care of!

After an awesome week living with the Chapmans, tonight I had to move out of their home and into the place where I'll be for the rest of my trip. While I was super upset to leave, I'm very excited to finally unpack my things and not live out of a suitcase anymore!

There's no internet at my new place, and currently the water doesn't work, but I'm praying the latter will only be a temporary problem... We shall see!

My new place! (The upstairs apartment above the garage on the right- not the house!)

fish remains.

Overall I feel like I've adjusted fairly well to my new surroundings. I am slowly learning the language, have gotten over the time change, and am becoming more and more comfortable and confident doing things on my own. I have even cleaned my plate every time an unfamiliar Liberian dish was put in front of me- until today.

Up until lunch this afternoon I've enjoyed rice with pumpkin soup, rice with cabbage soup, rice with peanut soup, rice with lentil soup, and rice with collard greens. Today's meal, however, tasted absolutely foul to me, and instead of sucking it up (like I should have), I asked my friend Debbie what was in it. "Fish remains," she replied.

I attempted another bite after I heard the secret ingredient, and barely got it down. "I can't eat this," I whispered to my boss, Seren. "Too spicy?" she asked. "Not really..." I said.

Just this Wednesday I learned a lesson from James and Pastor Roberts, two Liberian men, about how you should always accept food that is offered to you. 'NDBFF,' or 'Never dress back from food,' they said. Now I felt like I had to finish my fish remains and rice or I would deeply offend our Liberian cook, Dee.

Starting to panic, I discreetly explained to Seren that knowledge of the fish remains was freaking me out too much to swallow. To my surprise, the four girls I was sitting with offered to each take a little food off my plate so I didn't have to finish it. Thank. The. Lord.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

leaving on a jet plane.


A glimpse at the days leading up to my arrival.
video

metina.

Meet Metina, a two year old girl I met in the town of Coopers Farm on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

duport road.

Today I met up with some LACES coaches and staff at an elementary school nearby to photograph the children in the Duport Road community LACES league. While we were there, a few local children came by to pump water from the well inside the school. Later on our drive out I saw the same children walking down the road carrying their filled buckets on their heads! While the children look very serious and almost sad in the photos below, the majority of the time they were actually laughing and smiling.



Meet Yassah! She was a very sweet little girl that hung around while we took photos of the LACES kids. After she spelled out her own name in the sand she wiped it away with her hand and spelled out mine :)




morning run.

This morning I went for my first African run! I joined up with three other expats (expatriates, aka white people) who live in my neighborhood around 6:45 AM, right as the sun was coming up. The air was very humid and thick with fog, but the warmth was a nice change from running in the 8 degree Muncie weather.

After an easy two and a half mile jog I kicked off my tennis shoes and waded into the ocean. The waves felt amazing against my hot skin, I wish I had time to go for a full swim! The run itself was fine, but cooling down afterward proved to be a problem. Even after a cold shower I was still incredibly hot from the run. It took about an hour and a half for me to stop sweating, but now I feel great!

Today Seren and I are going to Duport Road, a community where we have a LACES soccer league. We will also be joined by James, a Liberian man who is the national director of LACES Liberia. There I will be taking a new photo of each child, as well as asking them what they like to do for fun, and their favorite thing about LACES. I am very excited to finally meet some of the LACES kids! I promise to post photos soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

school visit.

LACES, the organization I work for,  has an office housed inside the Samaritan's Purse (SP) office just down the street from where I'm staying. This afternoon I tagged along with Debbie, a girl who works for SP, on her trip out to Coopers Farm, a town in the Todee district about an hour away. SP is helping rehabilitate a school there by fixing their broken water pump and building them chairs, desks, and floors. Currently some of the children walk 3-4 miles to school, carrying a brick the whole way just so they have something to sit on!

The teachers and children were all very friendly. Anytime you popped your head into a classroom all the children stood up and said in unison, "Welcome visitor, how are you this morning?" It was precious. The little ones were in class, but I did have the chance to sit down and talk with the 8th graders, who ranged from age 15 to 17. I asked them what they do for fun and they said football and baseball, which in America means soccer and kickball! They laughed at my terrible Liberian-English, but with a little charades we were able to communicate just fine.

The drive to and from the school was an adventure in itself. People think Michigan dirt roads and Muncie potholes are bad? Bumpy roads take on a whole new meaning in Africa! I was very excited to see the country side, though. The way people live in the country and the city are very different here. We also drove through the biggest Firestone rubber plantation in the world. Firestone owns approximately 118,000 acres of land in liberia where they plant the rubber trees that produce the raw materials used to make Firestone Tires. Rubber trees are tapped to collect latex, similar to the way maple trees are tapped to collect syrup.

Monday, February 14, 2011

welcome to liberia.

I made it!

After a long day/night of traveling, I stepped off the plane onto African soil around 3 PM yesterday (Liberia is five hours ahead, so 10 AM your time). The other travelers were friendly, and Delta had free new releases we could watch on the flight! I even had Facebook during my flight from Detroit to Atlanta. Airplane internet? Who knew.

I am currently typing this from the Chapman's house, where I will be living for my first week. I don't believe I'll have internet where I am staying for the rest of my trip, but I will definitely have it at the office Monday through Friday.

The Chapmans are a family that has lived in Liberia for a few years in a house they built themselves. The father, Keith, is a dentist who opened a clinic here, and his wife, Kristin, takes care of their two biological daughters and two adopted Liberian boys. Kristin made pancakes for dinner last night, so my first meal here was a breeze!

The Atlantic ocean is directly in front of the house. The beach is gorgeous, and was full of activity yesterday. My boss, Seren, says Sundays are usually the busiest days at the beach, as many of the locals come out to enjoy the sunshine. I bought plantain (similar to banana) chips from a Liberian girl who was walking along the beach carrying a basket of them on her head. They were delicious, and only 5 Liberian Dollars! (70 Liberian Dollars = 1 US Dollar).

It's very hot and humid here, but not unbearable. It's about 90 degrees during the day, and cools down a little at night. I have an air conditioner in my room I can run for $1/hour. I ran it last night for an hour before I went to bed and passed out before the room warmed back up. I was super tired from my trip, and slept for 12 hours straight!

This morning was the hardest part of my journey so far. I couldn't get my internet to work at first and felt very disconnected form home. In a crowded room full of smiling faces, I still felt lonely. While everyone here speaks English, their Liberian-English accents made it very hard for me to understand what they're saying. And I couldn't get the handshake down! You shake hands very loosely then snap using your, and the other person's, fingers. I'm still working on it :)

After lunch, a nap, and emails from home, my day turned around for the better. I saw so many incredible things today. I need to start taking pictures, because there is way too much to try to explain in words! Women balance everything on their heads here- and make it look so easy! Also, Liberians drive like crazy people!! Cars and jeeps are constantly honking at each other as dirtbikes swerve in and out of traffic. Dirtbikes here are called pang pangs, named after the sounds they make. (Paaaaaang pannnnnnng is Liberian for vroooom vrooooom)!


The beach directly in front of the house where I'll be staying for my first week.


Friday, February 11, 2011

and so it begins.

It's the night before I set sail take flight for Africa and I can't believe it's finally here. So much preparation has gone into this trip- I thought the day would never arrive when I'd actually leave!

I had an amazing last night in America, surrounded by family and friends. Thank you to everyone who came out tonight, as well as everyone who called, texted, and Facebooked me to wish me good luck and safe travels!

The delicious lion cake my mother made for my going away party :)