Wednesday, March 30, 2011

markiting.

Ahhh everyone is bugging me to update this thing! Sorry it's been a while. I've been so busy working on marketing stuff for LACES.

Speaking of marketing- check out some of these winners I saw when I was out and about this weekend. I especially like the first one. Not sure who is working in the markiting head office- but they could sure use a copywriter!

Wanted: Copyrightur
"Best quality for you selection" = Poor quality control in packaging design
I do love my under stansing friends. They are relly the best!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

the loop.

At home I would map my route online before heading out for a run. I could go almost anywhere I wanted. Downtown Muncie, alongside the White River, through campus, or out to more residential areas. The longer my runs, the more the scenery changed, making it easier to keep my mind off my pounding feet and burning lungs.

Here, however, I am confined to one circle. The 1.76 mile loop of my neighborhood is the only safe route to run. At first I despised this limitation, thinking I would grow tired of the repetition. After a few runs however, I have learned to love the loop.

The loop is paved and surprisingly level. In Muncie I dodge potholes. On the loop I dodge chickens. I laugh to myself as they flutter wildly out of my way, clucking so loud that I can hear them cackle over my blaring iPod.

The loop is never boring. On Friday there was a  middle school soccer game just before mile one. On Sunday you could hear the singing of gospel music for a quarter mile before and after passing the Liberian church. Yesterday there was some sort of party happening along the beach.

While it's easy to lose track of laps and mileage, it's hard to not enjoy the run. The scenery never changes, yet the loop never looks the same.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

shoes.

The kids here don’t have tennis shoes. Most of them have flip-flops that are too big or too small for their feet. Some of them have no shoes at all.

I have three pairs of tennis shoes at home, flip-flops in every color, five pairs of boots, and nearly a dozen other pairs of shoes I hardly wear.

Even with owning all these shoes, I still enjoy shopping for more. I love going to the mall, trying on heels, and purchasing the perfect pair to go with that dress I bought last week.

But why?

Why does stuff make me happy? Why do inanimate objects bring me joy?

A cute shirt. A new pair of jeans. A trendy necklace.

Does stuff make me happy because of the way that stuff makes me feel? Do I get a sense of self-worth or belonging if I wear the latest and greatest trends? Do I feel that I need to look good to be loved?

I think that looking great and feeling great brings a sense of confidence. But should I be gaining that self-confidence elsewhere? In things that matter, like in how hard I try or in how I treat others??

I like stuff because stuff makes me feel good. You know what else makes me feel good? Making someone smile. Making someone laugh. Knowing at the end of the day I changed someones day for the better.

Self-esteem and belonging; the two categories that I, along with the majority of the population, struggle with the most. How do I fill that need with things other than things? I want to belong. Everyone wants to. So do I wait around until that one special person who “loves me for who I am” comes along? Better yet, how do I love myself for who I am? How do I love myself for who I am, if how I judge myself is based on what I perceive others to think of me?

If my friends like me more or less depending on what I’m wearing, do I want those people as friends? If my friends like me more or less depending on how skinny I look in what I’m wearing, do I want those people as friends?

When I look around and I see people who have more, I immediately begin to want. Why? What about the other 90% of the world who has less? Why am I even comparing myself to what the small minority of those who have more?

I have clean drinking water. I have three meals a day. I have shoes.

Everyday we are bombarded with messages telling us we need bigger, better, more. But why do we need these things? To make our lives easier? To bring us joy? To look ten pounds thinner? Ten years younger?

Why do we all want to be younger? Time is the one thing we cannot buy. Time is the one thing we should regard as precious and valuable, but instead, that one thing is a dream car, or house, or designer pair of shoes.

I'm not sure how to change that feeling of always wanting more. But I am sure that I want to make the most out of the time I have, and stop wasting it worrying about stuff.



Friday, March 18, 2011

day in the life.

I apologize for my lack of exciting posts lately- I've been really busy at the office. (not that office work isn't exciting...)

Since I have no new adventures to report, I decided today's post would be a "day in the life," of sorts, of what I do on my less exciting days when I am not killing chickens or getting pummeled by waves.


7:30  a: Wake up. Instant coffee. Instant oatmeal. Put on pants. Walk to office.
8:00  a: Morning devotions: Songs I can't understand. Message I can semi-follow. Need to learn Liberian-English.
8:30  a: Friendly "Good Morning"s from all the Liberians in my office. 
8:35  a: First theological debate begins amongst ministry staff. Mentally prepare myself for more debates to follow.
8:40  a: Turn on iTunes. Put in headphones. Get to work on LACES marketing materials.
10:00a: Facebook stalk friends. Check Twitter. Attempt to load a YouTube video.
10:15a: Give up on video. Curse the African interwebz.
12:00p: Start listening for the lunch bell to ring.
12:05p: Ask someone if the bell rang and I missed it.
12:10p: Ask again if they're sure.
12:20p: Bell rings. Head downstairs.
12:21p: See they're serving fish. Head upstairs.
2:00  p: Hit up coffee machine. Shake ants off sugar cubes.
4:00  p: Video chat with boss. Surprised at good connection considering earlier YouTube frustration.
5:00  p: Pack up computer. Friendly "Goodbyes" from office staff.
5:05  p: Starvingly raid cupboard. Debate between Ramen chicken and Ramen beef flavors.
5:08  p: Go with chicken.
6:30  p: Lace up tennis shoes.  Go for run.
7:00  p: Drop off shoes at apartment. Cool down walk on beach as the sun is setting. (aw das so nice!)
7:30  p: Head to Chapman's to watch their kids/steal their internet/drink their coffee.
8:00  p: Intense game of tag. 
9:00  p: Kids to bed. Catch up on latest Liberian gossip with Keith and Kristin. Laugh a lot.
10:00p: Walk home. Tuck in mosquito net. Go to sleep!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

ball bearings.

Ball State's student run multimedia publication, Ball Bearings, produced stories on Seren and myself! Click the image below and check out the story "A Whole New World," which features a print story on Seren and the beginnings of LACES, as well as a blog that follows me on my journey.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

jj roberts.

Happy J.J. Roberts Day! Every year on March 15th Liberians celebrate the birthday of Liberia's first president, Joseph Jenkins Roberts.

In 1829, Roberts migrated from Virginia to Liberia at the age of 20. Many believe that Roberts was worried about the recent passing of unofficial US laws referred to as the Black Codes, which limited the basic human rights of African-Americans.

When Roberts died in 1876, he left a large sum of money ($10,000) and dedicated his assets to be used for the improvement of Liberia’s educational system. Because of his generosity, the people of Liberia made his birthday, March 15th, a national holiday- which for me means a day of of work spent surfing!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

sunset.

I had so much fun out shooting the beach last night. I originally planned on experimenting with some slow shutter speed action, but soon realized that the tide was too high to set down my non-waterproof camera (didn't pack a tri-pod due to lack of space in mah suitcase!).

Locals walking by probably thought the girl alone on the beach with soaking wet clothes looked crazy, but I had a blast outmaneuvering the waves and dodging their splashes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

fresh.

From guacamole to flat bread pizzas, I have been thoroughly enjoying the uber fresh produce Liberia has to offer! Not only is buying locally good for the environment, local economy, and, of course, your palate, but it's also refreshing to know exactly where you're fruits and vegatbles came from. Making guac in Muncie requires avocados that have sat on a plane for who-knows-how-long being shipped from who-knows-where. But because only the fruits and vegtables that are grown in the area are available here, everything is always crazy fresh!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

pummel.

: to bash, bat, batter, bludgeon, club,  flog, hammer, lash, lick, maul, mess, paddle, pelt, pound, beat, punch, thrash, thump, tromp, wallop, whale, whip, whop or work over.

A word I didn't know the meaning of until I attempted surfing.

Even though it was for a sad reason (see previous post), I was still excited to have the day off of work yesterday. I spent the entire morning surfing... or at least trying to. Even though the majority of my time in the water was spent getting pummeled by oncoming waves, I still had a good time and came away with an excellent tan.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

decoration day.

Every year on the second Wednesday in March, Liberians celebrate Decoration Day. On the national holiday, Liberians get the day off of work, and spend it at the cemetery cleaning and decorating the graves of their ancestors. Liberia’s 14-year civil war left at least 250,000 dead in a country of 3 million, so as you can imagine, most people here have many graves to decorate.

Yesterday I almost cried as Reverend Kumara, a Liberian man who sits at the desk across from mine, told me his plans of visiting the grave of his sixteen year old daughter who died two years ago from illness. Whether it's due to lack of decent medical care, or because of the senseless violence during the war, everyone here that I have met so far has lost someone.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

olympics.

Last week Seren informed me that before the LACES kids’ soccer games on Saturday, a group of 28 volunteers from Harvest Christian Fellowship in Muncie as well as her dad and sister would be joining us to do activities with the children. She then charged me with the task of coming up with ‘fun games’ that we could all play together.

Pulling from my summers spent as a camper and counselor at Camp Talahi, I came up with a list of games and the materials we’d need for Sunday’s event, which I had now dubbed “LACES Olympics.” After filling up water balloons, gathering our supplies, and adding a few last minute activities to the roster, we were ready for the games to begin!

Everyone was divided into ten teams of nine, and instructed to come up with a team name as a group. Next came the water balloon toss, followed by four different sets of relay races. Sounds of laughter and cheering filled the air as the day progressed, and each event was more fun than the last. Everyone in attendance had a blast- even the spectators watching from the sidelines!

At the end of the day, the winning teams were announced, candy was passed around to the kids, and cold sodas passed out to the adults. Even though the Olympics was over, there was once last event left- an adult only game of tug-o-war!

The two teams ended up being white versus black (which we all had a good laugh about), as the LACES coaches and staff took on Seren, her fam, and Harvest Church group. The kids looked on as the adults arranged themselves strategically, gripping the rope tight in hopes of winning the war. However, the moment the two teams began to pull, the rope suddenly snapped in half, and the competitors all tumbled to the ground. Both adults and children laughed hysterically.


(I determined the game was a tie.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

birthday wish.

I have 62 days left in Liberia- and 62 days until I turn 22!

My birthday is also my last day here, and this year I am asking for a very special gift: help me raise $500 for Orphan Relief and Rescue.

Orphan Relief and Rescue brings children in orphanages in the area immediate relief from hunger and sickness, and provides them with sanitary living conditions. The majority of their projects are focused on Liberia, where they are currently working alongside over a dozen locally owned and operated orphanages.

Liberia's 14-year civil war that ended in 2003 left hundreds of thousands of children orphaned and abandoned. Orphan Relief and Rescue’s team of international and Liberian staff is working with government and other partners to bring short and long-term solutions to the orphan crisis.

I would really appreciate it if you clicked on the link below, checked out Orphan Relief and Rescue, and shared the link with friends!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

surf's up.

I'm scraped, sunburned, and my eyes still sting from the salty water... But I went surfing for the first time today!!!

I've been dying to go since I got here, and today I finally had the opportunity. I went with seven or so girls and guys down to Kendeja, a beach about 15 minutes away known for good waves and no rocks.

Taya, who's been here for two years, let me borrow a board, showed me how to wax it, and gave me a quick intro lesson on land. We then made our way down the beach and into the water for a little more surfing 101.

Paddling out was excruciating. My arms burned with every stroke as I struggled propel myself forward and push through the waves rushing toward me, often knocking me off my board. When I finally thought we were taking a rest, Taya pointed out a wave coming our way.

"Take this one," she instructed. "Paddle hard!"

Gathering all the energy I could muster, I paddled as hard as I could. I felt the wave rush over me, and to my surprise, it picked me up and kept pushing me toward the shore.

"Stand up!!" Taya shouted.

I was so excited to catch a wave that I forgot the whole point was to stand. I jumped to my feet and surfed- for an awesome three seconds!

As soon as I had gained my balance, I lost it again, tumbling off the board and into the salty water.

The rest of the day was completely exhausting. I quickly learned that movies and television have definitely glamorized the sport- and that 90% of time spent surfing is actually spent on your stomach paddling to get yourself in the right position to even try and catch a wave.

While I'm sure I didn't look like a pro when I was learning to water ski or wakeboard, I was at least able to get the basic gist of it my first day out. Surfing, however, was much, much harder to get the hang of, and takes wayyy more strength and endurance than any other water sport I've tried.

Even with all the flailing and falling, and the most intense arm workout of my life, I am still excited to have finally tried it. I don't know how much I can really improve in only a couple of months here, but I am still planning on going out as much as I can!

I didn't take my camera with me- but here are someone else's photos from Kendeja beach: http://surfliberia.com/KendejaPics.html

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

killing junior.

Last Thursday I killed a chicken.

I’m no vegetarian (mmmm bacon!) and definitely no stranger to eating chicken (mmmm mcnuggets!!), but I have never personally met my food and enjoyed its company before later enjoying it for dinner.

When I heard there was a chicken in the other room that we’d be eating later that night, I thought my coworkers were playing a prank on me. After further investigation of the matter, however, the clucking poultry in the corner of the kitchen proved their story true. I picked up the bird, walked into the living area, and declared that the chicken’s name was now “Junior,” and that it was my new pet.

After about a minute of getting to know one another, I set Junior down on the floor. I’m not sure if the bird had heard news of its planned demise or was simply unsatisfied with its new name, but either way he wasn’t having any part of it. Once free from my arms, Junior immediately took flight and beelined it for the door. I emitted a reflexive cuss word and bolted after him. Luckily his feet were tied together and he hadn’t made it that far, and I was able to quickly scoop up the fugitive fowl and return him to the kitchen.

After taking care of the poor bird as one of my own, and rescuing him from the lonesome kitchen corner, all I got in return was his disrespect. I was no longer interested in maintaining a loving relationship with such an unappreciative pet.

“I’ll kill the chicken tonight!” I announced to the group.

I had never done anything like this before, and was pretty pumped about the event. My feelings changed a few hours later, however, when it was finally chickin-killin-time.



I was given a knife and instructed by a Liberian man to step on Junior’s wings, hold out his head, and go saw crazy on his neck.

“I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” I wailed.

“Come on Laura!”
“Just do it!”

The audience of Americans held up cameras and cheered as the Liberians simply laughed at me.

“I need a countdown!” I shouted.

So Seren began to count.

“1!” I held out the chicken’s head and lowered my knife to its neck.

“2!” I started whimpering.

“3!!” I screamed bloody murder as I sawed away at my once beloved pet.


Killing Junior was one of the most awful things I had ever experienced. After Junior went limp, the Liberian man instructed me to hold its head while the blood poured from its neck, staining the dusty ground. Holding the partially decapitated but very dead bird, I thought the worst was over.

However, the worst wasn’t over. And the bird was not very dead.

All of a sudden Junior came back to life, thrashing wildly under my feet that were pinning him down.

“Make it stop! Make it stop!” I shrieked, and handed over the responsibility of the resurrected bird to the Liberian man. Apparently I should have named Junior “Jesus” instead.


About ten seconds after Junior raised from the dead, he went back to being dead, and into a pot of scalding water. A little Liberian girl pointed out to me the blood on my face, as Seren zoomed in with her camera on the blood splattered on my feet.


After I rinsed with water and doused myself in hand sanitizer, I headed inside to escape the bloody crime scene.

“You’re not done,” Seren informed me. I looked up at her confused. “Now you have to de-feather it!”

As if murdering the poor thing wasn’t enough, I now had to help our Liberian cook pull out every single one of Junior’s feathers. The scorching water made the feathers easier to pluck, but at the same time more difficult, as I was constantly burning my fingers.


After about fifteen minutes of de-feathering, Junior was naked, and looking more like a meal instead of a pet.


Later that day Liberian children pointed at me and laughed as they told one another how the white woman cried when she killed a chicken. I laughed along with them and realized how humorous the whole ordeal must have been to them, considering this is something they see their parents do all the time without second thought. While we may see sawing off a chicken’s neck as wrong or inhumane, for Liberians it is simple part of life and the way they feed their families.

A few hours later, my co-workers and I enjoyed a fabulous meal of chicken and rice.
 

And Junior was delicious.




Seren (seen in the red "Coach" shirt above) shot this precious video for me. Enjoy.

video