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.

Friday, April 8, 2011

beat up.

Africa is kicking my butt.


From scratching itchy bug bites to impaling myself on my surfboard, I have not done the best job of taking care of my newly tanned skin. Last night we went out for a sunset surf session where I tumbled under a wave and cut my elbow on the fin of my board. I've also recently wrecked my shin on a rock (1st/2nd picture), scraped my palms when I fell playing soccer (3rd picture), and rammed my arm pretty hard into my board (4th picture).

For as much as I complain, being cut, scraped, and bruised is a small price to pay for being here doing what I'm doing. In the words of Chris Cagle, "Scars heal. Glory fades. And all we're left with are the memories made." :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

heartbroken.

I've had my heart broken a few times before- once by a boy who didn't feel the same way, and once by a boy who changed his mind. Each time I remember crying uncontrollably, feeling as if I literally might die. I remember that horrible feeling of complete and utter helplessness. Thoughts like "This is not the way it's supposed to be" and "I will do anything to fix this" replayed over and over in my mind like a broken record I couldn't stop from spinning.

Ask any girl who's gone through a break up. It's one of the worse kinds of pain there is.

Yesterday my heart broke for the first time in a while. But unlike before, it wasn't over a boy. It wasn't over someone I loved. It wasn't even over someone I'd met.

Even so, however, my heart still broke- in a very real literally-felt-like-I-might-die kind of way.

When I came into work I was given a handwritten letter from Isaac, a man I'd never met. Isaac lives in Saclepea, a city in northern Liberia where thousands of refugees from the Ivory Coast have fled. He wrote to see if there was anything L.A.C.E.S. could do for the thousands of children displaced by the conlfict in Côte d'Ivoire. In the first paragraph, he wrote, "We are overwhelmed with the sadness on the faces of our children."


Sitting at my desk, tears fell uncontrollably.

In a refugee situation such as this, it is impossible to predict the future. With no idea what Saclepea will look like in 6 months, one year, or even two years down the road, there is no way L.A.C.E.S. can afford to invest in a program there. It just wouldn't be sustainable, or a responsible use of our very limited resources.

Holding Isaac's letter in my hand, I realized this. I realized that L.A.C.E.S. couldn't help in the way that the children of Saclepea needed. I've been very much aware about the refugee situation for weeks, but unlike ever before, I felt like I was being called to help, and that there was nothing I could do.

Feeling completely and utterly helpless, thoughts like "This is not the way it's supposed to be" and "I will do anything to fix this" ran through my head. I cried and cried just imagining the sadness that Isaac sees on the their faces, and what their lives must be like. The conflict in the Ivory Coast is ripping families their homes, from everything familiar, leaving them unsure of where they will be sleeping tonight or if they will be eating tomorrow.

I've had my heart broken a few times before- and this time wasn't any easier. Ask any girl who's gone through a break up. It's one of the worse kinds of pain there is.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

i see two things.

We've all seen the cliché pictures of Africa- the photos of children with flies on their faces, surrounded by garbage, running around barefoot. I'd seen the images on television before I came to Liberia, and I saw the children in person once I arrived. The conditions are bad, and if you've been reading this blog, you've seen that in my photos. But what I want to tell you about today, however, is something different. Something you probably haven't seen.

Everyday I am surrounded by poverty and hardship.

Everyday I am also surrounded by the people who have dedicated their entire lives to changing that.

From clean water initiatives to adult literacy programs, the amazing men and women at Samaritan's Purse pour everything they have into bringing aid to those who need it most. When I leave SP and return home from the office, I am greeted by the Chapman's, who have left their lives in America behind to open one of the three dental clinics in the entire country.

I had a tough time deciding if I wanted to give up my final semester at Ball State to come to Liberia, and even still am struggling with the fact that I won't get to graduate with all my friends next month. I could never do what these people do every day, and am truly inspired by the way they live their lives. While I've only known them for a very little time, they have impacted me in a very big way.

When I look around me I see two things: The poverty and hardship of a war-torn nation, and the hope and dedication to make it a better place. I wish that everyone could see these two things with their own eyes. And I am confident that if they could, they would agree that the latter is much more powerful.