John Van Huizen is a retired Clackamas County Deputy Sheriff. John got involved as a volunteer with Mercy Ships and during one of these trips saw the plight of the children in Liberia. The majority of these children were orphans and the orphanages they had called home had been stripped of all valuable materials during recent civil wars. Now that things have stabilized in Liberia, organizations are starting to re-build the orphanages. One such organization is the Orphan Relief & Rescue Program. Recently John returned on a mission to Liberia to start the work. His travel log is provided for you, as follows:
May 23 2008 – Orphan Relief & Rescue trip to Liberia
May 23 – Picked up Dennis Davidson at 5:30a.m. Got a call that the flight was delayed an hour and a half. Nice drive to the airport. Said goodbye to Marianne and had a good flight from PDX to ORD. Because the flight was almost 2 hours late our layover was only 2 instead of 4 hours. Very busy at ORD and had a hard time finding a plug to charge my lap top, but did get it done before the flight to Brussels boarded.
The flight to Brussels was uneventful. Uneventful flights are good. The plane was packed but a smooth ride. We took a subway and taxi to our hotel in the downtown area. Got there by11 a.m. Took about a 3 hour nap and went to dinner in the hotel and spent a relaxing evening in the room. Watched an old movie and took a sleeping pill and did manage to get a decent nights sleep. Dennis and I had breakfast at 7 a.m. and then took a taxi to the airport. Things sure are expensive herewith the exchange rate. But oh well, it will bet better in Liberia.
We met up with Amanda and Ian at the airport. They had spent a couple of days in Brussels already. Boarded our plane, an Airbus 330, that was about 2/3rds full. A 6 ½ hour flight to Monrovia went very smooth. I slept the first two hours so was in great shape upon arrival. Andrew and Matt Lepage were there to pick us up. Hot and humid is the only way to describe the weather along with a gentle shower. The guys took us to our guest house, the Carver Mission. Rather primitive! The rooms were quite Spartan, and the beds had mosquito nets. Another first time experience! A generator hummed away, providing electricity. There is no running water, and we have to bucket flush and shower with buckets of cold water. Took a little getting used to, but it was rather refreshing.
The little battery operated fan did the trick as far as keeping me cool. Slept rather fitfully, and we were treated to the mother of all thunderstorms. It came down in buckets for awhile.
May 26 – It was rather comfortabletemperature wise when we got up. Themission is near a school, and the chatter of kids walking by our window madesure that we were not sleeping in. Andrew picked us up at about 0830 for breakfast at their place. Oatmeal was the fare of the morning. Afterbreakfast we headed for town to pick up another rental vehicle. Everything seems to take longer here. But we did get the vehicle and headed for abusiness that sells mosquito nets. Andrew bought out their supply of a certain size, about 70 in all. These will go to several of the orphanagesthat they just started working with, as well as replacing some unserviceableones in current orphanages. We went tolunch at a Lebanese restaurant downtown. Good meal and all six of us at for $36.
By mid afternoon we went to the FatuOrphanage, one of the first ones OR&R began working with. There are 74 children there. The director is Rev Mother Fatu, a dynamiclady. It is quite evident that she hasthe children’s best interest at heart. Most of the kids came storming out of thebuilding, and we were instantly inundated by most of the smaller kidsthere. It didn’t take long for the olderones to loosen up either. We weretreated like long lost uncles and aunts. We spent over an hour playing with the kids. They seem to be starved for attention andlove to touch and be touched. Most ofthe time there were at least 5 or 6 wanting to hold your hand or be carried.They all wanted their pictures taken, and loved to see them on the display window.
The crew is just putting the finishingtouches on a second story boy’s dorm. The construction is quite Spartan by our standards, but for the kids it’sthe Taj Mahal. It was the firstOrphanage remodeled by OR&R that has been raised to the accreditedlevel. Just seeing these kids today,reinforced for me that what we have done inOregonto help was worth all the effort we putinto it.
After visiting the Orphanage, we weredropped off at the guest house, and I took my first bucket shower. There is no running water, so you just pourbuckets of water over your head. Thefirst bucket full is a bit of a shock to the system, but it really feels good inthis heat and humidity. We had dinner atthe staff house again, and then went for a long walk on the beach. A most beautiful sunset, and I didn’t have mycamera with me. Oh well, there will bemore beautiful sunsets I’m sure. Weended up walking home in the dark, a little hairy without street lights. A great way to break or sprain an ankle. Visited in the staff house for a bit, beforeAndrew drove us back to the guest house. Took my second bucket shower of the day, and went to sleep with my littlebattery operated fan. What a life saverthat is.
Tuesday, May 27 – After getting up we hadbreakfast at the staff house again, and headed out to Salome’s Orphanage withthe mosquito nets that Andrew purchased yesterday. It was a long drive, and got there justbefore noon. Salome has a group of 24orphans, but is the head mistress of the school in the IDP Camp. It has 270 students currently, and decreasingas the camp is in the process of closing. School was in session and we were introduced to all the classes. When school let out at noon, we were againmobbed by all the kids. After playingwith them for about an hour we put up the mosquito nets in the two separaterooms. A net costs $7.00 and keeps 4children safe from malaria at night when most of the little critters areout.
Salome rounded up her 24 children for apicture with the CCPO Benevolent Foundation banner. I presented the banner toSalome and asked her to hold on to it until the new building was done. She promised to put it up when the timecame. We said our goodbyes and headed up to Royceville.
In 2005 when I was on the ship theCommunity Development Dept completely redid a school that had been totallygutted by the rebels during the war. Just a few walls were left standing. I worked on the project for a couple of weeks and it was about ½ donewhen I left. We introduced ourselves tothe head master, and were greeted like long lost friends. We were given a complete tour of the school,and again introduced to all the classes. Got some pictures of the classes in session and also of thebuilding. It looked great and I am proudto have been just a small part of getting it back up to speed. I took along prints of some of the pictures Ihad taken in 2005, and gave them to the headmaster. He seemed very pleased.
While working on the school I met a manliving in the village nearby, and visited him several times. Alfred Martin had a tumor on his face, andwhile working on the school some of the staff had made arrangements for him tocome aboard and have the tumor removed. He looked so much better than when I last saw him. We were again greeted like long lost friendsand given a tour of his little farm. Ialso gave Alfred several pictures of himself that I had taken in 2005, and hetoo seemed very pleased to receive them. Alfred is a wood carver, and used to do some great work, but all hiscarving tools are worn out and some got stolen. I promised him that next time I came, I would bring a set of carvingtools for him.
I had a handful of sticker badges that Igave out to several kids in the village, so Craig now has several juniordeputies patrollingBomiCounty. A long hot sticky ride home with a stopped at the Airlines Office tochange some tickets. Andrew had to getsome tickets, and Dennis decided to go home sooner than originally planned. He is not doing real well in this heat. Had dinner again at the staff house and thenoff to the guest house for another bucket shower, and a relaxing evening,hitting the hay fairly early with my battery operated fan.
Wednesday, May 28 – Matt picked us up at 0815 for breakfast at thestaff house, and we loaded into both vehicles and headed to the site where theyare starting Phase I of Salome’s Orphanage. They are trying to get as much done before the rainy season aspossible. It was a fairly long ride tothe site. We had to drive through theFirestone RubberPlantation, reported to be the largest one inthe world.
The site for the new orphanage is a bitover an acre in size, and is totally fenced in with a small bamboo hut where thewatchman lives. The hole for thelatrines are dug, and about 1500 concrete blocks are already made. The footing trenches for a 12 x 40 storeroomhave already been dug and the plan was to pour the footing for that buildingtoday. There were about 6 nativelaborers, and we all pitched in as the heat would allow. We helped bend and tie the rebar and Amandaand Ian got right into the mixing of the concrete. It is all done by hand on the ground and somevery backbreaking work. It was hot withno cloud cover and just a whisper of a breeze. Drank a gallon of water and just peed a pint.
As always we soon began attracting a smallgroup of kids. Dennis brought out afrisbee and taught them how to through it properly. I handed out a few junior badges, and beforelong we had all the kids in the village deputized..
We were done with the footing by about midafternoon and left the native crew to finish up. We headed back the guest house and the bucketshower never felt so good. Getting usedto it, but I am sure a modern shower won’t be hard to get used to againeither. Relaxed at the guest house forabout an hour. Matt and Ashley came byand we spent an hour at the beach before dinner. I sat on the beach and took some pictures,all the rest went in the water and did some body board surfing. Had dinner at the staff house again, andenjoyed a couple of hours of visiting before we headed for the guest house andbed.
Thursday, May 29 – New day! Same routinefor breakfast at the staff house. Todayis the day the staff goes to deliver food to the 5 orphanages that are currentlyon the feeding program. It was anunbelievable experience. We saw two verywell adjusted and properly run programs, and one where the director is beinginvestigated for child sex abuse. Atthree of the four orphanages the children seemed well adjusted and happy, andthe normal mob scene where the children are just happy to see you. The third orphanage on the list was a verydifferent story! The children werelethargic, and only a handful of the children smiled. None came out to meet us. This orphanage has been on a feeding programfor about 4 months and the health of the children does not seem to beimproving. OR&R has a rather rigidmonitoring system in place but so far have not been able to pinpoint theproblem. They suspect the director ofsiphoning off food for the black market, and have asked the State to step in andlook at closing it down. He liveselsewhere and seem to run the orphanage like a business.
I have to add that even at two of the wellrun orphanages the living conditions are horrendous. The children have no mosquito nets and aresleeping on the dirt floor on old full sized mattresses or some to those 2”thick ones, and the buildings are in horrible condition.
After a break for a shower and short nap weheaded off for the ship. Andrew’smom &dad gave us a tour. TheAfricaMercy is a great improvement over the Anastasis, but the Ana had a lot moreclass and some beautiful lines. Theyrefer to the AM as the floating filing cabinet. Met about a dozen old friends that I remember from the old ship, and gota lot of hugs. There were even a fewfriends from the first trip in 2003 aboard. We enjoyed a great meal and then went to the community meeting. After the meeting enjoyed some dessert and aslushy before heading home and bed.
Friday, May 30 – Got a slow start thismorning! Seems the heat and a ratherhectic schedule is taking a toll. I wasready for a nap shortly after I got up. Lounged around the staff house for awhile and then headed out to anotherorphanage project that is under consideration. It is an orphanage run by Mama Ellen Harley. She has 40 children. She has a good feeding program run byChristian Aid, a Mennonite group that feeds about 50 orphanages. The problem is the structure. It has been added onto so many times, theroof is almost flat and leaking to the point where only a whole new roof wouldbe of any use. The cost to replace theroof will be about $8000, and the timing would have to be “right now” before therainy season gets going full bore in a few weeks. Also most of the field team will be leavingfor the rainy season and returning in Aug&Sept.
Went to visit a second orphanage to have alook at a new latrine and shower building that the group had just put up. Quite an impressive little structure as faras latrines and showers go. Also took apicture of the old one. Quite a difference!
Spent a quiet afternoon at the guest house,and were to be picked up for dinner, but our ride never showed. Dennis and I, took a cab to the Royal hotel,along with Joseph one of OR&R employees. Had a nice relaxing dinner and also arranged with Joseph to hire hisbrother’s cab next week for a few days, and then go do some visiting, and nothave to tie up OR&R’s transportation. Seems they had some vehicle problems tonight. The cab waited for us to finish dinner andthen took us back to the guest house. Cabs are cheap here. You can renta car and driver for $5 an hour. A cheapway to get around!
Saturday, May 31 – Normal breakfast routineafter which we headed for the prison to join a group from the ship, who supportthe local efforts of Prison Fellowship. It is a group that has chapters in 120 countries around the world. They provide a variety of services forprisoners, including legal support, supplemental feeding, hygiene supplies,counseling and evangelism. We got therun of the prison and were let into several cell blocks to mingle with and talkto the prisoners. All the ones I spoketo have been jailed from up to 2 years ago, and are still waiting to be charged,arraigned and have their cases adjudicated. The wheels of justice turn very slow here when one does not have money togrease the skids. The conditions werehorrible! Poor sanitation and the mealsconsist of one ladle of corn meal and a cup of water. All have a sad tale to tell and beg you tohelp them to get out. It is usually $20to $50 get out and have some of the minor charges disappear. From speaking to the person in charge ofPrison Fellowship, there are many put in jail, because their accusers havebribed a police officer. We spent abouttwo hours inside. There are over 800prisoners in the facility, and we ended our visit in the women’s section in themiddle of a song service. They werereally getting with the program.
Next on the schedule of events was a tripto the highest point in the city. It hasan old abandoned 8 story hotel, which had a 5 star rating in it’s hay day. In 2005 it was occupied by some 2000squatters. It was a stinking mess, andthe swimming pool was being used for a cesspool. All have been evicted and the place cleanedup. It is being refurbished by a wealthyLibyan, and should be open for business in about 2 years. We talked real nice to the security folks,and they let us climb to the top. A bitof a climb for an old fart, but made it up in the heat with out stopping. The view was fantastic. We could see the ship in the harbor and gotsome great panorama shots of the city.
Went home and took a nice cool bucketshower, and took a short nap. We met acouple of ladies living in the guest house next to ours. They are from a huge black church inAtlantathat hasover 25,000 members. Both are Doctors ofDivinity and are teaching in theCarverMissionBibleCollegeand are setting up a computer learning program here at theMission. We invited them to join us for dinnertonight. We went to a BBQ Rib&Chicken place with 10 of us. Had awonderful time. Turned in kind of early.
Sunday, June 1 – Feeling somewhat drug outthis morning, and spent a quiet day at the staff house. Andrew took Ian, Amanda and Ashley to atraditional church service. A realcultural experience for the kids. Allweek long there has been a lot of hype about the Africa’s Cup soccer matchbetweenLiberiaandGambia. A new stadium was built by the Chineseseveral years ago, that seats over 35,000. Some of the OR&R native staff took Ian, Amanda and Ashley to thegame. They were able to buy tickets butapparently it was over sold and they could not get in. They had a great time anyway. The game ended in a 1-1 tie.
I went with Andrew to take Dennis to theairport. Theheat is not agreeing withhim so he bailed out two weeks early.
Spent a quiet evening at the guesthouse.
Monday, June 2 – Monday morning the staff off OR&R meets to plan out the work week, and reorganize the priorities as situations and funding changes. With the infusion of money from the Oregon group another desperate situation was brought to the attention of the group. One of the orphanages that OR&R is working with is the home of some 40 children. It has been added onto several times over the years, and the roof is leaking like a sieve. The old part is rusting through and the newer area is almost flat, making a corrugated metal roof almost useless. During the rainy season it creates conditions that are totally intolerable. Nothing remains dry, and the health problems caused by wet mildewed mattresses are countless. There are about 3 weeks left before the rainy season sets in with a wet vengeance. Also most of the OR&R staff spend time at their home bases as things pretty much shut down during the wet season. They are trying to decide if they have the time and resources to replace the roof.
We also worked on the transportation problem the group is facing. It is very expensive to rent a truck and get the building material picked up and delivered to the job site. Dennis and I were having a coke at a corner store next to the staff house, and we struck up a conversation with an English fellow who works for a logging company. Their office is just down the street from the staff house. The company is running around in a fleet of brand new trucks. I asked him if they were disposing of any older models, and he responded that they are a new company in Liberia and all of their vehicles are new. I explained our need and he suggested we come speak to the owner of the company on Monday and see if he might be willing to help out.
Matt Lepage and I walked down to the office and were introduced to the head man, a very distinguished looking Liberian business man. We explained who we were and what we were up to, and to make long story short, he agreed to loan us a truck any time we needed one and all we had to do was pay for the gas. They have a variety of trucks from pick ups to 5 ton flat beds. A real blessing it is! That will save several hundreds of dollars each project that can go to direct services.
One of the OR&R guards has a brother in law who runs a taxi that he will drive you around in for $5 an hour. Ian and Amanda were off to do an art project at one of the orphanages, so I took the opportunity to run down to the Royal Hotel for lunch and do some emailing. It worked great! The wireless connection was great, a little slower than DSL, but for this part of the world very satisfactory. Did a little sight seeing and tried to look up and old friend who worked on the ship with us in 05, but he moved and have no idea where to look for him. A quiet afternoon and evening finished off the day.
Tuesday. June 3 – Pig Delivery Day! After running some errands, we went to rent a truck, and went to a very advanced orphanage here in town. They raise pigs for income, and Andrew bought a breeding pair for an orphanage out in the country side. The two pigs were literally stuffed into a couple of rice sacks and tied up with just their heads sticking out. Once we got out of town the ride was great. We had to travel some 30 miles out in the country. The last three miles however were over some of the roughest road I had ever been on. The pigs got bounced around quite a bit and were really stressed when we arrived. Amanda poured a large bottle of drinking water over them to cool them off. The orphanage that got the pigs has 46 kids and a great agriculture program. They have a lot of crops that they grow and with some breeding stock have a good chance at being self sufficient. We toured the facility and the kids sang us a few songs. Ian and Amanda gave the group 3 soccer balls. They sure were a big hit. The ride back was long and hot and the bucket shower felt great as always.
Went out with the group to the Royal Hotel to check our email, and spent several hours hanging around enjoying the air conditioning.
Wednesday, June 4 – We had planned to visit an orphanage up country as they call it here. Back home it would be referred to as way out in the sticks. We had another severe thunderstorm overnight, and it was still pouring well into mid morning. The roads would have been impassable so we cancelled the trip. Amanda and Ian went with Ashley to deliver rice to an orphanage that was closer by. Morris Howard, the Liberian staff member was going to pour concrete, and that too was delayed by the rain, so he and I decided to hang out together. I served with Morris on the ship for 3 months in 05. He got married three months ago, and wanted me to meet his wife. I called Joseph, my trusty $5 an hour taxi driver and we first went to the Royal Hotel for coffee and checked my email.
Then went to the Brussels Airline office in town to see if I could move my departure date a few days earlier. Most of the local staff are headed for home at about the same time, and no need to be here with just myself. I didn’t work, and have to go through the same agent I booked with to make the change, so Marianne is going to try and accomplish that for me.
We visited with Morris and his wife for about an hour, and then we stopped by to visit the ship. We met the Captain’s wife on the dock, and she ushered Morris and I right onto the ship. We had a fun visit with Capt Joensen and Debbie, and we were invited for dinner on Thursday and we will again attend the Community Meeting they have on board each week. This is not my cousin the Captain. He is currently working in Marine Ops at the head office in Texas. I served with the current Captain when he was the 1st Officer on first visit to the ship in 2003. We had a great time doing some reminiscing and got a lot of pressure to come do another stint on the ship. We will see! After departing the ship we dropped Morris off at his house and Joseph and I went out for a burger at the Royal on the way home. A fun day!
Thursday, June 5 – After breakfast the whole group scattered in different directions. I accompanied Matt Lepage to the Fatu Orphanage where they are finishing up a construction project on the new boy’s dormitory. We formed up the top rail of a concrete block railing on the second story. It was fun working with 3 native craftsmen. Due to lack of proper tools and equipment, they have to be creative to get the job done. Material is very expensive here, and one of the carpenters was straightening out nails that were pulled from the stairway forms. As a child I can remember seeing my father do that too as a poor immigrant. My father let me try it too, and that is the first time that I smashed my finger with a hammer. After we put the rebar in the forms, the native crew began hauling bags of cement and buckets of sand up the stairs to be mixed by hand. It was mid afternoon and I made a very wise decision. I was about dying from the heat, so I called my $5 an hour taxi buddy, Joseph and had him take me to the guest house, where I promptly took a nice refreshing bucket shower.
After relaxing for a while I had the taxi take me to the dock. Signed in at the ship as the Captain’s guest, and joined him and his wife for dinner. Walked around the ship for awhile between dinner and the Community Meeting, and ran into several more friends from my time aboard in 05. After the meeting we were having coffee in the Captain’s cabin, and my cousin, the former Captain called to speak to the current Capt., so I got to talk to him for a few minutes as well. He is currently at Mercy Ship headquarters in Texas working in Marine Ops for 6 weeks before returning to the Netherlands. Another full day! Took my second bucket shower of the day before turning in.
Friday, June 6 – Spent the day running around with Andrew. Our first meeting was with Bill Massaquoi the Liberian Director for Medical Teams International. He gave us a briefing as to what MTI is doing in country. The biggest part of their work here is funded by USAID in the field of health education. They also bring over medical teams from time to time and set up clinics in Elwa Hospital as well as some outlying locations. The sad part is they only ship about 1 container a year from PDX to Liberia, so the prospects of piggy backing with them are not too promising. We did get the name of several other agencies that will ship material and supplies for NGO’s so we can look into that when we return. We visited the post office, the bank, immigration office and the Ministry of Health. Quite an adventure to see the Liberian bureaucracy at work! A lot of hurry up and wait! The better part of the day was shot by the time we got done, and it was time for the now famous bucket shower.
Amanda, Ian and Ashley spent the day painting a new latrine/shower building. They had a real decorative motif in mind and it involved the children putting their hand prints in the paint and adorning the outside of the building. I will have to go take a picture of it before I leave next week.
Matt Lepage made his first run to Salome’s new orphanage site in the truck borrowed from the logging company next to the staff house. He took 40 sacks of cement, lumber and a steel security door. The company supplied the driver, and all we need to pay for is the fuel.
This evening I called my taxi and ran into the two ladies from Atlanta living next door. They joined me for an email trio and dinner at the Royal Hotel. While we were there we ran into three more ladies that work with the two I was with so had dinner with 5 wonderful black ladies this evening. Got home about 8:30 and sitting here doing my daily log to the sound of a humming generator.
Saturday, June 7 – The staff of OR&R tend to take it a little easier on weekends, doing household chores and shopping. Got a late breakfast and just took it easy. Played with some of the neighborhood kids at the mission and in the afternoon took a taxi ride to the Royal to do some emailing. Ashley took Ian and Amanda to the Waterside Market for one last look to see if there is something they cannot live with out. I have been there-done that, and the last time I went, there were two attempts to pick my pocket.
There is a new Chinese Restaurant not too far from where we live, and we decided to give it a try. Our meal was delayed by several hours because Matt and Muriel had to go to the hospital to look after an orphan girl that needed a transfusion. She has malaria and several other maladies, and according to Muriel is just wasting away. We did finally get to enjoy a good meal together.
Sunday, June 8 – A leisurely morning and late breakfast at the staff house. Andrew decided to take us sight seeing for the day, and we drove north toward the Sierra Leone border, and through the city of Tubmanburg. The country side turns from flat to hilly and the scenery improves a whole lot. Just on the other side of Tubmanburg is Bomi Lake. It is actually a huge rock quarry probably about 50 – 60 some acres in size. Lots of UN tanker trucks filling up there to distribute water. The water is clean and clear. There were a lot of Pakistani and Nepalese UN troops making a day outing from the city as well. Ian decided he wanted a blue UN ball cap and asked several of the Pakistanis if he could buy one from them. No luck. I struck up a conversation with one of the Nepalese guys, an MP. We had quite a conversation. He said he would be happy give me a cap, but we would have to stop by his base in Monrovia on Monday to get it. He gave me his name and phone number, and we will try and get it for Ian tomorrow. Andrew, Amanda, Ashley and Ian went swimming for awhile. It looked inviting, but I didn’t bring a suit, so I did some picture taking and visiting with the UN guys. Drove the 70 km back to the city, and stopped for ice cream at a Lebanese restaurant. It was Mexican night dinner wise at the staff house, so I called my faithful taxi cabby, Joseph and he took me to the Royal for a sandwich and did a little emailing. Turned in kind of early!
On our way to the lake this morning we stopped to air up a tire on the vehicle. There was a naked beggarman lying beside the road nearby. He has been haunting me all day!
Monday, June 9 – Amanda and Ian are headed home today. Due to construction at the airport, we took their luggage directly to the Brussels Airline office downtown. Supposedly this will speed up the check in and boarding process. They do not leave until 2030 tonight. Our second stop was at Redemption Hospital where Mariel, the staff nurse had one of the older patients admitted several weeks ago. She has an undiagnosed illness, and is just wasting away. While Mariel visited her patient, I stuck my nose into the Mercy Ship Dental Clinic there and found an old MS acquaintance, Dr Keith Chapman. He was working on a female patient who had a horrible jaw infection from a dead piece of bone, according to Keith, Her cheek was swollen up to 5 times its normal size, and he was implanting some drainage tubes and treating the infection with antibiotics. He will be doing some heavy duty surgery once the swelling goes down, and will need to replace a complete section of her jaw. I visited with him for a few minutes between patients. He is no longer living on the ship, but has made a min 2 year commitment to work in Liberia.
On the way home we passed the naked beggar man again. I had some laundry drying on the line at the staff house, and the next time I passed his way I gave him a shirt, and a pair of pants. He did have an old piece of cloth partially covering him this time, and there were a couple of bowls that had had some food in it standing by him, so it seems that someone in the neighborhood is at least minimally looking after him. I also gave him 55 Liberian Dollars, the equivalent of about 1 USD. The OR&R staff advised against giving him too much as people will steal it from him, He showed up in the bus stop near the staff house a few months ago. It seems he was discharged from a nearby hospital a few months ago and has been living in the bus shelter ever since. The OR&R staff tried to find a place for him through the social welfare system such as it is. The two places they checked out were worse than the bus shelter. A sad commentary! When we returned to the staff house, Mariel the nurse was treating two young boys a the house. One had a serious case of ringworm, and the other had a bad case of jungle rot on both feet. It is caused by constant moisture. They live at an orphange that is walking distance from the staff house so convenient to walk over for treatment.
We dubbed the effort to get Ian a UN cap, Operation Periwinkle, and we called the number that the Nepalese MP gave us. It worked and we drove to his base and gave him a soccer ball and a water bottle, and Ian got his UN cap. Amanda got a Nepalese unit cap, and we got a few pictures with some to the troops there.
After dinner, Andrew took Amanda and Ian to the airport, and I had my trusty cabby take me to the Royal for some emailing and am trying to get this one off.
I will be leaving Friday, so my last edition will probably be sent out from Brussels. I plan to rest up a few days and then on to the Netherlands to visit family.
Tuesday, June 10 – Today was off to visit Salome’s new site near the Firestone Plantation. When we last visited for a day we poured the footings for the 12 x 40 storage building. I drove out with Matt Lepage this morning and was surprised to see that the floor of the building had been poured and the wall were up to 4 courses of concrete block. It is the intent to finish the storage building before the rainy season gets into full swing. It will be a place to store some of the material for the main building, and there will be a full time watchman there at night. Also there will be a crew to make blocks as the weather allows so that construction of the main orphanage can go into full swing after the rain slows down. We had one problem today. Matt is quite meticulous regarding the workmanship, and found that one of the 40 foot walls was not totally plumb, so he had them take off two courses of block and redo them. It is exciting to see work being done that the fundraising effort in Oregon is paying for.
Drove by the naked beggar man several times today. He still had a cover over his lower end, but was using the plastic sack with my shirt and pants in it for a pillow. Oh well, if he doesn’t plan to wear the cloths, at least he is getting some use out of them.
On the way back from Salome’s we stopped by the Fatu orphanage where Morris and his crew were putting in the ceiling of the new boys dorm, and another crew was plastering the handrail that we poured last week. That will be one impressive structure, by Liberian standards when it is complete. It should be occupied in a week or so.
Got back from the job site all sweaty, so the usual bucket shower was a real treat. Actually getting used to it and looking forward to the sometimes twice daily occurrence. I had my favorite cabby take me to the Royal to do some emailing and the two Doctor’s of Divinity, next door invited themselves along. They have a nice jeep here, but are afraid to drive here after dark. I would be too! About 1/3 of the cars travel without lights and the streets are very crowded in spots. They have a method to there madness here as far as driving goes, but it would take longer than the 3 weeks I have here to learn all the ins and outs. Got back to the guest house at the Carver Mission at about 2130 and typed out my daily, again to the hum of the generator, before hitting the hay.
Wednesday, June 11 – Got a great nights sleep! It rained hard most of the night and well into the day. That makes for a cooler temperature and pleasant breeze with the windows open. Andrew picked me up for breakfast and the main highway in front to the guest house looked like a raging river. This is the hardest it had rained since I got here, and the staff discovered a couple of serious leaks in two of the bedrooms. The plywood ceiling was totally wet and discolored, so after breakfast Andrew and I went to work to see if we could patch the leaks. We first of all punctured the ceiling and drained about a half bucket in each of the bed rooms. We then tore out one ceiling panel where the leak appeared to be the worst. We cut a piece of corrugated metal to fit between the first purling and the metal splice and slipped it into place with some roofing cement. That took care of the main leak, and Andrew crawled around in the attic space and just patched a bunch of smaller leaks with a trowel and roofing cement. They decided not to replace the ceiling panel until after the rainy season. It reminded us of our days in Renovation on the Anastasis where there were always pipes leaking in between floors or in the walls.
Ran a few errands in the afternoon and my trusty cabby picked me up at 5 p.m. again for a dinner/email run to the Royal. Watched a bit of the Switzerland – Turkey soccer match, not sure who won, and really didn’t care.
Thursday, June 12 – My last full day in country! After breakfast I helped Matt Lepage with some minor repairs on their main vehicle. The entire staff was involved with meetings and uninteresting things, so I decided to do a little visiting in some of the villages that I would frequent during my stay in 05. I had printed a bunch of pictures I had taken and wanted to go back and give them to the folks in the villages. The first village was Zagar Town, a village of about 500 people out in the sticks between the Firestone Plantation and the Airport. It is accessible only by a canoe ride across a rather large river. I guess that was one of the attractions. I had taken several groups of short term crew member there, and a canoe ride was always the highlight of the trip. When my trusty cabby, Joseph and I walked up to the landing, I was surprised that the same canoe operator, Aaron was still running the ferry service. We recognized each other instantly, and one of my favorite pictures that I took in 05 was of Aaron paddling the canoe. He took us across, and I began handing out pictures to a few of the people I remembered. It was almost instant pandemonium. Several people ran off to get other people they recognized in the pictures. I think it was a first for that village. Even Joseph my cabby got the biggest kick out of watching the reactions. Aaron said it was the first time he had ever seen a picture of himself. I of course had to take another picture of everyone present, and promise them that I would bring another print next time I came. I did the same at a second village, but it was not quite the event as Zagar Town was. The kids were back in school there, but a nice friendly visit none the less.
Drove by the bus shelter today and saw my green Van Heusen shirt and my khaki pants on the naked beggar man. He was the best dressed man on Roberts Hwy.
Made another run to the Royal tonight to check my email this evening. It was so slow I decided to have dinner there as well. The biggest order of fish & chips I ever had, so had them box up the left overs, and by now probably have a few grease spots on my green shirt.
Friday, June 13 – The last day in Liberia started off about the same as all the others. Andrew had a couple of meetings downtown and I had to drop off my check in luggage at the downtown office. Some major construction at the airport causes long undo delays for luggage check in. I waited for Andrew to get through with his meetings at the Mamba Point Hotel where they also have wireless, and was able to down load some huge message files. Sent out a few, and when Andrew was done with his meetings we had lunch at the Beirut Restaurant. The only unfinished business I had was to look up an old friend, Samuel. Samuel worked with us in Renovations in 05, and just a couple of weeks before I was due to come home his house burned down. One of his renters died a few days later from burns received. I spent my last two weeks there rebuilding the house with a bunch of nurse and medical volunteers from the ship. Samuel bought me a fancy native dress shirt. It was the one I wore at the Arrowhead Dinner Auction. The house we rebuilt had been torn down by city workers and it took me a while to get a lead on where some folks from the ship had seen him. Andrew and I drove to the area and low and behold, Andrew spotted a Mercy Ship shirt in the crowd, and it just happened to be Samuel. I walked toward him, and he spotted me about ½ block away and yelled, “Mr John” A big hug followed and we got to spend some quality time just visiting and doing a little reminiscing. I wish I had found him a few days earlier, but that was not to be. Joseph my loyal cabby took me back the guest house and I did my final packing and took my last bucket shower. It sure felt gooood! It is a real scorcher today. I said goodbye to my two neighbor ladies from Atlanta and Andrew picked me up for dinner and took me to the airport.
The plane was and hour and a half late, and we were all jammed into a small hot waiting area, bit we finally got off the ground and a good 7 hour flight to Brussels. Took a sleeping pill and slept for 4 hours. There were 22 Mercy Shippers on the same flight, and I knew 8 of them. Several are staying in the same hotel for a few days and we plan to do some sight seeing Sunday and Monday. I talked them into going on one of those get on get off tour busses. Should be fun to relax a bit before heading for the Netherlands. I don’t suppose many of you would be interested in hearing about my family reunions, so this will be my last daily log. Will by home June 30. Hope to see most of you then. Thanks to all those who replied. It sure is great hearing from the home front when one is gone for an extended period of time. I will be in Brussels for a few days, and have a great connection here so would love to hear from some of you.
John returned home June 30th.