Sunday, October 27, 2013


This is the watchtower at the entrance to the Presidential residence....those are blue helmets of UN Peacekeepers.

Kathy looking at trinkets outside the Lutheran Guest House where PC people stay, a lot.  We did buy some items.

Kathy in the lobby of the only fancy hotel, the Royal Grand Hotel, in Monrovia.  The least expensive room is $200 a night...all the NGOs and governmental agency folks stay here.  We go there for lunch or breakfast once in a while.  They really crank the a/c so we love it.



This another view of our school and some school girls.

Back at the Lutheran Guest House....I thought it was so sweet they were washing their doggie but when I walked over I discovered they were using laundry detergent on him.  He was happy, at least for the moment.  Hope he is not allergic.
This a view from the stage looking out at the enthusiastic audience of our first spelling bee.  They were so excited..they carried the winner on their shoulders !!!!Jusu was the winner and Wesley came in second...it was great fun and we are doing it with all the classes ( they are insisting) and then we'll have a final spell off among all the class winners.

These are kids from a local jr. high planting a garden....they did a good job and had a lot of fun doing.  Peace Corps was not involved in this at all....the school handled it.

The wall on the right is part of the wall around the very popular town soccer field and in the distance, which was the object of my photo is a class of students sitting outside so they can be separated to take a test.  The classrooms are so crowded they can see onto the other papers too easily.

This is Prince ( a popular name) and some other students in the classroom.

This is my housemate, Kathy.  We are at the cook shop where we get a lot of our food prepared.  Those are uncooked donuts in the background.  See next picture.

This is Elijah cooking the donuts.  He had to remove the pan of grease from the fire as it got too hot.  They cook almost exclusively over charcoal and you can see the typical stove with the coals in it.

Donuts coming out of the grease ...then they are dipped in a cinnamon/sugar mixture....yummmmmm

No comment necessary.  A student was wearing this shirt and I asked permission to take his photo.

A typical group at work. 

Another group at work.  They are good at group work...they actually all work.

The teacher is in her native dress ( this type of fabric is called lapa and comes in fantastic patterns). The young man helping hang the alphabet was our tallest student.  His outfit is traditional too.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

This herd appeared in our front yard one day....we learned later that they had escaped from the vocational school next door. I could tell they were lost...they were moving much faster than any cows I had seen before.


cows rounding the neighbor's house.....funny


Our place from another direction.  That huge tree is mango and I hear they will be ripe soon....

We don't usually have to get our own water but this day we needed some and did not have anyone to help us..other than this young man who thought we could not handle the pump.  He did not, however, offer to tote the jug up the hill.

We hitched a ride in this vehicle labeled with USAID.  There are lots of these on the roads...competing with the UNMIL ( United Nations Mission in Liberia, i.e. peacekeepers) trucks.  We noticed soem of the blue helmets guarding the President's residence the other day.  

This is another view from our house..This is the pump where everyone gets their water ( except us..we paid $250 to get it piped in from the water tower near us)  We still have to get our drinking water from the pump...and then we use the Peace Corps supplied purifier on it before we use it.  Everyone morning, starting around 5 am the 250 students who live on campus come here to get their buckets filled with water for bathing and drinking.   Then, they carry it back to their dorms on their heads or shoulders. 
THis is Maureen and Heather ( and my housemate, Kathy) who are two regular PC vols in the town we are in.  They are teaching science subjects in the local public high school.  We had them over for a little dinner ( with some S. African wine) and this is on our front porch...we have a nice breeze most of the time and its very nice out there when we don't have our laundry hanging on the lines crisscrossing it.

We happened upon this procession in town...the organization translates the bible into each of the local tribal dialects...they have a few done ..I have a video I took but I can't figure out how to download a video onto my blog....Steve...help ????


This view is out our front....the school is planting rice in the water and other crops up the hillside.  beautiful, really.  

We had a little science class on the parts of the flower...they went out and gathered some specimens

This is one of the only 25 girls in the school, with 225 boys.  Here, with employment at such a premium, most of the teachers at all levels are men and there is an initiative to attract more females.  

I told the kid in the shades that he reminded me of Stevie Wonder....they all got a big laugh out of that.

This picture was taken out the door to the academic hall..this little guy is waiting wth his bucket of food to sell to the students when they get a break.  He looks tired...falling out of the chair.


This kid just came in one evening and started doing math on the blackboard.....they really want more information.



These are pictures I took, and they were so sweet to pose for them, after I had brought my dental floss to school.  They had had a piece to read in the morning that referred to "dental floss."  They did not know what it was..they had it confused with "mouthwash."  So, when I went home for lunch, I brought my dental floss back with me and first demonstrated its use and then walked around giving out a long length of it to each student who wanted it....how sweet it was.  The students are so unihibited...they are so anxious for new information.  Also, if you look on the wall at the posters in one of the pictures, you will see that some of the posters are put up with ugly looking pieces of tape..showing the tape.  I showed them how to make loops of the tape and put it on the back of the poster and no one has done it the old way since.  ( Small differences...but, differences :)

Another interesting story is from a day when I ran out of things to do in the lesson plan so I decided to teach them Musical Chairs.  These students are being prepared to be primary school teachers so I figured that even tho they are too big to play musical chairs ( which they loved) they could use it with their students on rainy days when they could not go outside for recess.  Anyhow, I asked them if they knew the game and when they said no, as I was trying to describe the game to the class, one student finally got a look of understanding on his face and his hand shot up and he said, "We played that in the camps in Ghana."  I knew what he meant...the refugee camps that thousands of Liberians ran to during the civil war ( or civil crisis as they call it) .  It started in 1990 and was over in about 2003 so all of these students have some recollection of the chaos.  Apparently, some Liberians just ran to the "bush" and hid while the fighters were in their towns and then returned to the destuction and looted home when they left and others went to the neighboring countries and the refugee camps there.  Peace Corps told us that we were coming to a "post conflict" countrty but they really did  not explain what that meant...how it would affect the students and our interaction, etc.  Well, this was one example...I asked the kid who had sponsored the camp and he said the Norweigians.  I guess everyone spoke English because that is all the local kids speak, other than their local tribal language, if they have been fortunate enough to have someone in their lives who could teach them. 


THis area is called "Red Light."  No one seems to know how it got that name but.....we can guess.  Now it is a muddy muddy market place that seems to be a meeting place for taxis to everywhere.  We have fortunately discovered a way to aviod this location by getting out of the Kakata taxi early and getting another taxi on the "bypass" to Monrovia.



This is Charlene..She is a PC volunteer who has just extended for her third year ...She and her PC partner ( below) Kristin have developed a women's group at a high school where they sew these handbags, etc.  They are just beautiful.  The company is called "boshbosh" which means "pieced together, like quilted" .   They would love to develop it into a real business for the local women but have the usual obstacles..marketing, shipping costs, etc.  but, for now its a wonderful activity and a money maker...ideas from my readers ( especially Jeff who is connected to the Africans)  are welcome.

This is Kristen, mentioned above, putting the wares out at a show they did at a little restaurant.  Kathy and I were in Monrovia at the time so of course we went and made a few ( a lot) purchases. I hope my granddaughters like them :)

The fabric is called "lapa" and it comes and fabulous prints...beautiful beautiful stuff.  I'll try to take some photos of the women in dresses ( suits) made of the fabric...they are just beautiful and look so gorgeous on the dark skinned folks. 

View of the Atlantic from the shop where the "Bosh bosh" show was held.  Its a beautiful place but so shabby...worn out.....needs a lot of TLC.  If anyone wants to buy oceanfront property at bargain prices, this would be the place...just no infrastructure.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dear all,
 
My house mate and I came to Monrovia this weekend for a little R&R and it has been nice.  We are in the PC office right now, Sunday afternoon, and will be leaving for home about 3 pm.  We have to charter a taxi for the day, $50 US, and then he drives us around to a couple different places to do errands and then we'll leave for home about 3.  Its an hour and a half drive over some very very ugly roads, everyone weaves wildly around and among potholes so you never know what you'll see coming at you thru the windshield.
 
The dry season will soon be here and we have been assured that the roads are a lot better then...we'll see.  I can't fathom that they will fill in the potholes so I think the only difference will be the amount of water in the holes.
 
But, the good news is that school has started finally and we are feeling worthwhile again.  We were here two weeks just getting our house put together and finding out how to buy food, someone to wash our clothes for us and someone to bring us drinking water ( which we still have to put thru the purifier but at least is is clear which is more than we can say about the water that comes thru the pipes which we use for bathing and household stuff. )
 
The students are so enthusiastic about learning...its like they are hungry.  When we say anything to suggest that we will be stating some facts....they just stare at us waiting with rapt attention.  
 
My school is a teacher training institute funded almost entirely, or entirely, by USAID.  We are assigned to classes with one or two other Liberian teachers and we have about 35 students in our classes, ranging in age from 18 to 40+.  They are people who have no other work, have their high school diplomas and want to work at something.  As part of the registration process, we worked on the station that reviewed their essays so we have sort of an idea of their motives for being there, other than the universal one of wanting to work...at anything.  
 
Many of the essays mentioned that the government has been advertising for students to apply to the teacher training institutes ( there are three of them spread around the country) so many of the essays mentioned that they were responding to the country's request for help in the education of Liberia's children.  Its sort of like a junior college, but its just a nine month program and they get a "C" certificate which is all the certification they need to teach at the elementary level.  There is something more required for secondary teachers.  Several of the essays started with a statement of thanks to the government for the opportunity, and to God, and to the US of America for providing the funding.  Isn't that nice ?  One youngster wrote that he wanted to be a teacher ( that was the topic they were given) to do his duty to his country, to help it recover after the civil war and he went on to say that others were going for the high paying "white scholar" jobs, but he wanted to help out his country even tho the pay was low. .  It was so sweet
 
Our program just lasts 9 months.  The first three months, up until Christmas break, are devoted to classroom instruction in basic skills and some child development, child psychology, pedagogy.  Then, right before Christmas, they all have to take a test and if they pass, they may return for the second semester, Jan - Jun, when they will be assigned to classrooms to do practice teaching.  They are video taped while teaching and then the tape is critiqued by the teachers.  I guess we will participate in that somehow but I am not sure how that will all play out.
 
Right now, we are teaching 3 hours in the morning, we have 1.5 hrs. for lunch, 3 hrs in the afternoon and then we hold tutoring classes in the evening for 2 hours so we are plenty busy now.  We are assigned to a team for two weeks and then the teachers rotate so all the trainees are exposed to all of the trainers during the first three months. I like the two men I am working with right now but I'll lose them after a couple more weeks and I am not sure I'll feel the same about the others. 
 
There are two other volunteer teachers here from Nigeria.  They are young girls and are very nice.  English is the primary language Nigeria too so communicating is not a problem.  That is a very nice aspect of this assignment.
 
As far as our living arrangements go...we each have a private bedroom but we share all other rooms.  It has been working out just fine.  Kathy is 72, she taught kindergarden in NY for 37 years and is a little afraid of the bigger kids but she seems to be adjusting just fine. We have running water ( described above) but we had to pay, rather we chose to pay, $250 to get a meter put in and to get hooked up to the water tank near our house.  I guess we'll get a water bill before too long...who knows.  We have electricity from 5 am to 7 am and then again from 7 pm to 11 pm.  We have internet but it is 2G which is very very slow.  One of the cell companies is promising to start 4G in the "dry season" but......we'll see.  So, for now, I can email but downloading pictures will be relegated to occasional weekends in Monrovia.
 
As I said, I am in Monrovia now but I forgot to bring my flash drive which has all my pictures on it so I'll have to blog next time I come.  Also, some of the keys on my  old laptop have malfunctioned so I was using the on screen keyboard ( which was a very nice temporary fix) but I bought one yesterday and will take it home today and see if I can get it work.  Hope so.
 
As for food, we have been buying/eating cucumbers, bread and peanut butter a lot these past two weeks but little by little we are finding some healthy alternatives.  We found where we coudl buy "country rice" which is whole grain so we buy that now on the street in the market and take it to the lady who cooks for us once in a while and she cooks our rice for us instead of the white rice.  So thats good.  We found her, Cecelia,  through some other PC volunteers who told us she cooks when PC has training classes at a nearby compound where there are dormitory facilities and classrooms.  Its called Doe Palace and apparently was one of the luxurious home of Sam Doe when he was president of the country.  They still call it Doe Palace ( we have not seen it yet but it is supposedly real near our town)  
 
ANyhow, we can call her and she will cook some vegetarian concoction and rice and send it out to our house with her son on the back of a motorcycle or penpen as they call them.  Her son, Elijah rides on the back with the two dishes and then we pay him and the penpen driver.  We do that about 2 times a week andthe amount she gives us is enough for us to each get two meals out of it.  Now  that we have the country rice instead of the regular white rice, it is even more nutritious.  Kathy says she has never had food delivered to her home in NY, that she had to come to Liberia for that kind of service.
 
We have had a carpenter working a lot for us inthe house.  He made us screen doors for the front and back door, installed locks on our bedroom doors and reinforced the lock on the back door.  This weekend while we are gone, he is painting the two tables he made for us.  Now we want to invite some other staff members and PC volunteers for dinner.  There is a gas station in town that sells wine ( from Chile) and we can get Cecelia to make us a couple dishes and we can buy bread and we'll all have a feast.
 
We bought 4 plates, forks, glasses and spoons so we are set !!!  We bought a two burner electric stove a couple weeks ago but just got a pot this weekend so now we could actually make some things ourselves.  We found some museli that we will use for breakfast and we have powdered milk to make milk with our filtered water....see, its easy !!!!`
 
I am finishing this email at home.  We chartered a taxi to bring us home.....its a lot safer when we have to carry a lot of bags.  So there we were in  Abdul from Guinea's taxi on the semi paved road pot holed road between Monrovia and Kakata with a Kenny Rodgers CD  blaring on his radio.  How wild is that ?
 
I bought an external keyboard in a store in Monrovia and when I got home I plugged it in, the driver got installed and the little green light came on and when I looked down to type I discovered the keys have the Arabic symbols on them, along with  the English.  Funny. 
 
I also wanted to mention a sight we saw in the market in Kakata.  We found the police station ( they don't carry guns here which is part of the post conflict plan) and we saw one guy with a light green beret and I figured he was some sort of UN Peacekeeper....the UN trucks and helicopters are all over the place.  Anyhow, we approached him to ask directions ( its so wonderful that everyone speaks English) and I noticed that the green beret had a little Girl Scout symbol.  Isn't that sweet ?  And it looked very jaunty on him.
 
We also learned of a school for the deaf in a Methodist church here in Kakata but we have not been to visit it yet.  One of the teachers at the school is astudent in my class here at the teacher training institute.
 
That's all for now....its plenty hot and the classrooms are just ovens in the afternoons but as I overheard Kathy telling her sister on the phone the other day....." its hot, I sweat a lot but it just drips off of me onto the floor and then I'm OK."  It was a nice summary of our response to the weather.  
 
Again, thanks for paying your taxes,
I miss you all,
Love, Pat 
 
Dear all,
 
My house mate and I came to Monrovia this weekend for a little R&R and it has been nice.  We are in the PC office right now, Sunday afternoon, and will be leaving for home about 3 pm.  We have to charter a taxi for the day, $50 US, and then he drives us around to a couple different places to do errands and then we'll leave for home about 3.  Its an hour and a half drive over some very very ugly roads, everyone weaves wildly around and among potholes so you never know what you'll see coming at you thru the windshield.
 
The dry season will soon be here and we have been assured that the roads are a lot better then...we'll see.  I can't fathom that they will fill in the potholes so I think the only difference will be the amount of water in the holes.
 
But, the good news is that school has started finally and we are feeling worthwhile again.  We were here two weeks just getting our house put together and finding out how to buy food, someone to wash our clothes for us and someone to bring us drinking water ( which we still have to put thru the purifier but at least is is clear which is more than we can say about the water that comes thru the pipes which we use for bathing and household stuff. )
 
The students are so enthusiastic about learning...its like they are hungry.  When we say anything to suggest that we will be stating some facts....they just stare at us waiting with rapt attention.  
 
My school is a teacher training institute funded almost entirely, or entirely, by USAID.  We are assigned to classes with one or two other Liberian teachers and we have about 35 students in our classes, ranging in age from 18 to 40+.  They are people who have no other work, have their high school diplomas and want to work at something.  As part of the registration process, we worked on the station that reviewed their essays so we have sort of an idea of their motives for being there, other than the universal one of wanting to work...at anything.  
 
Many of the essays mentioned that the government has been advertising for students to apply to the teacher training institutes ( there are three of them spread around the country) so many of the essays mentioned that they were responding to the country's request for help in the education of Liberia's children.  Its sort of like a junior college, but its just a nine month program and they get a "C" certificate which is all the certification they need to teach at the elementary level.  There is something more required for secondary teachers.  Several of the essays started with a statement of thanks to the government for the opportunity, and to God, and to the US of America for providing the funding.  Isn't that nice ?  One youngster wrote that he wanted to be a teacher ( that was the topic they were given) to do his duty to his country, to help it recover after the civil war and he went on to say that others were going for the high paying "white scholar" jobs, but he wanted to help out his country even tho the pay was low. .  It was so sweet
 
Our program just lasts 9 months.  The first three months, up until Christmas break, are devoted to classroom instruction in basic skills and some child development, child psychology, pedagogy.  Then, right before Christmas, they all have to take a test and if they pass, they may return for the second semester, Jan - Jun, when they will be assigned to classrooms to do practice teaching.  They are video taped while teaching and then the tape is critiqued by the teachers.  I guess we will participate in that somehow but I am not sure how that will all play out.
 
Right now, we are teaching 3 hours in the morning, we have 1.5 hrs. for lunch, 3 hrs in the afternoon and then we hold tutoring classes in the evening for 2 hours so we are plenty busy now.  We are assigned to a team for two weeks and then the teachers rotate so all the trainees are exposed to all of the trainers during the first three months. I like the two men I am working with right now but I'll lose them after a couple more weeks and I am not sure I'll feel the same about the others. 
 
There are two other volunteer teachers here from Nigeria.  They are young girls and are very nice.  English is the primary language Nigeria too so communicating is not a problem.  That is a very nice aspect of this assignment.
 
As far as our living arrangements go...we each have a private bedroom but we share all other rooms.  It has been working out just fine.  Kathy is 72, she taught kindergarden in NY for 37 years and is a little afraid of the bigger kids but she seems to be adjusting just fine. We have running water ( described above) but we had to pay, rather we chose to pay, $250 to get a meter put in and to get hooked up to the water tank near our house.  I guess we'll get a water bill before too long...who knows.  We have electricity from 5 am to 7 am and then again from 7 pm to 11 pm.  We have internet but it is 2G which is very very slow.  One of the cell companies is promising to start 4G in the "dry season" but......we'll see.  So, for now, I can email but downloading pictures will be relegated to occasional weekends in Monrovia.
 
As I said, I am in Monrovia now but I forgot to bring my flash drive which has all my pictures on it so I'll have to blog next time I come.  Also, some of the keys on my  old laptop have malfunctioned so I was using the on screen keyboard ( which was a very nice temporary fix) but I bought one yesterday and will take it home today and see if I can get it work.  Hope so.
 
As for food, we have been buying/eating cucumbers, bread and peanut butter a lot these past two weeks but little by little we are finding some healthy alternatives.  We found where we coudl buy "country rice" which is whole grain so we buy that now on the street in the market and take it to the lady who cooks for us once in a while and she cooks our rice for us instead of the white rice.  So thats good.  We found her, Cecelia,  through some other PC volunteers who told us she cooks when PC has training classes at a nearby compound where there are dormitory facilities and classrooms.  Its called Doe Palace and apparently was one of the luxurious home of Sam Doe when he was president of the country.  They still call it Doe Palace ( we have not seen it yet but it is supposedly real near our town)  
 
ANyhow, we can call her and she will cook some vegetarian concoction and rice and send it out to our house with her son on the back of a motorcycle or penpen as they call them.  Her son, Elijah rides on the back with the two dishes and then we pay him and the penpen driver.  We do that about 2 times a week andthe amount she gives us is enough for us to each get two meals out of it.  Now  that we have the country rice instead of the regular white rice, it is even more nutritious.  Kathy says she has never had food delivered to her home in NY, that she had to come to Liberia for that kind of service.
 
We have had a carpenter working a lot for us inthe house.  He made us screen doors for the front and back door, installed locks on our bedroom doors and reinforced the lock on the back door.  This weekend while we are gone, he is painting the two tables he made for us.  Now we want to invite some other staff members and PC volunteers for dinner.  There is a gas station in town that sells wine ( from Chile) and we can get Cecelia to make us a couple dishes and we can buy bread and we'll all have a feast.
 
We bought 4 plates, forks, glasses and spoons so we are set !!!  We bought a two burner electric stove a couple weeks ago but just got a pot this weekend so now we could actually make some things ourselves.  We found some museli that we will use for breakfast and we have powdered milk to make milk with our filtered water....see, its easy !!!!`
 
I am finishing this email at home.  We chartered a taxi to bring us home.....its a lot safer when we have to carry a lot of bags.  So there we were in  Abdul from Guinea's taxi on the semi paved road pot holed road between Monrovia and Kakata with a Kenny Rodgers CD  blaring on his radio.  How wild is that ?
 
I bought an external keyboard in a store in Monrovia and when I got home I plugged it in, the driver got installed and the little green light came on and when I looked down to type I discovered the keys have the Arabic symbols on them, along with  the English.  Funny. 
 
I also wanted to mention a sight we saw in the market in Kakata.  We found the police station ( they don't carry guns here which is part of the post conflict plan) and we saw one guy with a light green beret and I figured he was some sort of UN Peacekeeper....the UN trucks and helicopters are all over the place.  Anyhow, we approached him to ask directions ( its so wonderful that everyone speaks English) and I noticed that the green beret had a little Girl Scout symbol.  Isn't that sweet ?  And it looked very jaunty on him.
 
We also learned of a school for the deaf in a Methodist church here in Kakata but we have not been to visit it yet.  One of the teachers at the school is astudent in my class here at the teacher training institute.
 
That's all for now....its plenty hot and the classrooms are just ovens in the afternoons but as I overheard Kathy telling her sister on the phone the other day....." its hot, I sweat a lot but it just drips off of me onto the floor and then I'm OK."  It was a nice summary of our response to the weather.  
 
Again, thanks for paying your taxes,
I miss you all,
Love, Pat