Laundry Day

Oh, yes, I do my own laundry here…by hand. It’s really not as unpleasant as you may think. I’ve learned the system that local women use, improvised by adding a couple steps of my own and have found I can now get through it in about an hour if I stay on top of it and don’t let it pile up for days or weeks as I did back home. Plus, it’s a good arm workout and gives me a chance to work on my tan.

I use a three-tub system

Tub 1-soak (if I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll heat water on the stove and add it here)/wash/scrub-wring them out

Tub 2- rinse-wring them out

Tub 3-and second rinse-wring them out. 

The hot sun and the breeze from the river behind our house help dry the clothes on the line in just a few hours.

Before taking them down, I often give them a light mist of febreeze to help take out the wrinkles and conceal the obstinate smell of Africa, which, by the way… Africa definitely has a smell. I think I may have pegged it down too. It’s a sultry mixture of dried fish, grass burning, dust, car exhaust, body odor and often sewage….not so much what I want my hard-earned, clean laundry to smell like.

and what would a day of laundry be w/o my little spectator? Kede (pronounced Katie) is our security guard's son and often hangs around when I am outside.



Solo Refugee Camp

I haven’t said much about the Ivorian refugee situation here in Liberia. SFL’s recent involvement has developed quite quickly over the last few weeks. The political instability in neighboring Ivory Coast erupted last fall, when the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept his defeat in a presidential election he had postponed for years. Although, Gbagbo was captured in early April, loyalists from both parties continue to wreak violence throughout the country. Because of the loose border patrol between Ivory Coast and Liberia, it is difficult to calculate just how many people have entered Liberia, but we do know that there are at least 100,000 registered refugees and many still are unregistered. Others have fled to Guinea and into Ghana. There are several camps being assembled along frequent immigration points. SFL has been assigned to the camp at Solo Town…only 10 miles outside of Zwedru. Our team is responsible for the clearing of trees and brush, leveling of the ground and construction of shelter-tents and a couple of large community buildings.

These are the people who do not want to fight. These are the people who said “enough” and abandoned their homes for an unknown life as a refugee.

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How can this be better than what they have left behind?  As I weave my way through the Solo refugee camp, it is both sobering and humbling to witness the poverty occupying these tents. I do not speak French as the Ivorians do, so I simply nod, smile and stammer a feeble “bonjour”. I was greeted in return with a wide teethy grin.

Here’s to my Mom

Mother’s Day. I am not a mom. But I do have several friends who are. I also have a mom, so even though I do not yet have kids, I think I can safely say that most moms deserve more than one annual Mother’s Day…maybe Mother’s Day should come like once a month, instead of once a year. My mom, like many moms I’m sure, was far too underappreciated and thoughtlessly taken for granted.

But, not today. Nope. Today I miss and appreciate my mom more than ever before. She will never admit it, but she is a great mom…the best mom. There are few things in life that I am sure of, but one thing I know to be unwaveringly certain is my mom’s steadfast love for my brother and me.

She is a strong woman who I can look up to in so many ways. She knows how to make people feel happy and comfortable. Even her name sounds happy. Nonie. It just kinda makes you want to smile, doesn’t it? She is such a hard worker. Even when she is sick or tired, she always has a clean house, food on table and is ready for whoever might drop by. She is a fantastic wife to my dad and serves him so well. She is an artist when it comes to flowers and making things grow. She is an unrelenting pursuer of Jesus and a faithful prayer warrior. She chooses to see the best in others and has always pushed me to do the same. Mom makes the best tacos and Spanish rice in the world. YUM!  She is generous with her resources and with her time. I know I can count on her for a listening ear.

I showed this picture to our Liberian receptionist and she said, “Wow, your mother is so beautiful!” I said, “Thank you and yes she is"

I just love her! I know she is sad today because neither my brother or I could be with her, but I hope she knows how loved she is and how much she is missed.

Philippians 4:4-8

Philippians 4:4-8-A pretty well known bit of scripture…but recently, it has come to life in a new way. As my precarious surroundings continue to swallow me up, it is far too easy to slide into a bog of depressing contemplation. I tend naturally to be a bit of an Eeyore. There are days, especially recently, when I can find very little to be positive about.

When I am reading passages from the Bible, my eyes often graze over the pages and familiar words, never to pull them down from their ethereal position and really grab a hold of their practicality. However, Tim read this section to me a few days ago and I was able to take away some very useful and tangible instruction.

Phil 4:4-8, “Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything excellent, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

I love the last bit where he writes, “if there is anything excellent, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”. It’s like he’s saying, “c’mon…just think of something good, something productive”…even if it’s simple. Although it says that God’s peace surpasses our understanding, we can know it by grabbing hold of the strength in these words and applying them to our own circumstances.

Soon after arriving in Africa, I began practicing a little game in my head as lay down every night to go to sleep. I make myself think of 5 positive things about that day. There is only one rule of the game and that is, I can’t use the word “not” in my list. For example, “I did NOT have to eat barbequed snail today” doesn’t count or “I did NOT take a shower in water from the septic.” In other words, I wanted to force myself to think of something actually constructive, and not just list the negative things I had managed to avoid. It’s not always easy, especially on days when the plumbing is down or the generator won’t start or we are out of drinking water…but as time goes by, I have become better at the game and can now usually list more than five things before I go to bed and even sometimes play it in my mind throughout the day when I encounter unpleasant circumstances. It calms my rattled mind and helps the tensions and frustrations of the day to fade. So, my five positive things for the day?

1.)    I had a coke today and it was cold. I like coke, so that was nice

2.)    I was able to take a clean shower today

3.)    I ate fried plantain with aioli…YUM

4.)    I got some good photos at the refugee camp

5.)    I watched an Office episode on my laptop with Tim and we died laughing