Some days are hard…

THIS  was not one of those days.

Our one and only American friend, Miss Chloe. She's awesome.

Sometimes, he's 12

Just what Saturdays should be.

Today, I am just happy be here.


Home Sweet Home

A friend of mine asked to see some pictures of our house in Monrovia. So, here ya go, Jenny!

It isn’t a new house. It’s the SFL Monrovia guesthouse. We’ve stayed there before, but now it is our permanent residence for the remainder of time in Liberia. SFL also rents a house out in the bush, which is where we stayed for our first 6 months. Now might be a good time to tell you that Tim’s job description changed last month. We will be handing over the Micro-Grant program to a new international staff member next month so that Tim can focus his energies on overall management and program development for SFL in Liberia. Because of these changes, we have moved our lives to Monrovia and are now finally setting up house.

Walking into the living room from the front door

In the dining room looking into living room

Kitchen-pretty basic, but it's becoming functional

The house, like every other house in Liberia does not have electricity. We rely on this generator for lights, AC and pumping water. We generally run the generator from 7:00 PM until 7:00 AM to try and conserve fuel. Diesel is about $5/gallon and it takes about 5 gallons to get us through the night. That’s $25/night ($750/month) just to have the lights and AC on. You’d think living in Africa would be cheap, but without basic infrastructure in place, it becomes very expensive.

Francis: It's not easy to get them to smile for pictures. He's really a happy guy, I promise

Our room. This is pretty much where we hangout, work out, read, watch movies, etc

or play football and angry birds on the iphone

So, there you have it. The house has three more bedrooms and another bathroom out in the hallway. These rooms are reserved for SFL staff coming in from the field or for SFL international staff. We also rent out the rooms to international aid workers, missionaries or anyone traveling to Liberia in need of cheap, comfortable accommodations. So, if you’re in the area, pop on over.

Just a Drawer

There is not one drawer in this house. It’s a pretty big house. It has 4 bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room, dining room and a very large kitchen…but no drawers. Now that I’m thinking about it, drawers don’t seem to be a common concept around here.  When we first moved in, there were no shelves or hanging rods of any kind. We put an end to that as soon as possible so that we could unpack our suitcases and get our stuff up off the floor.

And yet, there are still times where I feel like our little piles of miscellaneous belongings are getting the better me. I grow tired of clothes, cosmetics, paper and pens sitting out in the open. Drawers really are a wonderful thing. I had no idea how great the notion of drawer was until I didn’t have it…especially in the kitchen. I miss the junk drawer that inhabits almost every American kitchen where you just chuck things that you don’t know what else to do with…or maybe that was just my house. I also miss my sock and underwear drawer.

Strange, the things you really miss when far away from home.


Election Day

Today is Election Day in Liberia. And can I just say, that it’s been a bit of a circus.

I mean, election season in the US can tend to be quite a spectacle, completely dominating the media, but at least in that case, I have the option to push a button on the radio or TV to tune it out. Not so here.

Campaigning consists of frequent street rallies, weekend conventions, parades and whole lot of propaganda.

We are actually closing down our offices for a few days just to avoid the chaos raiding the streets.  Our commute into work has doubled in time over the last several weeks. There always seems to be a traffic jam related to a political rally. Pick-up trucks overloaded with sputtering sound systems routinely drive through the streets blaring political rhetoric.

Because mass media is just not possible here the way it is in the US, candidates need to get people’s attention in other more creative and sometimes rather disruptive, ways.

Candidates pass out t-shirts, buttons, key chains but my absolute favorite is the safety vests and helmets that the incumbent president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, gave out to the motorbike taxi drivers.

“Ma Ellen say don’t hit me, Oh!”

It’s actually a pretty clever technique for her. The young men of Liberia, many of which are motorbike drivers are big supporters of the CDC party, her primary opponent.

I love that the V in “vote” is made into a Nike swoosh. Not sure what the symbolism is there.

Here’s a few more samples of the local campaigning…

Translation: "She still has a lot to do. Hang on a little longer"

It's a pretty good point, really

More UN peacekeepers have been deployed to Liberia over the past several weeks to ensure order and fairness throughout the process. Results will not be posted for a couple weeks. In the mean time, we’re praying for a nonviolent and peaceful election.

Cats and Dogs

We’re at the tail end of the rainy season. And let me just say that I have never seen rain like this.

Does anyone know where the phrase “raining cats and dogs” came from? According to a most reliable source called   “The Internet”   the phrase first appeared in London, 1738. A writer had alluded to the filthy streets of 17th/18th century England where heavy rains would occasionally carry along dead animals and other debris. It’s not that the animals actually fell from the sky, but the sight of dead cats and dogs floating by in storms may have caused the coining of this well-known phrase.

London, notorious for heavy rainfall receives an annual average of 26 inches a year. Seattle is renowned for being wet and soggy taking in nearly 37 inches a year. Monrovia beats them both out, swallowing up a yearly average of 200 inches. It rains in the day. It rains during the night.

At first, I rather enjoyed it. The heavy rains brought the extreme hotness down to a tolerable temperature and gave me ample opportunity to polish off the books I had brought with me. It does make laundry a little trickier. We hang our clothes on a rack inside the house rather than out on the line. I’ve been a little bummed, because the constant rain keeps us from regular trips to the beach-our favorite and only leisure activity. We tried going last weekend, but it started to rain when we got there.

It has been raining for 6 months. I still can’t figure out how this brittle city has not yet been washed away into the ocean. The Liberians don’t seem to mind. They strap on their rain coats, bring out their umbrellas and move forward with their day. I guess it’s similar to the way I handle snowstorms in Minnesota. Although often unpleasant, we just learn to deal with it.

I, along with everyone else, am ready for some sun.