Phew! It’s been a long and exhausting weekend. We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, as we were told that a car would be picking us up at 6:30 am to commence the journey to Messima, a village very near the Sierra Leone border. We’d fallen for this “be ready early, the car will be on time” business many times before…only to have the car arrive a good hour or two later than expected. But silly old us really believed it this time! …We should have known. We sat waiting, frustrated, wanting to be on time to MEssima, as the ground breaking program was supposed to begin at 10 AM. It must have been fate that we had to wait, though, because we experienced a true laugh outloud moment that we shall call “The Pepe Parade.” We were in the living room waiting for the car, when all of a sudden we heard kids shouting and banging on buckets in a parade like manner. We walked outside, thinking there must be some celebration walking by. There was one girl in the middle, dressed in banana leaves, a headdress, and mud covering her face. We clapped, laughed, and took pictures. Then we asked Mike, our host’s nephew, why the parade was taking place. He said it was because….she wet the bed. Then we found out what they were shouting was, “Chicken go peepee! Dog go peepee!” over and over again. It was unexpectedly hilarious, though we couldn’t help feeling sorry for the poor little bed wetter. Supposedly this is very common in Liberia because even Eddie knew why the parade was taking place.
The ride to Messima was beautiful, heading through the lush Liberian countryside right outside Monrovia. Messima is in Grand Cape Mount County, which borders Sierra Leone. When we finally arrived, we jumped right into the festivities…let’s see, those involed….
A parade from the village to the school site with lots of dancing and singing, remarks from town officials, FUEL Youth team members, singing and dancing from the people of Messima, and the presentation of 2 white chickes to Eddie and Sean. The chickens are a sign of appreciation and a tradition uniqe to the Vai people. The chickens then joined us for the next 24 hours, basically becomming part of our family in the car with us. Edward and his wife Bendu will be preparing them this week. We also broke ground on the Messima school and the whole project just became a lot more real. Last year, a high-powered business man/retired army general worked through Eddie to get in touch with the people of Messima and promised them a school. The school site has already been named in his honor. But he fell off the radar. So now we step in, so we really need to show the people of Messima some progress in this next year. THey’ve already started some of the brick-making on site, and will continue to do so. We will be raising some more money to keep the brick making process going, and other funds to support other school infrastrucutre, including a water system for the school, educational materials, etc. We also will be thinking about how we can work with the government and others to recruit qualified teachers to the school and work on professional development with the existing teachers, whom we were honored to meet at the festivities.
Because we were so late (due to circumstances unforseen by us), we had to rush out of the program with lots of great footage, pictures, and relationnships established. We got shots of Sean with the shovel and Ali with the local boys football team. We walked a 1/2 mile through the forest to get to the river that leads to Robertsport, the county capital that sits on the ocean, where the river drains into Lake Piso. We enjoyed a boat ride with friends, and picked up some passengers delivering goods along the way. When we got into Lake Piso, we could see Gahaian and Sirrea Leonian fishing boats at work. Liberians are only equipped with canoe outrigs for fishing, and only neighboring countries come in with larger skiffs for fishing. Lake Piso is gorgeous, and on the beach by where the Lake drains into the ocean, President Johnson-Sirelaf was recently given a vacation home from the people of Cape Mount.
We were accompanied by a recent high-school graduate, Vinnie (first name spelling definitely not right) Fahnbulleh, who worked with the FUEL Youth tutors that we sponsored this past year. Mr. Fahnbulleh was one of 7 students from the Episcopal High School students in Robertsport to pass his high school exit exam–the first students to do this for almost 20 years. He plans to study agriculture at the University of Liberia next year, hopefully on scholarship.
We basically had no plans in Robertsport…we thought we did…but some miscommunication left us there scratching our heads. But that was OK, as there was much to see and experience. Among other things, we strolled the beach with the FUEL Youth USA gang, Eddie’s neice Kula and our local tourguide (Mr. Fahbulleh), to take in the scene. It’s a mountainous area, hence the name “Cape Mount”. With dusk appraoching, and bellies hungering, we made our way back towards the center of this small city. There is not much in the way of facilities or modern infrastrucutre here, but we found some accomodations in the form of a few matresses in an empty house. Kula procured some eggs and other goods, and we enjoyed a hot meal with fresh fish from Lake Piso in a small restaurant hut. The fish is prepared with palm oil, pepper, and potato and cassava greens…delicious, for sure. We settled back in to the house by candlelight and called it a night.
Up early, we wanted to get back to Monrovia, as our dirver Salif had been away from his family overnight unexpectedly. So we packed in the SUV with our chickens and had a sleepy drive back, catching the sunrise along the way. Since it is Sunday today, we’ve had a low key day with a lot of preparing for this week’s activities, which include some time spent at United Christian Academy, working with the Cape Mount Students University Association, meeting with Peace Corps program officers (hopefully!) and more.