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Saturday, January 21, 2012

I fell in love, with Nekerbozo

I eat fufu now! Google fufu and get a visual. It’s fermented cassava with soup that has chicken, fish and or pepper. I hated it when I got here… now I crave it sometimes. Strange how that kind of stuff happens. My neighbor smashed up dried pepper and made me peppe powder. I add it to food that’s not quite hot enough. Those of you who know me will be surprised by this.

I attended a traditional wedding in November. And pictures are in my ‘Got fufu’ album on facebook. The bride and groom wore lapa suits and ate kola nuts. There was /tons/ of dancing and throwing of money on the bride’s head…which I enjoyed. I’ve decided that to deter unwanted attention I will start telling the Liberian guys that my bride price is $10,000 USD. Not sure what I’ll do if someone ends up having that much… but it’s not likely.

My school received a visitor from the Ministry of Education in mid-November. Matthew did a week-long conference with the primary school teachers in the entire area. Subject matter? Phonics. Thank God! Liberian teachers in my area were trained on how to pronounce the whole word and letters correctly. This is key for improving education in Liberia. If young students know the sounds of letters and can sound out words, they will be able to excel in reading. And for me, having a few seventh graders whom cannot read, this program was long overdue. Matthew is sticking around for six months to track the programs progress and our school has landed a big box of primary education books.

We had our IST (In Service Training) in Gbarnga. It was like summer camp…at least the sleeping situation was. I happened to land (by accident) the only bed with springs (which is all Dani’s fault). You’re thinking Ooo spring mattress. It was nice…but it had a pretty bad dip and it squeaked, like, a lot. And when you’re all sleeping in one big room and Steph gets into bed and attempts to ‘get comfy’ it translates into a lot of squeaking. It was then dubbed the sexy time bed. And I was told ‘take time. Small, small tiger’. Regardless, it was a great thing to laugh about and we got some great training during that week. We even got a panel discussion with the Dean of Cuttington University, WAEC (West African Examination Council) representative, and the Deputy for the Ministry of Education herself. Amazing people and we gave them some good feedback and requests.

Thanksgiving was spent snuggled in an air conditioned embassy home with TV and internet, the hot showers were the biggest prize though. We all were invited to the American Embassy for dinner which had really good turkey, ham, pumpkin pie, cranberries, mashed potatoes, and gravy. All Americans in Liberia were invited but me and my fellow volunteers made sure to race up to the serving table to be first in line. Free food? Free /good/ food? We’re not going to wait for the back of the line. We all ate too much food and were very happy. I even got to see the Packer game that night.

The very next day a few of us bused back up to Gbarnga on our way to Lofa County. We were headed for Barziwein. A small village on the Lofa road, Lofa County. We passed by Dani and Anjulie’s site in Salayea and Garrett’s site in Zorzor. I had my first Pakistani meal at the Pakistani UN base in Zorzor that day. Truly good food. We continued onward to Barziwein. Lofa County is beautiful, goats, sheep, the St. Paul River, large mountains everywhere and adorable small village towns along the road. When we arrived, I was almost about to fall asleep. There wasn’t a sign that we were getting close to the village, it just crept up on us. And they met our bus with cheering (which woke me up straight away), crying, singing, and dancing. They were so happy to see us. We got off the bus, after our seven hour ride, and got right to dancing. :) A handful of other volunteers and myself headed off to our overnight stay, a nearby village called Nekerbozo (Nick-a-boo-zoo), after the dancing was over. We drove part of the way and dropped some volunteers of in Midena and continued on to Nekerbozo by foot. Cars cannot reach this place. We were all a little surprised to find ourselves at a monkey bridge (pictures on ‘Got fufu’ album) over a large river. Now, a monkey bridge can be a few well-placed logs that aid cars over a crack or river, but this bridge was only for people. This bridge was made entirely out of bamboo and vines. No nails or metal supports at all. Wonnie (our Liberian staff member) was a bit nervous about this, but she made it across. I took videos and tried not to slip on the curved bamboo. Nora and I stayed with the village chief and they fed us some yummy dry rice with butter pear (aka avocado). *Note: dry rice is not really ‘dry’ it just doesn’t have a soup prepared to mix into it with chicken and fish. The poorer you are in Liberia, you eat more dry rice. We had a traditional song and dance night and gave the small children stories and lectures. Afterward, I took my warm bucket bath in the ‘outdoor’ shower that was surrounded by bamboo poles. There were flat warm stones under my feet, my lapa hung over the doorway and there was no roof. The light rain fell on top of me while I bathed. If you ever want to try something truly amazing, take a warm bath in a light rain with a blanket of a million stars over your head. No light pollution out here, I saw all of them. There is no light at night here. Now, at my site it gets dark but there are still a few generators along the road and video clubs. No generators here. You can bet your socks that I’m going back too. The chief gave us his nicest room to sleep in and the next day (after the stupid goat bleated right outside my window and woke me up) we walked back over the monkey bridge back to Barziwein for the 50th Anniversary program.

Our 50th Anniversary program was based around a previous PCV who taught in the village before the Liberian Civil war. Susan Davey loved her school very much and her former students were present that day. Susan Davey was serving in Liberia when she died in a car accident on a vacation in Kenya. She asked to be buried at her site, where her grave rests still. The grave site was renovated and current students put on a play about her life, and other students sang songs. The Town chief presented our country director with a chicken and Susan’s former students told stories. More dancing followed the program and yummy goat soup. I hope it was the annoying one outside my window. :) We dragged our feet getting back onto the bus, not really wanting to leave. We had a seven hour ride back to the compound in Gbarnga.

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