Liberia 2017

Kwendin #5 | February 20, 2017

Now this is a first. I am writing while parked on the rough road between Ganta and Tappita, in a long line of cars   which is behind the presidential convoy. Apparently Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson is headed for some event along this road, and we happened to be behind her convoy. And she stops at every village on the way, gets out and speaks to people who have gathered to sing and dance and greet her. So we drive in the blinding dust of the convoy for a few minutes, then park while she talks to people. So this leg of the journey is going to be much more than the usual 3 hrs.  

I should go back to yesterday. It was Sunday, not a day for shopping. We had arranged to go to a church pastored by one of the Baptist ministers who has seen us almost every trip. We arrived before the worship service, while there was some Bible teaching going on. Which was just fine. And the worship service was authentic African worship--ear splitting music, people singing with all their hearts, microphones turned right up, dancing and clapping. I really enjoyed it and I was quite comfortable worshipping God in that setting. They sang a couple of hymns that I knew but most of the songs were simple songs of praise with a strong leader and a repetitive background response. It was energizing and refreshing.  

The pastor preached a very energetic sermon from Acts 3, Peter and John healing the lame man. It was reminiscent of Black Gospel style preaching and it was sound Biblical teaching.  

Kristie snuck away and went out with the kids to Sunday School. She had a great time and brought home some video clips to show how it went.  

So then we went home. We stopped on the way to pick up a few things we had forgotten on Saturday, but really the afternoon and evening were spent at the Guest House. Meals together, some walks, some swimming, some naps--a very pleasant afternoon. The team cooked up a big chicken dinner and we ate well. In the evening we had a little time to sing together, and a couple of other ladies from the Guest House joined us.  

Strangely, last night was a bit restless. I woke quite a few times. And it turned out this morning that every one of the team had a broken night. Not sure why. Something in the chicken? I doubt it. Still dealing with jet lag maybe.  

We were up at 5:30 and the two SUV's were at our door at 5:45. We ate some breakfast (leftover chicken dinner-- never had that for breakfast before!) and packed up the cars. All our luggage, all our groceries, all our medications, and they all went in OK.  

So we were driving by 6:15 or so. Earliest start we have had for years. Maybe ever.

And the first half of the trip now has paved road--smooth ride and fast driving. So different from 2011 when it was so beat up we used to drive in the ditch part of the time. We made it to Ganta by 9:30 and stopped for gas. Yes, at the same famous gas station where ...  

Kate here. If you read the emails last year you may remember the incident in which I accidentally locked mysef in the bathroom, had to climb over a wall and out a window to get out. If you know this than you will understand that I endured a fair bit of good natured ribbing from the team. I was reminded several times not to lock myself in the bathroom. I laughed and promised I wouldn't. When we got to the gas station Spencer asked the gas station attendant for the key (they actually had keys this year) and used the loo. He locked the door after using it since the attendant had insisted he do so and then found me and handed off the key. I went to unlock the door and as I turned the key it broke in half! With one half firmly stuck in the door. I've come to see that I am not to be trusted with keys, locks, and most of all bathrooms. In the end there was another washroom available which I managed not to leave locked. We left apologizing profusely to the attendant who told us that key had always been problematic. Less of an adventure than last year but still worth a good laugh and a bit of stress. Kate out.  

Kate insisted on being the one to type her latest bathroom adventure. :) Interestingly the bathroom we all ended up using was the very one she got locked in last year.  

We had lunch in quite a nice restaurant, which had been renovated since the last time we were there. Kristie wanted something authentic and ordered cow meat with pepper soup, and rice. I must say the cow meat floating in the pepper soup did not look at all appetizing to me but she managed to find some edible bits and had quite a good meal. All the rest of us ordered chicken fried rice which was also quite good. And we picked up a few things and started for Tappita.  

Which brings us to the first paragraph. Within a few km we were at the tail end of the presidential convoy, stopping every few minutes then racing ahead through blinding dust.  

Once we got past the village where the president stopped, we thought all was well and started driving. then the car started to give trouble--kept stalling. I took the air filter out and banged it to knock the dust (blinding dust, remember?) out of it, Unfortunately the filter crumbled in my hands and developed several large gaping holes. Not good filtration. So I covered it with my handkerchief and put it back in. Not sure if that was the problem. The local villagers aassured us it was just overheated--which was certainly at least partly true. So we sat on the side of the road for about 20 minutes and then tried again. This time the car kept running. So we climbed back in and headed out.  

This particular stretch of road is African mud. If it rains, there are sections of it that get 2 feet deep and become impassable for days at a time. At this time near the end of the dry season, the mud has hardened (into not-very- smooth shapes) and it is driveable but very rough.  

It was another 2 hours of driving to reach Tappita, where our referral hospital is. So we stopped there and I went to talk to the doc in charge. He immediately remembered me from last year and from recent emails, and promised to line up 4 surgical days for me.  

We picked up a few more things and headed to Kwendin. Only about half an hour drive, and there were people dancing on the side of the road to welcome us. We stopped at the church where there was quite a big crowd, and got to say hi to many friends from previous years. We just had 5 minutes there, since they have scheduled the real welcome for tomorrow at 9 am.  

And finally we got to our house. Again there was a crowd of friends to welcome us. They all helped us unload our stuff, and eventually we chased them out so we could have a bite to eat together.  

We are now unpacking stuff--the team is sorting through medications to bring the first instalment to the clinic tomorrow.   I will see if I can find a way to send this!

Dr. John Potts