Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday, Dec. 26, 2011

Today is literally the 3rd day of Christmas in Liberia.

Saturday, Christmas Eve Day was spent traveling about, visiting family and friends and carrying gifts or money to them. We visited two new grandchildren; Irena who is the daughter of son Jeff - she is almost 4 months old, has two teeth alrady, and is a very strong willed baby! The second was litte Edwin who is just now a week old. He is very bright eyed and has a head ful of black ringlets! They are both so very adorable.

We gave the gifts to the grandchildren and the children that we had brought from the US. Those who didn't receive gifts, received money. We gave Sawsee a little red mustang car about 5 inches long. He will not let it out of his sight and will either wear out the knees in his pants or have calluses on his knees from playing with it.

All in all, it was very simple because of the financial needs for Chris and her hospital care, Adulphus' graduation, and surgery for the children's mother. We did learn that Chris had to return to the hospital on Christmas Eve day and on Christmas. Hopefully, she is back home today and we hope that she will be able to return to Liberia on Friday and continue her treatment here.

We were not able to go the Christmas Eve services at the church because they had to be cancelled. There were riots in the streets on Friday night because students who worked from the time school was dismissed for the Chistmas holiday until Christmas had not been paid by the government. They were to be paid $80 and were only being given $40.00. They rioted in the streets, smashed government vehicles and caused a lot of damage. A curfew was imposed through Christmas. We were able to see them running in the main road by our house and smashing a police vehicle just down the street. We were not in any danger, however, Sawsee was terrified, grabbed my hands, pulled me into the bedroom, slammed the door and wanted me to lock it. However, he then went out on the porch, and we watched the activities from there. Apparently it began in town just after we left on Friday and continued out to this neighborhood in a matter of hours.

However, Saturday night we were awakened by drumming about 3:00 am. I asked Timothy what is was in light of everything else that was going on and he told me it was Santa Claus. Here, Santa does not bring gifts but travels in the neighborhoods dancing to the drums and people give him money. We saw it in downtown on Friday. Generally it is someone dressed in grass and totally covered. They are bedecked with ribbons, paint and a stick and dance in the streets for money. It was a little disconcerting, but I did get used to it and went back to sleep.

Sunday morning we got up and prepared for church. We had a car full and arrived just as the service was beginning. Candy Girl was so cute in a little blue dress that I had made for her for Christmas - she had no suitable dresses for church- it was from Liberian material and complete with a headtie. I loaned her a necklace and she was quite the cutie. Sawsee was quite the little man in brown cargo pants and polo shirt complete with a Santa Hat! He didn't want to take it off and wore it into church.

The service included a time of testimony of what God had done for us in the past year. At the time the testimonial is made, money is donated to a special offering. This was in additioin to the regular offering, the mission offering, your pledge, your dues, and an assessment of $20.00 USD per family to help gather the funds to pay the pastor for two months owed. Asking for money is not a carefully worded request, you are just told this is your assessment and you are required to pay it. Your name is read as the payment is made so the entire church is aware of who is delinqent.

We sang Christmas carols, read the Magnificat and listened to the sermon based on that text. It was good, but very long and we didn't reach home until afer 2:30 pm, tired and hungry to find 5 more grandchildren who had left home to seek Grandma and Grandpa. After a meal of Jollif rice (rice, tomatoes, several kinds of meat, and mixed vegetables) the older childen decided to out for the evening leaving us with all the grandchildren. One of the neighbors was having a party so we danced outside on the front porch until dark. When the current came on, they watched videos until I packed them all off to bed about 9:30 or 10 pm. This morning they all got up and hit the sugar bowl so we had a wild time. I worked them doing laundry and other assorted tasks until we got it out of their system. After some behavioral modifications they quit their attitudes and were pretty decent the rest of the day. If they had been able to continue as before the house would have been chaos and everything in it destroyed. One wonders how anxious they will be to come to Grandma's again. The interesting thing is that their parents didn't even know they were here and called late in the afternoon to check to see if they were here. Oh my children!!!!

Today, we are sort of taking it easy, but not really. People have been in and out and Timothy went out this mornin to visit some church members that he didn't see yesterday. I can hear music in the background from a party, smell someone popping popcorn and people walking about in dressup clothes. Christmas is a religious holiday and there is actually very little gift giving as such. Timothy's nephew, Dennis and his wife Nancy, sent us some food yesterday. We returned the basket today with a little someething in it for them.

Sawsee is awake from his nap, is holding his clothes and wanting a bath. Here I am!!!

Love, hugs, peace, joy, and Christmas blessings.

Anne and Timothy

Thursday, December 22, 2011

12/22/2011 Thursday


After a day of fatigue and rest, I will tell you about the day yesterday.Adolphus was the first of the Kumeh family to graduate from college. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication from University of Liberia. He persisted for over 8 years to earn this degree for often after the semester would start, the teachers would lay down their chalk (go on strike because they had not been paid), the semester would end, no credit would be given and the students would have to start the semester over again and pay additional fees. It wasn't fair, but many things in Liberia weren't. However, under the direction of a new Univeristy President, things are beginning to change.The graduating class was over 1200 students. Apparently the June graduating class is well over 3,000.

The day began early as Adolphus remembered that he had to have an all black tie to go with his black suit, white shirt, black shoes, black socks. Of course all this is hidden by the robe, but it was a requirement for graduation. They were to arrive at the soccor stadium to begin formation at 8:00 am. Needless to say, this was Liberian time and even though they didn't leave the house until after 8:30 am, they arrived in plenty of time. Timothy, Koyo (nephew and ward of Adolphus) and son Jeff all went. They didn't want me to go because it would be 8 hours in unprotected sun.

After they left for graduation, Annie (the mother of Adolphus) arrived to be here for the party following graduation. She brought me some Challah, a fried donut, that I dearly love and have not had yet since being in Liberia. She was followed by Nancy, the wife of Dennis (the Physician's Assistant) who is a nephew of Timothy's. Nancy and I get along so very well together and have a great time talking when we see each other. She came to help cook. but while we were waiting to begin, I gave her a computer lesson.

At the same time the graduation group left, daughter Patience and a friend went to the market. They got back home about noon and the cooking began in earnest.While they all fixed fufu and soup, rice, and potato salad, I worked at washing dishes, cleaning the house; sweeping, dusting, finding new homes for objects around, and taking care of the grandchildren. I was exhausted before the party even began. Some of the girls put together the makings of "Liberian Egg Nog".It consists of condensed milk, peanut butter, nutmeg and lots of gin. I think they bought a dozen coke size bottles of gin. They told me it tasted like Bailey's Irish Creame. I put the couple of swallows they gave me in a coffee cup and made coffee to dilute it. While it was very tasty, I chose not to drink anymore for the day.

Adolphus arrived about 3 pm from graduation. After the initial hugs and congratulations by all the family and friends, he was seated in a chair covered with a piece of material indicating that he was the honored guest. His mother was seated on his left, I was seated on is right and Timothy on his far right. The party began with the eating of cola nut dipped in pepper, the prayer to the ancestral spirits and the pouring of cane wine on the thresh hold of the house. Then, welcomes, remarks by family, followed by remarks by Adolphus, followed by remarks by all others. It was a very emotional time for the family because of their pride in what he had accomplished.

The food and beverages were served and then the party began. There was singing and dancing around the table. I joined in as long as my legs would hold up, but it wouldn't be much longer than 10 or 20 minutes. Because I was willing to try, everyone appauded my efforts. It was more fun to watch the different members of the family. One or two began drinking the "egg nog", then Coca-cola,beer, cane juice wine, and back to "egg nog". What was even more interesting were the large hand bags the women were carrying and they would slip coke cans into them periodically as well.

Adolphus shared his graduation medal (much like an Olympic medal) with me by hanging it around my neck. He gave his mother his class graduation ball cap. We took pictures of his son Sawsee wearing his mortarboard, and Koyo going around with his graduation robe and hood telling us he was practicing for his graduation. He is 15 and has a way to go,but would like to be an electrition when he completes school. Many of the family brought gifts including monetary envelopes. He received about $10.00 USD and several undershirts and T-shirts. We were teasing him about the family all knowing he must have needed underwear. He also got his own set of eating bowls with lids.

Long about 7 pm when it began to get dark, Adolphus and his friends moved the party across the street to the nightclub and the rest of the family drifted off to their homes. It wasn't long before we all went to bed, tired but happy for the celebration.

Peace and joy,
Anne and Timothy

PS - I almost forgot to tell you that son Jonathan has a new baby boy child - born Monday night. It is tradition that the elders in the family name the child. Timothy chose to name him after my brother Edwin Jr.
While Timothy never knew my father, he very much admires my brother for his strength, patience and sense of humor. He felt that Edwin would be a wonderful role model for this small child to grow to be. Jonathan and his wife will be able to give a second name. So welcome to the world: Edwin Kumeh.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday 12/20/2011

Greetings to you this lovely afternoon.
It is in the 80's, partly cloudy with a light breeze. Just enough to keep you from being too hot!.
Chrstmas is "just aound the corner", the children are out of school and already bored, everyone is in a hurry to earn some last minute money to cook dinner "for the Christmas", and Timothy is once gain out on the farm fighting the land battles.

To bring you up to date: He and Adolphus were arrested when they went to the court to answer a trespassing charge filed by the man who was selling the land as his. They were allowed to leave the court and return last Saturday with their documents to prove that Timothy is the rightful owner to the property. In the meantime a complaint was registered in the Circuit Court by a woman who was building a house that Timothy was trespassing. Saturday when they went to court for the first arrest, they were cleared as our deed is registered in 2003 and the other in 2011. The man fled the court after he ruling lest Timothy go after him. Monday upon going the Circuit Court it was also resolved in our favor. Monday afternoon, we received word that a woman was planning to begin building today and had torn down the house that our boys had started which was being cleared and resumed building. This morning, they went to court again and filed a complaint against the woman and also an arrest warrant on the man who is selling the property. When they went to serve the warrant the man ran away so they are returning to the Police Station to have them watch for the man and arrest him. One of these days I hope that this can all be resolved. The court system sometmes is still corrupt. The President is working hard to get this stopped, but some are slow in adhering to the law.

Last week we received the shipment of the car. What a joyfilled day to find that indeed it had arrived. The day before we had learned that the shipping company only knew of one vehicle in the shipment and it was not ours. After a frantic trip to the Warehouse, we found that while the clerk only knew of one vehicle, upon inspecting the manifest listing, our vehicle was in the shipment as well. It traveled pretty well, has a few dents and scrapes, and needed the oil changed, etc., but we are doing fine with it. How wonderful not to have to go out to the road and try to find a taxi to carry us where we need to go at the rate of $5.00 US per hour. Gas is $4.00 a gallon here and so it really adds up to take a car anywhere. Jeff loves to drive and keeps the car tuned and clean all the time. Sawsee went to church with us Sunday and rode on the wide armrest in the middle front seats of the car. He loved every minute of it and had his eyes literally glued to the road, traffice, and everything that Jeff was doing. I do believe that we have another mechanic coming up on the family. Of course, it will be several years before he is able to drive, but he is fascinated by cars.

Saturday we put up the Christmas tree. It was a first for everyone in the family with the exception of Timothy and I. The children and grandchildren loved it and carefully hung the bulbs and decorations on the tree. We gave Sawsee a small plastic decoration of Santa Claus to hang. He delights in carrying it around, hanging it on the tree, or leaving it sitting on a chair o table It was lost for a short time this morning but he quickly found it. I have a feeling it will be difficult for him when we put away the tree and decorations for the next year. Last night with the genius of Grandson Koyo, we were able to light it for the first time. I would have loved to have a picture of the children's faces when they saw it all lit up in the dark. Others from the community have been by to admire the tree and thank us for what we have done for the community.

Speaking of such, we have been notified of promises in the amout of about $400.00 for the drinking well project. We are naming it the "Houseman well" for the family that first took on the project and made the first contribution to the well. Clean drinking water is about 1/2 mile away from us. So about 4 or 5 times a day Koyo carries a 5 gallon drinking container to fill for our family use. However, many other families nearby do not even have a drinkin container so they come to our house for water. We are hoping to build a well at our home for the neighborhood community to have clean, safe, drinking water. We use another well about a football field away for cooking, bathing, laundry and flushing the toilet. However, it is not safe for drinking. I would like to cook with safe water as well.

Another blessing was received this morning when we learned that grandchild # ?? was born last night. I am having trouble keeping track of the number and will have to check for sure. I think #25 or 26. Jonathon and his wife now have a second, healthy, little boy child. I had hoped for a girl after so many boys, but it is just not to be. I will have to sew shorts instead of little dresses. However, God is Good!!!

Christiana is doing much better and has completed her radiation treatments. She is having problems eating since she went so long with out because it made her so sick. She is gaining strength and soon will be returning home after Christmas. We are so excited she is doing well. Timothy ran into a friend he had worked with at JFK hospital. He is now an OB/GYN at Firestone Hospital and in charge of the cancer treatment center there. He has offered to take over the care of Chris once she returns to Liberia. Again, God is Good!

It seems that every day is filled with troubles and frustrations, yet we always seem to manage by depending on God to carry us through. It is truly a life of trust each and every day for there is so much that we have no control over. I thank God daily for women I am meeting here that are quick to help and support me as I learn to do things the Liberian way and teach them some things the American way. I thank God for family and friends in the US who pray for us and write news from the states. Even the weather is interesting!!!!

While it appears to many that life may be difficult without so many of the conveniences of home, we live in that reality, make do, and celebrate what conveniences we do have. I showed Jeff how to pull dents out of the car with the plunger yesterday. He was amazed and so excited. He kept looking for other dents to pull out and am sure that he went to the local garage to show them his newfound knowledge. An old tire has become a car for Sawsee and he can put a can or bottle in it and roll it along the ground. He has an old key that he found and carries it as well. At night we hang it on the key hook in our bedroom.

Rolf is doing well and is very protective of me and Sawsee. Right now they are both napping on the bedroom porch while I am blogging. Patient is with her mother who is having glocoma surgery today, the boys are with Timothy at the farm, Candy Girl is running in and out for food and Koyo is watching DVDs after charging the player with the solar panel this morning.

The Kumeh family wishes to all of you our very warm wishes for a Merry Christmas and Blessings for the New Year. We will continue to keep you up to date on our life in Liberia. If you would like me to address a specific topic either post it in the comments or email me.

Peace and joy,
Anne an Timothy

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday, Dec. 4th, 2011

Greetings this warm Sunday afternoon,

Our guest room was finished in time to welcome our first official guest, Jim Perry from Raleigh NC, to our home.  He has been with us for a week touring the Agriculture projects that our two specialists have been working with.  This week they traveled to Ganta and brought back lots of honey for us to bottle and sell along with the moringa leaf.  We are very excited to get this project going and want to have the first on the market within a week.  We have a neighbor woman who is willing to be our test market seller.  Timothy will be taking a cart with honey, leaf and seeds to another market nearby.

The pictures are of the finished guest room so you can see that we do live a slightly civilized life.  Jim said that he was very comfortable with a fan for a breeze and a screen door to let the air pass through the room.  It is quite spacious and in spite of several obstacles we made it in time for his arrival.  It is now ready for other guests who will arrive in the future.


We also met our new grandson, Riley Kumeh,

 who was born after we were here in February, 2011.  He is a delightful child, smiling constantly and only fussing a little when he was sleepy.  He is the son of Timothy Jr, aka Archie Boy.  Archie Boy spends a lot of time away and loves to fish in the open sea.  He scares Timothy because he doesn’t know how to swim, but we just take it all in stride for that seems to be his calling.

Christiana (Chris) is finished with her treatments and is now spending a month healing and for observation before she can come home.  We are hoping that she will be able to be with us for Christmas.  Her husband came back to Liberia on Friday so he could return to work.  We have talked to Chris several times.  She is very tired and depressed.  It is hard to feel like you are healing when you have gone through so much hurt to the body.  While it is normal, those of you who have had cancer understand, it still is not easy.

We planted 4 moringa trees in the yard and within 24 hours the children had pulled them out of the ground.  We found two of them and got them replanted and now we wait to see if they will survive.  Unlike the US, children here run all over the place without much supervision.  You can hear your children’s voices and know approximately where they are.  There is much dependence on neighbors to keep an eye on them when they see them.  It is a crazy maker for me, but I am slowly getting used to it, while keeping track of Luther’s whereabouts.

Our tomato plants are doing well and I have one cucumber plant in the nursery that will be ready to put in the ground soon.  It is better to start the seeds in containers here so that you can tell what is growing and where it is when it is planted.  With the tropical vegetation, it is difficult to tell what is plant and what  is weed when they are first coming up.

We are beginning to see signs of Christmas around town with trees and some decorations.  Our tree is in the car which has arrived in port.  We hope to be able to take possession of it next week and then will be able to have some sense of freedom to travel around the city.  At the present time, we have to try to find a taxi and it costs $5.00 per hour.  No trip to town is less than 4 hours.  $20.00 in gas will go a lot further.

I made a bow from some Christmas ribbon that I had packed and hung it in the living room.  I also made a red and white hot pad to put on the table to remind us at mealtime.  We hear Christmas music on the radio and it is interesting to hear the carols and songs about snow when it is in the high 80’s with little breeze.

Son Alan sent some magazines and mail with Mr. Perry when he traveled here and it was wonderful read Midwest Living and Good Housekeeping even when there is little relavance to where we are now.  We also read Time and National Geographic to keep up with the news and some mind stimulation.

In return, Mr. Perry has taken our Christmas cards to mail and I do believe this may be the first year they go out sooner than two days before Christmas.

May you all be blessed this Christmas season and live in the joy of Christ.

Peace and joy,

Anne and Timothy