Thursday, October 06, 2005

Late posts-- Renita and Election News

Internet access has been very difficult for ten days, so blog posting is catch-as-catch-can. Here are my latest posts. Many of you aleady know about Renita’s malaria, but here is the post none the less. Then a bit on the elections.

Renita was sick on and off all last week. She had a mild fever and felt lousy Sunday the 25th, but then the next day felt ok. On Tuesday she was sick again, but better on Wednesday. After doing some reading in our handy Where There is No Doctor book, we suspected malaria. We understand that malaria, if left untreated, is a very serious illness that can be deadly. We also know that if treated, it is entirely curable, and responds quickly to anti-malaria medicine. So we were attentive, but relaxed. On Thursday, when she was sick again, we elected to take the malaria treatment we have on hand, just in case. On Friday she was still queasy and feverish so we went to the nearby mission hospital, ELWA, to get tested. The tests were actually negative, probably because we had already started treatment, but the doctor diagnosed it as malaria anyway and Renita began an additional treatment. There are several varieties of malaria, and one, Plasmodium Falciparum, produces the severe and life-threatening type of malaria. Renita apparently does not have falciparum malaria.

Marlaria is a fascinating disease. It is not caused by a virus, but a parasite that hatches and grows in the gut of the mosquito after it bites an infected person. From there, the mosquito injects the larvae into the bloodstream of its next victim through its saliva. The parasite grows in 6 days in the liver and produces 30,000-40,000 daughter cells (merozoites) which are released into the blood when the liver cell ruptures. In the blood, after a single merozoite invades a red blood cell, the parasite grows in 48 hours and produces 8-24 daughter cells, which are released into the blood when the red blood cell ruptures. Unless it is stopped through any number of treatments, it never goes away, damaging the liver, making the person anemic, and even causing death. The youngest and oldest are most vulnerable. Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of young Africans every year.

Back to Renita. She is feeling much better as of Wednesday night the 5th, although not 100%. She is taking it easier, but if you know Renita, that means she lays down for a few minutes before moving on to her next task. We expect her to be back up to 100% before the end of the weekend. Like the amebic dysentery I enjoyed last month, we take this seriously, but in stride. Even with the anti-malaria medicine we take, the odds are we will each get it at one time or another. Fortunately we have ready access to what millions do not have: appropriate and attentive medical treatment.

The Presidential Election
On October 11, Liberians will go to the polls an hopefully elect a new president. Since 2003, a transitional government, underwritten by the US and the UN, has been doing a fine job keeping the nation just a few pay-offs short of complete collapse. As most of you know, Liberia is officially classified as a “failed state”, and has been in deep trouble for over twenty-five years. That is two butchered presidents, three wars, and 200,000 dead Liberians ago. So these elections come with anxious hope and a great deal of hoopla.

There are twenty-two candidates, but it looks like only four are given any real chance of winning. The four leaders are Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and old hand at Liberian politics, serving in the Doe and Taylor governments, although a dissenter in both; George Weah, the high-school drop-out turned ex-world class soccer player turned presidential aspirant, wildly popular with the young and without any experience in government; Charles Brumskine, a businessman and attorney popular with the folks from Grand Bassa and many religious leaders, and Varney Sherman, a wealthy attorney, purported to be closely aligned with the Lebanese business community who seem to own every pharmacy, retail outlet, supply store and grocery store in Monrovia. The folks around us are split mostly between Sirleaf-Johnson and Brumskine, although no candidate really seems to have a clear edge. In addition, to claim victory, a candidate must hold a true majority of 50% plus one or else the election commission will hold a runoff election. The thought of a runoff gives war, chaos and election weary observers the shivers.

The electioneering in and around Monrovia has been wild and crazy, with fights and mayhem breaking out as one loud disruptive group of a hundred or so campaigners stop traffic, then turn a corner and run into a few hundred more supporting a different candidate. The National Election Committee is buried in razor wire, and all checkpoints are building up their sandbags in the event of post election craziness. This morning, it took me an hour and a half to drive the twelve miles into Monrovia. The normally quasi-four lane road was a six lane bumper-to-bumper mass of turtle-paced vehicles, five moving into the city, with one coming back. Along the side of the street, marchers and shouters by the thousands. I’ll get pictures, I promise, as soon as this crazy blog thing starts obeying me.

So here are a few random domestic pictures while we wait for some more newsy shots of election craziness. These are all from last week or earlier. Here is Hannah studying her Math homework. I don't know either, so don't ask.

The following are a few fauna shots-- creatures around the house. Noah with one of the many lizards he enjoys snagging.

A cute lil' turtle Noah kept for a few days, then released.

This bird is has a nest in our back yard. The picture does no justice.

A toad. I know you have 'em, but ours are bigger. About six inches across.

A lil' dragonfly on a rope. Actually, a big dragonfly.

What are YOU looking at? Yes, its on my head.

This is the school Madison Square Church and some Grand Rapids schools are working with. When we first visited, the building was a shell with no roof.

A shot of the back of the house. Note the new wall going up.

Here is a night shot out our east entrance. Burning is the standard way of clearing lots for buiding.

The process of gettin' powered up. This is the team of solar electricians hooking up the inverter and other equipment to the generator. Soon the solar panels will go up. Oh joy!

Now the team moves outside to the zinc roof. Everything else is running except the solar panels.

Oh so glad to get these babies up there.

The team almost done.

The finshed product, on the honkin' roof.