Monday, May 07, 2007

ReedNews Update

The Reeds are back in Liberia after the closest thing to a perfect break my brain can conjure. The best vacations refresh me in a way that actually makes me look forward to returning to the familiar. And it is good to be back, humidity and all. People ask me how I’ve adjusted to the humidity and I usually say my mind and emotions have adjusted, but my body never will. In other words, upon returning, I still find myself dripping with sweat most days, but I don’t care any more, and sometimes don’t notice it.

Weather Update: Speaking of moisture in the air, the months just leading to the rainiest months of July-September are the most humid. The temps climb because true summer is coming, but we experience occasional brief afternoon rains, followed by sun that leave us sweltering. The water table is very low, so we are hoping for more substantial rains soon for our wells. Now on to the news.

Item: Liberia as a nation continues to move, ever so slowly, toward health. The President says there is more money in the national treasury due to her campaign against corruption. Other examples: After earlier this year receiving significant debt cancellations from the US, China and Japan, and after UN Timber restrictions were lifted, last week the UN lifted its restrictions on Liberia's diamond trade. Police rarely try to extort money from us, and airport personnel actually help us get through the terminal without trying to squeeze us. Rogue activity is down—but still an issue. My theory is that as the Liberia heals, the culture becomes less tolerant of armed violence. Before, it was almost expected, and “What can we do anyway?” Now, it is seen as inexcusable, and neighborhoods are mobilizing to stop it.

Item: We are seeing signs of Liberians returning home with confidence. Everywhere we travel around Monrovia, we see new cement block homes going up. Thousands of new homes are in process. We are getting some pictures of all the work, so look for these images before June. The acres upon acres of construction are a striking symbol of hope for a stable future.

Item: The third-- correction-- fourth LEAD class graduates Thursday, and Renita is working with LEAD to land the UNDP grant we’ve discussed earlier. Plus, LEAD just received a welcomed grant a few weeks ago from a Grand Rapids foundation.

Item: I’ll be in Johnson Town two days this week discussing personal and family issues with the residents.

Item: Neighbors in the Foster Town area have joined forces with Lifewater Liberia to build seven new wells in various neighborhoods. Lifewater tells us they will start in June.

Item: The new market is stalled, in part due to a lack of funds, but also due to the mistrust that seems epidemic here, especially between Liberians. The building is about 75% completed, with some zinc for a roof. The entire structure needs to be covered by the coming of the heavy rains; otherwise the non treated wood poles will spoil. This is an important moment of truth for the Foster Town community and FoCDA. But we believe they will find a way.

Item: Around home, we have fewer animals again. Bandit was killed just before we left for The Gambia after somehow getting caught under the car as Renita was slowly driving in one day. Jackie killed and ate a couple small chickens just before we returned, and it looks like she will need to be put down soon. Not because of the chickens, but she has a congenital problem that keeps her from keeping any food down. She is slowly starving to death—which is probably why she went after the chickens in the first place. On the other hand, her brother Max is becoming huge.

I promised you more pictures of The Gambia, and even though we are fully back in Liberia, here you go.

When we last posted, we were walking through a local park, looking for flora and fauna. these are Vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops).

Hornbills hanging around in the bush.

These palms were monsters. Note the normal sized palm on the lower right, about 20 feet tall.

On another day, just walking around the countryside. I like trees.

I looked up into this tree and I beheld Green.

On to the beach. Three hooded vultures eating a cuttlefish.

A birthday gift for Hannah-- horseriding on a Gambian beach.

Noah joined in for a gallop.

In late afternoon by the silver ocean, Gambian youth play soccer.

So long from the cool breezes of the Gambia. Now back to work!