Monday, March 10, 2008

Around Foster Town

More overcast of late, but still little or no rain. Monday the 10th is began cloudy with a light westerly breeze. Overcast becomes hot, hazy and humid by afternoon, with highs in the low 90s and nighttime lows in the upper 70s.

The thing about containers—those large steel box-car sized crates shipped all over the world, stacked on top of giant freighters—is that they arrive when they arrive. And when they finally leave the port, you must be ready to cease all other activity in order to be there and unload what is yours. Receiving a container is like welcoming a dignitary or making a doctor’s appointment: whatever you were previously planning that day is instantly a lower priority; all other events are sacrificed for the sake of the stuff in the big steel box. Furthermore, when a container is late, as ours is now, each day is spent wondering, “is this the day we will need drop everything and rush into town to offload our things.”

Mostly the items on our particular container are books. Hundreds of boxes of books, collected and boxed mostly by Renita’s family working with Active Kids Canada, they are bound for five new school libraries around Monrovia. As with our other activities, we avoid simply handing out these books as if we are some scholastic Santa Claus. To receive these books, the schools had to actually build reading rooms, make reading tables and book shelves, and otherwise show investment in the effort. In addition, the library personnel must attend a two day workshop, sponsored by Active Kids, on setting up and running a library. We ran the workshops in our neighborhood Friday and Saturday, with a library person from the States doing her best to translate her very western style and manner to 40 very Liberian school teachers and librarians. It was a learning experience for everybody. To top it off, we of course had no books to distribute as we had planned. So we will need yet another day with the schools to give them their books when the container becomes available.

Also around Foster Town, the FACT board continues to meet and plan activities as well as run the Foster Town Market. With the new market superintendent, FACT is actually making some money for itself. The board is trying to figure out what to do with some members who are not pulling their weight. Laying down the law seems to come tough in this culture, which avoids conflict and is somewhat indirect in communication style.

We do have some tragic Foster Town news to report. Sunday, at the main road a couple hundred yards from our house, three men were killed when a taxi lost control while passing and ran them over as they waited by the side of the road. To add to the tragic circumstances, the car was filled with very young children—unaccompanied by any adult. The children were not hurt, but the taxi driver ran off, leaving the children at the scene. As of today no one seems to know whose children these are, or why they were alone in the taxi with this reckless young man. This makes about twelve people who have suffered accidental or violent death within a half mile of our house these past 30 months. Three have been shot, three killed yesterday, and the rest have drowned.

Somewhere in this stack of boxcar-size containers, our books await.

Our two day library training workshop-- Renita in the back with Renita on her lap.

The next day, we split the group. This is what the CFCA library looks like-- where o' where are the books?!?