Monday, April 21, 2008

ReedNews Update: April Edition

Weather: Some late night/early morning thundershowers of late, followed by hot humid days. Monday begins cooler and less humid with temps in the 80's. Light easterly breezes. About an inch and a half of rain in the last week.
We are relieved to report that the dry season is behind us. Think of Liberian seasons this way: 1) A hot, humid season with virtually no rain, lasting four months, from mid December to mid April, 2) a four month cooler, humid wet season with about a hundred sixty inches of rain falling from Mid June to Mid October, and between these two very different seasons, there are two identical seasons of transition from mid April to mid June, and from Mid October to mid December. These two month seasons see about 20 inches of rain each, but it always seems nice in comparison to previous weather. The transition months are welcomed harbingers-- by the end of both seasons we are ready to be done with each.

Here’s the news from our neck of the rainforest.

-Item: On the national scene, President Sirleaf issued a stern warning regarding the armed robbery problem that plagues the country. She gave the current law enforcement authorities—UNMIL law enforcement and the Liberia National Police—one month to make headway against the rogues. After that, she promised “drastic, perhaps unpopular measures” to end the domestic terror.

-Item: In that same speech, Madam President also addressed the rapid increase of the cost of living over the last eight months. Food costs especially have gone up, and the nation’s staple, rice, has seen a 25% increase. Some food prices have doubled. Gas and diesel fuel are around $4.00 a gallon. This all in one of the poorest countries in the world.

-Item: I am getting out of town more of late with the MPCHS Women's Health and Development Program. So far, we’ve met with leaders from Johnson Town, Koon Town and Kaingai Town as prepare to expand our work to include the men of these villages. We spend a few hours with them in each of our several visits, trying to understand their daily lives, their strengths as a community and their hopes for the future. Later, we will offer workshops, skills training and micro loans to support them as they rebuilt villages destroyed by war.

-Item: Speaking of getting out of town, the Reeds are getting out of Liberia beginning Sunday. We are off on our much anticipated—and I might add much deserved—two week retreat/vacation on the windy beaches of The Gambia. We’ll keep in touch when we are not being caressed oblivious by those winds.

-Item: Speaking of getting out of Liberia, we are getting ready to lose our children for the months of June, July and August. Hannah and Noah are leaving the continent and heading to family and friends in Michigan USA and Ontario Canada. They leave our midst with a family heading West less than two weeks after we get back from the Gambia. I think it will be a good preview of how life will be all too soon when they leave the nest for good. I know I’ll miss them deeply—I think Renita even more—but the up side is the kids will probably have the time of their lives and Renita and I can really focus on our next steps.

-Item: Its plum season! Actually, you probably know them as mangoes, but here in Liberia, they are called plums. There are a number of varieties, and the trees grow everywhere. We grow three types in our very own yard. Our favorite is called the German plum, and it is exquisite. In some ways similar in taste, color and texture to a peach, with a tang of orange and in a really good plum, a hint of coconut. Plums are terrific eaten raw, and heavenly in pies and other desserts. For our neighborhood kids, every day is a plum party.

Behold a few semi random photos. One I added April 28.

This was taken this morning. A somewhat grumpy Noah being helped by his Teacher Mom. Oh, the challenge of dual relationships! Hannah in the background viewing a math lesson on DVD.
Remember that playground we all constructed in memory of Norm Katerberg? Here is another shot of the finished job...
...but we thought you ought to see it in daily use, with over 800 girls giving it a workout. We think Norm would have been delighted.

Hey, and while we're on the subject of "what it looks like now," this is what a container filled with books looks like now: four new school libraries and and kids who can't get enough of them. Added 4/28.
A couple shots of road repair, Liberian style. This is work in the city, which is going on in a number of places...
... and this is our crew last Friday, trying to get to Kaingai Town. We had to do some repair work on this bridge to get to our meeting with the men.

Plums (mangoes) on the vine. These are country plums, less prized than Kerosene or German plums, but still a valued commodity.
Trokon sucking the pit of a German plum, with another small one on deck.