Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Life in Liberia: My birthday at school

Better late than never has become my blog mantra:)  I am pleased to share some pictures from my recent birthday, spent with my favorite people: teachers and learners.

I decided to take my birthday off from work and spend it at the private school of a family friend.  The school runs from kindergarten through 12th grade.  

The founder/principal and my birthday twin.

When I arrived the teachers were just returning to the classroom from lunch.   The first classroom I went into was a 5th grade class and didn't have a teacher.  It was quite concerning that the students were not well-accompanied by their teacher.   I just promised to return once the teacher returned.

Kindergarden classroom:  Nosey neighbor:)

When returned this is what I saw:
Snoozing on the job
If this is what happens to teachers after lunch, the students of this school are at a serious disadvantage.  Curious to see how long she would stay like this I started reading with a few students.   They struggled through the passages and couldn't really explain to me what they read.  My heart sank. Once I got to the third student the teacher was still knocked out in the back of the room.  The principal walked in and woke up the teacher.   I was speechless. Once we got out of the classroom I asked about it.  I don't recall the response as much as the fact that the principal was nonplussed.

Situations like this really make me reflect on the state of education here.  I will likely only have one more year here and there is still much to be done.  I am nearly convinced that the problem is not so much resources as it is stewardship.

Whether you have a library or one book, the question becomes "What are you doing with your book?"

I can't begin to imagine what is going on in the life of this teacher.  While I seek to understand I also believe there should be a standard that should be upheld.  It can be a difficult balance to strike in a city where lawlessness is rampant and thieves often take advantage of the loud rains of the season.  Many of my colleagues, among the middle class that can afford more security measures, sometimes lose sleeps over security concerns.  How much more these teachers?

Again, while I seek to understand I also believe there should be a standard that should be upheld.  I won't solve the stewardship issues in a blog post but sometimes getting closer to the solution involves making the right diagnoses along the way. . .
5th grader

The Treasures of Cote D'Ivoire

Panoramic view of the capital, Abidjan, from L'Cathedral d'Abidjan.
I just got back from the Ivory Coast.  It's also approaching a year since the last time I shared bits from my West African life.  So, here I am, eager to tell you about my trip!

How did I find myself in Abidjan and Grand Bassam, Cote D'Ivoire?

About a month ago, a friend asked I was interested in going there for a long weekend.  I said "YES!"  It's been something I've been wanting to do before I left West Africa.

Overlooking the city of Abidjan
It was worth it!

There are many things I deeply appreciated about Cote D'Ivoire:  resurrecting my French, abundant local transportation, Ivorian hospitality, salsa-dancing in Abidjan, canoing on the lagoon, melt-in-your-mouth croissants, "poisson braise e alloco" (fresh grilled fish and plantains) daily.

This was only the beginning of the treasures we experienced.

Market women in anticipation

Perfectly lit photo inside the cathedral:  Me, travel buddy and Ivorian friend
On of many beautiful stained glass pictures in the Cathedral. 

Breakfast table and lovely garden at Abidjan B&B
We spent two days in Abidjan and three days in Grand Bassam.  

Grand Bassam was the location of the recent attack. We didn't stay at the same hotel, if that's any consolation.  If someone hadn't told me I wouldn't have know there was an attack recently.  The village was large but peaceful.  Our lodging was perfectly situated between a lagoon and a beach. 
My "giraffe" room at the lagoon
Strolling through the neigborhood "Modeste"
Fresh fish
Canoeing on the lagoon

"Delicious: Natural Honey"
However, the thing(s) I loved the most were the local arts and products.  I enjoyed them so much.

The longer I am in West Africa the more I am struck and saddened by how much the local popular cultures do not attribute as much value to local artists and products as they merit.  These countries have gifts from God that are in stunning abundance and are often underutilized.  In Cote D'Ivoire I was pleased as punch to find many great items.

Below are several products which I also consider treasures of the Ivory Coast:
Peanuts, candied peanuts and dried (hot) ginger

Locally produced Ivorian figurines

Awoulaba woman in front of figures-in-progress
"Awoulaba" woman: Ivorian art accentuating curvy women
Local chocolate
Locally made clay necklace
Batik (cloth-dye painting)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Southern Cyprus: Stunning stones

Today we stayed close to home in the region of Pissouri Bay. We took a stroll around Pissouri Village about 10 minutes from my apartment.  As we climbed the hill to the village we were treated with stunning views of the bay.  Unfortunately I was so stunned I couldn't quite get a picture as beautiful as what my eyes saw.

Later in the afternoon we went to another stony beach near Episkopi.




I mentioned to my friend how this is probably the most stones I have ever seen on a beach in my long life.  As I pondered these stones I thought about their diversity, strength and unassuming beauty.  How does a stone begin? How long did it take to get to something so small I could perch it on my knee? Does it start from a large cliff and end in sand or is it's formation much more complex?  I deeply enjoy vacation and the chance to ponder and appreciate simple yet complex creation

Southern Cyprus: Celebrating beauty

Paramali beach
Our journey continues to Southern Cyprus.  On Monday we drove down from Nicosia to Pissouri Bay. I am staying in Pissouri Bay. From Pissouri Bay area we've gone to Paramali, Paphos and Limassol all places of distinct beauty.  I am staying in Pissouri Bay. Here are photos to feast your eyes on:
Paramali: Stunning stony beach

Paphos Castle

Paphos Castle interior: Stepping into the Light

Paphos Marina

Paphos boardwalk

Limassol: Marina

Paphos: Ruins of multiple churches with one remaining

Paphos: Yes, the juice was delish

Pissouri Bay: 5 minutes from my apt.

Northern Cyprus: Antiquities and Modernities

It's been 4 months since my last post.  I am now on vacation.  After weeks of saying and thinking "I want to get back to blogging," I am inspired.   I hope it is worth the wait, informative and at the very least, pretty.

My trip to Cyprus was inspired by the desire to go somewhere else but close.  Getting a tourist visa to Benin was too complex.  I had an open invitation to Cyprus from a dear sister.  So Cyprus it was.  The reaction I got from folks as I mentioned Cyprus was the same: "Wow!  Cyprus?" 

"Yes, have you been there?" I'd reply.  Unfailingly they'd say "No, but I've heard about it."

Does it live up to the reputation it has in people's minds?  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Below are pictures from the beginning of our journey to Famagusta and Salamis, both with antiquities dating back to 11th century BC:
On the wall surrounding the City of Famagusta. Church in background.

Abundant pomegranates at a fresh juice stand.  The juice: divine.

Beauty in brokenness.

Turkish delights.

Salamis Ruins: Columns surrounding the Gymnasium 

Salamis: One of several statues around the Pool

Salamis: Statue overlooking the Theatre

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sweet Freedom From Ebola!

It's true! Yesterday Liberia celebrated it's 42nd day of freedom from person-to-person transmission of the Ebola virus.  Forty-two days represents two cycles of the maximum 21-day incubation of the virus.

The victory is "so sweet" as the Liberians say.  It has been a difficult journey from being the country hardest hit in the region to the first one declared free.  I sincerely believe it's nothing short of a miracle, an answer to many prayers, and a salve to much heartache and sadness.  This news is so inspiring it helped me break the nearly 3-month hiatus from the blog.  "Sorry-o!" (my favorite Liberian saying).  It's been quite a long time.

The question on everyone's mind:  How will it affect travel and monitoring, particularly on the US.  No changes yet but I hope that I will not have to be monitored by the time I arrive on my next trip.

The question on my mind: How soon will family and friends come to visit?  Very soon I hope:) Perhaps you will follow Mama Brown's footsteps.  My mom just returned to the States from a month-long visit.  What a time to be here!  More on her visit to come.

Celebration time!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Why I pray for Angels.

It's been a while. No excuses.

I'm happy to report my inspiration has returned!

I'm taking a pause from discussing written autobiographies to reflect on a common story. This is an autobiography in the making.

Last week I was undone when I heard the story of a young woman caught in cycle of prostitution when money gets low and there seems to be no other options. I'm learning when something hits my heart to the point of tears I need to go with that feeling and invest it into prayer and intercession for the person and the larger issue.

You would think the "no-touch" culture that Ebola created would have impacted it. Not so, dear friend. The enemy is relentless. He continues to work with and among humans to kill, steal and destroy the human body, soul and spirit.

Let me be explicit: sexual abuse, prostitution and human trafficking is alive and well in Liberia. Girls are giving sex for grades, a meal, protection, and the most basic of necessities. And their parents look away in complicity. I've heard too many stories and met the girls.

While looking up resources for a study on purity I came across the following podcast.


It pains me bringing me to the point of tears to realize that there are countless "Angels" in Liberia.

Listening to this has refueled my prayer for the Angels caught in a devaluing cycle of sexual exploitation.

Listen. Respond as your heart leads.