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Dr. Miller's Africa Trip-Days 7-8 Weekend Edition

Dr. Miller's Liberia, Africa Blog

Days 7-8, June 8-9, 2024

Treasures from Emmanuel, Visit with Mr. Wreh, Daily Life, Surprise Donation, Corn Treat, Kendeja Resort, Church Service, Brunch, Mrs. Toe's Former Residence, Stadium Visit, Ice Cream Treat

My weekend in Liberia was filled with so much food, culture, family, and amazing experiences!  Saturday began with our usual drive downtown.  I have been asking Amos, our driver, to find me a special artisan that makes homemade jewelry and woodwork.  It turns out Amos' brother, Emmanuel, is an incredible artist who constructs and designs all of his own creations!  I was so happy when Amos took me to his little brother's roadside stand.  I was able to purchase some treasures and gifts for loved ones and myself.  Emmanuel is a really great guy and I enjoyed my time talking with him and learning more about his work.  He showed me some of the wood he uses for his creations which is pictured here.  As we were driving downtown, one of the street vendors was selling CDs.  Many of you know how much I love CDs and collecting music.  Amos bought me two CDs-an African CD and a Liberian CD.  Both are filled with some of the music we have been listening to along our journey and I am so happy to be taking this home with me as a reminder of our times in the car together.  Next, our journey took us a bit further outside the city as we travelled to Johnsonville, where Mrs. Toe's Brother, Boca Wreh and other family members live.  I was so happy that the lovely Monah joined us on this trip!  Mr. Wreh was a university professor who is now retired.  He is a wonderful and super intelligent gentleman that I greatly enjoyed meeting and speaking with.  He asked me about my perceptions of the education system and the country in general and we spoke for a while about such things.  He had much food and drink prepared for us.  I am learning that Liberians do not do anything of meaning without food!  There is much food when we visit and are entertained.  I am also seeing that in Liberia, it is not necessarily custom to invite guests and visitors into your home but instead, we sit on the front porch or out in the yard.  After Mr. Wreh and I talked, I was invited to walk the property and I really treasured this time working around and seeing what life is really like on the land.  I took many pictures which I posted here.  Because many homes do not have running water through typical plumbing, many get their water drawn from a well outside the home.  I was able to draw water from the well and I can tell you it is NOT easy!  I looked at some of the fruit trees growing on the property and took some pictures with the extended family.  The property is marked by a cement boundary marker and I was able to assist a gentleman in cementing a portion of the marker.  It was very special to spend some time like this with Mrs. Toe's Family.  After our family visit, we drove a pretty far distance out toward the airport.  When we visited the resort last week, we met a wonderful family.  The wife, Anneke, was from Amsterdam and the husband, Mambu, was from Liberia.  Together, they work to produce many things and their operation is called Manneka.  Mambu has a business called Mambu Inc. that makes pavers out of concrete and he also designed his own water wheel well.  The two are also interested in helping Liberian schools and they have books that are created and printed in Amsterdam for underprivileged communities.  They offered us boxes of books which we went to pick up on Saturday which we will deliver on Monday.  These are super nice people and again, the culture is such that when you meet people, you quickly make connections.  I was so interested in his water wheel design which allows someone to use spin a wheel to bring water up instead of pulling it up on a rope.  Genius!  By the time we said goodbye, the sun was going down and we were pretty tired.  As we started the drive home, we stopped by the roadside to get a corn treat. There are many who grow corn and cook it grill- style on the side of the road.  It's like eating corn on the cob but sweeter and it comes off in big pieces instead of a kernel at a time and has a unique grill flavor.  Mrs. Toe, Amos, and I ate our corn in the car as we drove toward home.  We sang to the CD and laughed a lot.  Our drives are long but I cannot take my eyes off the sides of the road.  You never know what you are going to see!  We saw a whole band of children marching and playing on the side of the road!  We finished our Saturday in the evening at another resort called, Kendeja.  This was a beautiful place by the ocean and the resort security allowed us to come onto the property and look around which we did.  Amos brought us home then and I had a good rest!

Our Sunday today was also packed with activities and sights!  I accompanied Mrs. Toe this morning to church downtown.  We attended the 10:30 service at Martha Tubman Memorial United Methodist Church which I learned was the second oldest Methodist Church in Liberia founded in 1877.  Mrs. Toe and I met the pastor first before joining the congregation.  It was a very lively experience with lots of singing and clapping.  I also learned it was a Children's Day Celebration and all the children played some role in the service.  I am also learning that you must always be ready to be called upon to speak in Liberia.  At one point, the pastor asked Mrs. Toe and I to come up and share some words with the congregation.  After the church service, we went to Mrs. Toe's niece, Comfort's home for some dinner.  More eating!  I learned at Comfort's house that the Antbear, AKA anteater, is an endangered species in Liberia and it is not legal to harm them.  I learned that some people eat them and they taste a little like chicken!  We then went to visit Mrs. Toe's former home and were accompanied by her nephew Thomas.  Thomas has traveled with us to different schools and he is a very intelligent, kind, and soft-spoken young man.  I was so happy to get some pictures with Thomas today!  Thomas brought me a very nice African bracelet that I now wear with pride.  On our way back, Amos made an impromptu stop at a large stadium in Liberia called Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex.  It's a huge stadium that holds approximately 30,000.  We were allowed to walk inside and I saw they were getting ready for a big soccer match between Liberia and Nigeria.  I was happy to see a real Liberian sports complex.  They were playing loud music that celebrated Liberia and it reminded me of our own patriotic tunes.  When we finished there, we decided to go again to the Kendeja Resort again in the daytime.  This resort is really close to our hotel so we stopped and relaxed by the beach.  Our friend Eric joined us there and I was so happy to see him again today!  I asked Amos if we could see his brother again as I wanted to buy a wood piece I saw yesterday in his shop.  The piece shows a map of Liberia and all of its counties.  Emmanual met us there at Kendeja and brought their other brother, James.  I was so happy to get this piece that I will proudly display and that I met both of Amos' brothers!  We went back to the hotel and were met by more of Mrs. Toe's Family and we went to get ice cream!  We went to a place called Nice Cream and the ice cream there was wonderful! It tasted like gelato if you ever had that.  I got a flavor called Dolce Latte which was like a sweet coffee flavor. It was so good!  By the time we got home this evening, I was so tired and as I type this, we have another big day tomorrow as we are driving our furthest distance yet to take more supplies and materials to a much more remote school.  I also have a meeting with another professor at the college tomorrow before our journey.  This weekend was so lovely.  I really felt like I was part of the culture with the music, food, family, and experiences.  Everyone I meet tries the special Liberian handshake with me and they are often surprised when I do all the moves correctly.  I have settled in and am relaxed, and enjoying life in Liberia.  I know this upcoming week will go by quickly as we look at the back-end of the trip.  Of course I miss my family and friends in America but I am super thankful for new friends made here in Liberia!  Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead and thanks for staying on this journey with me through this blog!

~Dr. Miller, Days 7-8  June 8-9, 2024

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