This Blog serves as two things: a photo-diary of our lives between 2007 and mid 2011, when we saw some incredible things and met some amazing people; and a reflection of our more normal lives since then.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

More funny photos of Libby




Our friend Cheryl sent us these photos she took last year of Libby. Thanks Cheryl. Olly

The President's website


Do you want to keep abreast with what the President of Liberia is up to? You do? Then go to http://www.emansion.gov.lr/. Olly

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Book review


I'm reading a book called "A Nation in Terror" by James Youboty. Its an incredible book about Liberia's bloody and senseless civil war, and the years leading up to it. A must-read for anyone interested in Liberia's history. ISBN: 1-57087-112-4. Olly

Cleft kids


Often, we see children (or adults) with big white whiskers walking around the ship. They are our cleft-lip patients, who have just had reconstructive surgery to repair their clefts. I am constantly amazed that their faces don't require more bandages and dressings after such a big operation. They usually stay on the ship for only a couple of days after their surgery before returning home. Olly

Charcoal train


With no electricity or cooking gas in most of Monrovia, the majority of the population cook on charcoal fires, which are not unpleasant and give off very little smoke. The charcoal supply trade is massive, and each day many trucks and the Bong Mines Train (the only working train in Liberia) bring big sacks of charcoal into the city, for sale for $3 each. Then an army of hundreds of ladies, all over the city, split the big sacks up into little bags, for retail to the population. Photo of the Bong Mines train loaded high with charcoal, whilst ladies stand by waiting for it to be unloaded. Olly

Jesus film


Three nights a week, a team from the ship takes The Jesus Film out, with local pastors and translators, to show in unreached or neglected communities. The film is projected out of the back of a Land Rover onto a specially build screen which hangs off the roofrack. Tens of thousands of people have given their lives to Christ over the years through this form of outreach. Click on photo to enlarge. Olly

Funny Libby


Libby keeps us amused by pulling many different kinds of funny faces. Her latest trick is going cross-eyed, which is hilarious, although she looks too much like one of the ship's eye patients...Olly

Bath time


There are no bath-tubs on the Africa Mercy, only showers. So every few months our children have a bath (whether they need it or not). Here, Libby is having hers in a plastic box. Olly

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Rice Crises - more support coming from China

On a one-day stopover in Beijing, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, en route to Japan, has secured additional Chinese support to combat the global increases in food prices. During discussions Sunday with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Zhang Yesui, President Johnson Sirleaf was informed that China will provide fertilizers, pesticides and seeds by July this year to help Liberia in its agriculture program. In addition, Mr. Zhang said Chinese agricultural experts will be sent to Liberia during the dry season to help teach Liberian farmers modern farming methods. As part of the short-term measures to avert the possible effects of a cutback in rice exports, the Chinese Foreign Ministry official said his Government has instructed the China Oil and Food Corporation to work with Liberia in helping the country secure more stockpiles of rice, says an Executive Mansion dispatch from Beijing. allafrica.com

Ex-Liberian Soldiers Storm Capitol Building

A group of former ex-Armed Forces of Liberia soldiers under the banner of "Unconstitutional Dissolved Armed Forces of Liberia" (UDAFOL) yesterday besieged the Capitol Building, the seat of the National Legislature demanding the immediate impeachment of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The ex-soldiers numbering a little over three hundred men and women staged a peaceful march with a petition in which they called on the lawmakers to impeach the Liberian leader for what they called breach of the Liberian Constitution, in which the soldiers demanded that the lawmakers begin impeachment proceedings against President Johnson-Sirleaf for treason in accordance with Article 62 and 76a (5) respectively for violation of the Constitution of Liberia as regarding the AFL as the constitution provides. The group of soldiers who were escorted to the Capitol Building by officers of the Liberia National Police and UNMIL Police to register their concern reiterated their demand to some of the lawmakers who gathered to meet them. allafrica.com
I was there! I got stuck in the traffic jam on Monday caused by the protesters and riot police. The top gates of the Capital building were heavily guarded by Riot Police and UN soldiers, but the gates lower down the hill were completely unguarded and open - no wonder they were able to beseige the seat of government. Olly

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

More current coming

Today I toured what remains of the Bushrod Island Power Station, which until 1997 provided power to most of Liberia during the dry season (whilst the hydro-electric plant produced power in the rainy season). Little remains of the original engines or generators, but it was encouraging to see the installation of two 1.25 megawatt containerised generators which have recently been provided by Norway. Winston, my guide and employee of LEC of 14 years, told me that American funding was putting up power lines from Bong Mines Bridge to St Pauls River Bridge, and EU funding will shortly be doing the same to the New Bridge, so all of Bushrod Island will have access to electricity soon. Meanwhile, LEC is installing five more big containerised generators to supply current to the city and as far out as Payneville, which is extremely encouraging. Olly

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Wiwi's new dress




Today we saw Musu's grandaughter, Wiwi, wearing one of Anna's old dresses. Photos of Wiwi (3), Liberia, 25th of May 2008, and Anna (4) South Africa, 7th of September 2005. Olly

Musu's stick house


Musu's stick house is slowly being constructed. There have been a few recent delays - some of the mats that make up the walls were stolen by neighbours last week, and Musu also decided to knock down the original structure and rebuilt it a little larger...so this will soon be her home, probably for the rest of her life. By Thursday (4 days from now) it will have a concrete floor, a corrugated iron roof, mat and tarpaulin walls, and windows and doors, and Musu and her family will have taken up residence. I hope. Olly

The last working traffic lights in Liberia


At many busy road junctions in Monrovia, there are the remains of traffic lights. In fact there is a neighbourhood actually called "Red Light", named after the traffic light that used to be there. But there is only one set of working lights in the whole of Monrovia (probably the whole of Liberia), pictured, which is located outside the Freeport gates. I'm not sure if the Port Authority or neighbouring City Builders provide electricity and maitenance. But I hate these light! Traffic flows so much better without them! Olly

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Liberian Power Station


Here is a photo of a rare facility in Monrovia: a power station. Many homes and businesses get their electricity from this one in Randall Street. It simply consists of three or four medium sized generators which can supply its clients with a very limited amount of current. The air around it is thick with greasy black diesel fumes, and the skies around it are full of thin wires carrying current to customers, some of which are so low that trucks driving down the road often become entangled. The Liberian economy still relies on privately owned generators like this, but the Liberian Electricity Company is slowly installing power grids to small sections of the city which can provide more reliable and greater quantities of power via their huge generators. And the LEC grids are providing street lighting too. Olly

Movie Star!


This afternoon Libby became a movie star. She and her little Ghanaian friend Daniel were filmed saying "thank you for coming" into the camera. The footage will be used by the Swiss office in their promotional material. Olly

Crocs


Crocs are fantastic shoes when you live on a Mercy Ship in Liberia. They fit all the ship's health and safety requirements about having heels and closed toes. And they are great for wearing off-ship too, especially in the rainy season and at the beach. Trouble is, we can't find steel-toed Crocs anywhere. Olly

Going bald?


I'm sure that you are as shocked as I am at this photo of the top of my head. Can you see the receding hairline and the thinning hair? I'll be as bald as a coot by the time I return to the UK. Olly

Scrap dealers intensify campaign against illegal scrappers

A campaign launched by the Liberian Scrap Association to cortail illegal scrapping in the country has intensified with the association arresting several illegal scrappers in the country. Information available shows that some dishonest individuals have been in the habits of scrapping the manholes and other facilities in the country and these evil minded individuals have been caught by the association task force committee. A comprehensive investigation on the operation of the Liberian scrap industry and the imminent ban that the Government of Liberia intends to impose on the association has revealed that over 25,000 Liberians may likely be affected and subsequently put out of job if the ban is imposed. According to a recent survey there are over 2,000 Liberians who are regularly employed with the scrap association and another 15,000 who are casual workers with the association. allafrica.com

Sally's stalker

Sally has got a Liberian phone stalker. He first phone call woke us up at 12.40 am three nights ago, and he has since phoned about 30 times all through the day and night. Sally has saved the two phone numbers he uses as "Nightcaller" and "Idiot 2" so we know when he calls. This morning I had a nice chat with him, although I didn't understand him and he didn't understand me, but I enjoyed using up his phone credits. He's not phoned back since. Maybe that's the end of a beautiful relationship...Olly

Our new website address

We've changed our website address to a more snappy and memorable one, so you can now access these pages via www.peetfamily.org.uk. We hope this improves your ease of access. Olly

New container yard for Monrovia


From our cabin window (see photo) we can see the daily efforts of a team of bulldozers as they scrape out a huge new container terminal in Monrovia's Freeport, which will double the current capacity. Yesterday one of the workers told me that a contract had been awarded to a private company for the port's container handling, and furthermore the yard was going to be made of concrete,which is a massive and very expensive undertaking. This is a good step forward to improving the facilities to secure the "gateway" to the Liberian economy. Olly

Friday, 23 May 2008

Latest infant mortality rates

I heard a Ministry of Health spokesman on UNMIL radio yesterday saying that the mortality rate amongst children under 1 year old in Liberia has fallen from 117 per thousand to 73 per thousand since the new Government came into power in 2006. Good job, President Johnson Sirleaf and her team. May that trend continue. Olly

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Blue Atlantic update


Over five months after she was seized by the French navy after being caught as sea smuggling $500 million worth of cocaine, the Blue Atlantic is still moored across the dock from us. Initially she was guarded by armed Nigerian and Nepalese soldiers, but now the disinterested Liberia National Police have taken over. Today, my good mate Josh and I had a guided tour of the ship courtesy of the LNP, and got to savour the delightful smell of rotting food and stinking freezers, five months after the generators were turned off. We saw plenty of cockroaches and even mice. It was quite eerie walking through the ransacked ghost ship, which is still in the condition that the French navy left it in after ripping it apart in their search for more drugs. Olly

Garbage skips in Monrovia


Hundreds of big yellow garbage slips have recently been deployed at nearly every street corner in Monrovia by an unknown NGO, which has several skip trucks which spend all day driving backwards and forward emptying them. Good job. We really appreciate the difference. Thank you, whoever you are, dear NGO. Olly

American Idol finals


This evening we watched the final of American Idol in our cabin. Anna cried herself to sleep because David Archuleta didn't win. You see, we are still perfectly sane and can still lead a resemblance of a normal life after nearly four years of living on a ship in Africa, honest. Photo of David Archuleta (left) and the winner, David Cook (right). Olly

Whoops


On Monday the driver of one of our Land Rovers left the road whilst swerving to avoid a little boy who ran out into his path. The Land Rover ended up on its side down an embankment, having first ploughed through several road signs causing extensive damage as per attached photo. Fortunately neither the driver or the boy were injured, and the damage to the Land Rover can be fixed. Olly

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Francis

Francis is a brilliant young Liberian auto-electrician who I use every week to repair electrical faults on our older Land Rovers. His method of work is quite different from any other auto-electrician I have seen before - he actually climbs barefoot under the hood and squats over the engine or the battery compartment to do his work. He has no tools of his own, but he achieves great things. He must have a natural ability to find broken wires or blown fuses that would take anyone else hours to find. Despite his skill, due to the years of war in Liberia, he is completely illiterate and even struggles to sign his own name on receipts. Olly

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Ex-Interim President Gyude Bryant's trial

Gyude Bryant, Liberia's former interim president, who is already facing corruption charges, was accused on Saturday of embezzling funds from the national oil company. According to the charge sheet, Bryant and four co-accused are alleged to have stolen $958,000 from Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company between March 2004 and January 2006. All five men have been released on bail, their lawyers said. Bryant was previously charged in February 2007 for allegedly taking one million dollars in bribes when he was interim president from October 2003 to January 2006, when Liberia was emerging from 14 years of civil war. Long suspended, his trial was resumed after the supreme court ruled that Bryant - who has denied the allegation - was ineligible for immunity as a former head of state, as he had been appointed under the Accra peace accord rather than the constitution. somalianet.com

Ex-President Charles Taylor's trial

Charles Taylor's former vice president and successor, Moses Blah, has testified that he never saw Taylor engage in cannibalism or heard him order his fighters to eat their slain enemies. In testimony at Taylor's war crimes trial, Blah refused to rule out, however, that Taylor ate human flesh or ordered his troops to do so. In March, a witness told the Special Court for Sierra Leone that Taylor ordered fighters in his National Patriotic Front of Liberia to eat their enemies as a way of striking terror into his opponents. Joseph Marzah, who described himself as Taylor's chief of operations and head of a death squad before Taylor became president, said African peacekeepers and even United Nations personnel were killed and eaten on the battlefield by Taylor's militiamen. He also said he had sat with Taylor as he ate a human liver. Blah, who said his own cousin was killed and cannibalised in 1985 by forces loyal to former Liberian dictator Samuel Doe, told judges that he had "never heard such an order from Mr Taylor" but he could not vouch for every second of Taylor's time. Taylor has pleaded not guilty to murder, rape, torture and enlisting child soldiers during Sierra Leone's 10-year civil war, which ended in 2002. He is accused of pulling the rebels' strings from his headquarters in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. The Press Assocation.
I met Moses Blah at his house in Coco Cola Community, outside Monrovia in 2006. Jolly nice chap actually. He wanted Mercy ships to dig a well for him in his back garden. Olly

Monday, 19 May 2008

A word from Anna

(At Wulki Farms) The chimps were cute. But I didn't want to hold them because they were a bit scary. Anna

Sunday, 18 May 2008

2009

Last week we heard that the Africa Mercy will be spending its 2009 Field Service in French speaking Benin, which will be our family's second visit to that country - we were there with the Anastasis from November 2004 to March 2005. Liberia has so much been a part of us for the last four years that it will be a massive wrench finally leaving in December, but I have just heard about a Liberian refugee camp not far from where we will be docked in the port in Benin, where we hope to continue working with Liberians in 2009. So our blogspot will have to be re-named "The Peet Family formerly in Liberia, now in Benin" or something like that. Olly

Wulki Farm


Today we left the big city and drove out past the incredible Omega Tower (the highest man-made structure in Africa) into the beautiful Liberian countryside to visit Wulki Farms, owned by Benoni Urey. The farm is the nearest and only thing in Liberia anything like a zoo - with ponies and donkies, chimps (which were desperate to be held), rabbits, ostriches and crocodiles. The highlight of the day was seeing piglets being born. Libby was absolutely terrified of every animal and bird, no matter how large or small, and refused to come out of the car with the exception of when we got to the crocodile pens, which she said were "my fav'rite ones". A great day out, and a lovely chance to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside. Photo of Sally and a chimp. Olly

Monday, 12 May 2008

Stolen manhole covers


Over the weekend, several manhole covers have been stolen from the main highway outside the Port, leaving 6 foot deep potholes for traffic to negotiate (which is not easy in the dark at high speed). Steeling manhole covers is an unfortunate by-product of extreme poverty. When they are eventually replaced, the new covers will be welded down to prevent their theft, which in turn makes it impossible to gain access to the sewer system...Olly

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Aunty Barbara

A week ago, my father's 71 year old sister had a massive stroke and died in hospital in York. This sad event has increased our feeling of isolation from our families in the UK, and I am very sad to be missing the funeral tomorrow afternoon. Sally and I have both been very shaken by her death and feel very vulnerable right now. We are praying that God will restore our strength and focus quickly. Olly

Remember Musu?

Do you remember Musu? She is the lovely Liberian lady who used to help Sally cook and clean and look after the kids when we lived ashore in Liberia. She is 67, and has been a widow for nearly 30 years. She has given birth to 12 children, but only 5 remain alive today - the others have died of disease or were killed in the war. She lives in a one-bedroom mud-block house, 13 feet deep by 20 feet wide with her extended family of 11, with no toilet, running water, or electricity. At the end of this month she is being evicted from the house by the owner, who wants to live in it himself, so we are helping her to build her own house on some land she already owns. She has already paid for the construction of a frame out of sticks. Sally and I agreed today that we will pay for the corrugated steel roof, tarpaulin walls and cement floor. Once she is settled, we will encourage her family to make mud-blocks to build proper walls and a latrine, which can eventually be rendered with cement to make waterproof. After 18 years without her own toilet (and using the bush), we hope she will have one by the time we leave Liberia in December. The whole undertaking will cost about $800 (£400), and is by far the biggest undertaking we have committed to so far. Can you help? Olly.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Public transport gets worse

The battered yellow taxi is the most common form of public transport here in Monrovia. The whole economy revolves around taxis, since so few people have their own cars. Many people leave their homes at 5am just to make sure they can catch a taxi in the morning before the rush hour begins, when it can often take more than an hour to catch a taxi. And every evening I see people fighting others to get seats for the journey home. Traditionally, two passengers sit on the front passenger seat, and four sit across the back, but earlier this week the Liberian National Police decided that only one passenger should sit in the front (which I admit makes good road safety sense). But this means that the number of seats available in the public transport system has been reduced overnight by 16%, which means even earlier starts and longer delays and more fights for the public seeking transportation. And it is now even harder for much needed fresh produce to be bought to the market from the countryside, and the price of fresh produce in town has already gone up to reflect this. In the long term, the economy will suffer even more, and the city's children will continue to go hungry. Olly

Liberia's Olympic Team

Is it true that all the members of the Liberian Olympic Team live in the USA? Olly

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Mayor or monkey, the exodus begins

I got an email today from an old friend: "Following the election of a monkey as Mayor of London, I have moved out of the capital...so nothing more to do with monkey land. Sorry, I meant London". Welcome Borris Johnson, Mayor of London! Olly

No more wunny baddits

Libby is growing up quickly. She now says bunny rabbits instead of wunny baddits, which is a shame. Olly

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Maintaining sanity

Our latest attempt to remain sane involves watching American Idol on Thursday evenings on satellite TV. It seems, however, that God isn't allowing us to escape from the reality of Africa tonight, for the program is raising money for AIDS orphans here in Africa and the screen is full of images that we are all too familier with from first hand experience. Anna got quite upset watching the clips of berieved children until we reminded her that she is only a few hundred yards from children dying of AIDS, malaria and malnutrition, right here in Liberia, and we are doing all we can to help them. The program featured a commercial for Charity: Water, a charity run by our old Anastasis friend and crew-mate Scott Harrison, and finished with the American Idol contestents singing the Christian song "Shout to the Lord". Weird. Olly

Mary


Remember 16 year old Mary? She had surgery to unlocked her jaw nearly a year ago. It was her second surgery to unlock it - the previous surgery failed because she didn't do her exercises. And guess what - nearly a year on, the jaw is beginning to lock again, because she's not doing her exercises. We just had dinner with her, and she was trying to push her fish and chips through a very small opening indeed. Sally is trying to explain to her right now, as they bake Banana Bread together in the Crew Galley, what she must do to avoid her third surgery when the ship eventually returns to Liberia...Olly