Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Another view of Monrovia

Here's a photo of the city of Monrovia taken from our friend's apartment on the south side of the city (the posh area!). Most of the large buildings you can see remain burnt-out shells, nearly five years after the war finished. Olly

Rainy days at ELWA

Here's a photo of a typical rainy day during our recent holiday off-ship. It was still hot enough to play with water outside, without the risk of sunburn or heat-stroke. Olly

Bye bye Miss Katherine

Anna's teacher, Miss Katherine, has just left the ship. We will all miss her. Olly

Bye bye Miss Page

Libby's teacher, Miss Page, has just left the ship. We will all miss her. Olly

Our kids

Here they are: June 2008. Olly

Monday, 23 June 2008

Washing-up bowls

Why do we use washing-up bowls, when the sink has a perfectly good plug? Olly


Now that we're back on the ship and unpacked and showered, we have been able to count our insect bites. Noah and Anna have several mosquito bites, and I have a couple. And my feet are covered in fire-ant bites. I think Libby and Sally are OK though. Makes me question the whole existence of biting insects - just what is their purpose and why did God invent them? Please pray that we don't develop malaria, especially Anna, who has no resistance to malaria (whereas Noah does a little, having had it early in 2007). Olly

No Onions!

On Saturday we tried to buy some onions, but there were none for sale in the whole of central Monrovia. Can you believe it? Olly

Libby's favourite food...

...is still RICE, even though Noah and Anna (and me) have spent the last couple of years trying to persuade her that French Fries are the best food in the world. Here's a photo of Libby eating, erm, rice! Olly

Musu's stick house

Last Monday, Musu's stick house, which we are in the process of building (with your help) was chopped to the ground by a man with an axe, who was under the impression that he was the land owner. He was arrested and has already had one Magistrates Court hearing to set a date for the next hearing where damages will be discussed. He is now languishing in Monrovia Central Prison (the worst place in the world!) until the case can be closed and he can find the money to pay Musu. Such is Liberian law that he could remain in prison indefinately if he (and his combined friends and family) are unable to find the money demanded by the Court. More later. Olly

Our week at the beach

Our week at the beach was wonderfully cool and wet. It rained nearly every day, with big storms at night and often drizzle all day long, but it didn't stop us from playing on the sand and in the sea. ELWA Campus, where we were staying, is a missionary base which provides electricity and water to its houses from 5am to midnight, so the residents are free from the stresses of generators and well-pumps. We had a very relaxing and cool week. At any other time of year staying there would have been very hot indeed! Olly

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Iron Ore Loader

Here are some photos of the Bong Mining Company's iron-ore loader on the Mano River Pier in the Freeport of Monrovia, which we can see from our window. The first photo was taken in 1984 and shows the loader operational. Via a system of converor belts it could pour thousands of tons of iron-ore pellets each hour from the Bong Mines railway trains in waiting bulk carriers.
The second photo shows the same loader in 2006, sixteen years after the loader and the Bong Mines were abandoned due to the war. The converor belts have all been removed, but the loader remains almost intact.
The third photo shows the same loader today. Nearly a year of concentrated daylight metal stripping has taken place, and only the main structure remains. The scrappers use only hacksaws to cut off nuts and bolts holding the structure together, then the steel is tied to sacks of polystyrene and lowered into the sea, where it is floated to shore to be sold. Beyond the pier and to the right, you can see the mast of one of the Freeports 16 sunken ships sticking out of the water. In the far distance is another pier, and the remains of an even larger iron-ore loader awaiting it's fate. Olly

Bye bye (for now)

We're going on holiday today. We're going to spend this weekend at a friends appartment in Monrovia city, followed by 5 days at another friends house by the beach just outside the city, and then back to the appartment next weekend. And guess what - its raining and cold (by Liberian standards). Lets hope its stops raining so we can enjoy our holiday. So no more blog entries until after Sunday 22nd June. Olly

Friday, 13 June 2008

Schools out for...rainy season

Today is the last day of school for the academic year 2007/08. Hurray. The kids are all very tired, because the field service programme for the ship does not allow for half-term holidays, or even an Easter holiday, so their last real break was over Christmas and New Year. The ship's programme also dictates that we stay operational in Africa over the rainy season...so the kids have got 7 weeks off in the middle of rainy season. Last year, their Summer Program (kids club) did a lot of activities in the rain - lets see what this year's programme and weather combine to make. Olly

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Ship teachers needed

We are looking for teachers for the 2008-2009 school year and beyond. For more information about our school and how to become part of our team on the Mercy Ship Africa Mercy, please click on www.msa-recruit.com. Teachers for the following positions are still needed for the 2008-2009 school year: Preschool; 2nd Grade; 5th and 6th Grade; High School Maths and High School Social Studies. All crew members on the Africa Mercy are volunteers and pay a monthly crew fee for room and board. If you know any interested teachers, please pass along this information. Thank you, Brian Blackburn, Mercy Ships Academy Chief Administrator. Tel (001) 903-939-7183 or email brian.blackburn@mercyships.org.

The saddest time of year

It's the saddest time of year again, as most of the Academy's teachers are preparing to leave at the end of next week. They have begun taking down all the kids paintings that have been brightening up the corridors for months. Both Anna and Libby's teachers are leaving, so both kids are sad. Olly

Another angry mob?

Shortly after the incident with the cow, I saw a mob running around and shouting (in a most threatening manner), armed with a badly written sign saying "STOP YOUT VIOLENC". I gather they were a mob of youths, but I wasn't sure whether they wanted me to stop them from being violent, or they were campaigning for violence against other youths to be stopped, or they were campaigning for violence by other youths to stop. But whatever they were, they looked like a violent mob of youths. Not the best thought out demonstration, I think. Olly

Angry mob?

It is not uncommon to see an angry mob armed with sticks and machettes chasing a thief through the streets of Monrovia...but today I saw a first - an angry mob chasing a COW! I have no idea what the poor creature had done to upset the mob, but it was covered in cuts and was bleeding from it's nose. I sincerely hope it was rescued before it was cut up into little pieces by the blood-thirsty crowd. Olly

Top Gear

Last night, someone managed to get Top Gear, the BBC TV series, on the ship's satellite TV. I haven't watched it for ages, and I laughed and laughed. It was the funniest thing I have seen in ages, and contained some uniquely British humour and references that I'm sure will fly over the heads of most non-Brits. Photo of the presenters. Olly

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Sports Day

This afternoon the ship's Academy had their end of year Sports Day, on the Nepalese Army's parade ground near the ship in the Freeport. The parade ground had it's own covered stands for formal events, so we were able to enjoy the shade and comfort of chairs.
All 48 Academy kids took part, and their parents came too. The event was closely watched by dozens of off-duty Nepalese soldiers, who cheered the kids on and enjoyed the races too.

Photo of Sally winning the mum's race, just like Princes Diana did all those years ago.

Photo of Noah in the egg-and-spoon race with the Nepalese in the background.

Photo of Anna in the rubber-chicken hurdle, running slightly faster than her friend Jelmer. Olly

Monday, 9 June 2008

Bye bye Freeport potholes

Look at this photo. The Chinese are fixing the deadly potholes outside the Freeport. Yippee! Olly

WW2 in Liberia

I understand that during the earlier part of World War Two, Liberia remained neutral even though it traded with the Allies from 1939 until it joined the war in 1944. Liberia remained the Allies main source of rubber (along with Ceylon) throughout the war, and the Freeport of Monrovia was constructed in 1944 to assist in the war effort and improve the export of rubber and iron ore. Behind the port, to this day, remain two large WW2 gun emplacements, that housed large guns that could protect the Freeport. Photo of the Western emplacement. Olly

A real break

This weekend we were totally blessed by staying at our friends Jodie and Paul's apartment whilst they are in the States on holiday. We got to have some great family time playing in the pool in their compound, and just made the most of having space. The kids enjoyed playing with each other for a change, we got to eat what we wanted, when we wanted and sleep in a real bed! Thanks Jodie and Paul x. Photo of the kids jumping in the pool. Sally

Englands Euro 2008 chances?

Believe it or not, I have only just found out that England did not qualify for Euro 2008. I am devastated. Olly

Praise & Prayer points

Praise: God is still keeping us well and safe, with no serious illnesses or accidents. Olly's team of mechanics are working well, and have only a few outstanding faults to rectify at the moment.
Sally has had her job as Speech Therapist confirmed, so with effect from 23rd June she will be seeing patients daily. The kids are currently blessed with a great crowd of friends to play with, both on-ship and off-ship. The rainy season has arrived small small, so the temperature has fallen a bit and it is often quite pleasantly cool. We are also able to enjoy some spectacular electrical storms and torrential downpours, mostly in the evenings. And we rejoice with the people of Bushrod Island, Monrovia, as gradually a new electricity grid is installed.
Prayer: For protection against the violent crime that has engulfed Monrovia and even the beaches. For protection against accidents as we journey around the city. For protection from corrupt police at the many checkpoints around the city. For God's blessing and peace on the bereaved following the football fans stampede that killed 10 Liberians a week ago at the national stadium. Safety for the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. That Liberia will rise again. Olly

Friday, 6 June 2008

IDPs must leave public buildings or be removed

The Liberian government has issued a stern warning to all occupants of public buildings to vacate within three weeks or stand the risk of being removed. Addressing a news conference Wednesday in Monrovia, Information Minister Dr Laurence K Bropleh gave the occupants living in unfinished Ministry of National Defense building and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare building, both in Congo Town, as well as National Housing Authority on Ashmun Street and the True Whig Party's Roye Building up to June 27, 2008 to vacate. He said there would be no grace period for those who will not abide by the ultimatum, as government wants occupants to begin relocating themselves as soon as possible. He noted that the government has decided to take such action because many activities in those public buildings were of criminal nature. Additionally, the Information Minister disclosed that there are allocations for the renovation of public buildings, and as such, it is necessary for occupants to begin relocating to avoid forceful eviction. "We have ordered that every activity in those buildings especially the unfinished NHA building must cease with immediate effect,"Dr.Bropleh warned. The Chief spokesman of government indicated that everything has been put in place to ensure that a 24-hour security is provided to avoid trespassing. The government's decision to clear public buildings comes in the wake of a recent fire incident at the unfinished National Housing Authority Building which left the basement of the building burnt down, and thousands of dollars worth of properties destroyed. allafrica.com
There are still thousands and thousands of Internally Displaced People living in these buildings. Its a shame to throw them out just as the rainy season is starting, when the buildings will no doubt remain empty for many months to follow. Photo of IDPs living in the new Ministry of Health and Social Welfare building in Congo Town, which Sally used to jog past in the early morning when we lived down the road. She said that every morning dozens of men would stand on the edge of the balconies and urinate over the edge, in full view of passers-by. Huh. Olly

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Bong Iron Ore Range Out for US $1.6 Billion Bid

Four international mining companies have expressed interest in operating the Bong Range iron ore deposit, formerly Bong Mines, the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy has disclosed. Last week, the Ministry opened the sealed bids for the exploration of the Bong Range iron ore deposit with four bidders contesting: Vandanta Resources PLC from India; China Union Investment Ltd; a Liberian company, Beleh Resources Company Liberia Ltd, and an Israeli Firm, BSG Resources. The Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Dr Eugene Shannon, said the investment into the Bong Range is estimated at US$1.6 billion. "We are responding to the economic pillar where we continue to bring in more resources to reverse the migration pattern as well as resolve the crisis of migration from rural to urban areas. Monrovia now accommodates 1.6 million people but was made for 360,000. To have these people go back, we have to create centers for economic activities". allafrica.com
This is interesting news for the many hundreds of crew and ex-crew who have enjoyed trips up the railway to visit the abandoned and looted Bong Mines and risk their lives swimming with the bugs in the crystal clear lake...Olly

Monday, 2 June 2008

8 people die at Liberia -v- The Gambia football match

At least eight people died at a football match between Liberia and The Gambia last night, when a metal bar gave way and fans on one tier of a stadium fell on spectators seated in the tier below, a doctor and a rescue worker said. The 33,000-seat Samuel K. Doe Stadium in Monrovia was packed beyond capacity for the game, a qualifying match for the World Cup. Part of the crowd pushed up against the metal bar, causing it to snap. That sent dozens of people plunging to the floor below, witnesses said. The New York Times.
The match finished one-all. We were heading out to celebrate a friend's birthday in town whilst the stadium was emptying. The main road was lined with thousands of cheering fans who were waiting for the Liberian team to drive through the city. All the vehicles coming from the stadium were seriously overloaded, with cheering fans hanging off the sides, sitting on the roof, even sitting on the trunk! I am absolutely amazed that more people didn't die. Olly

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Fraudulent elections

The Republic of Liberia holds the world record for twice holding the most fraudulent elections in history, first in 1927 when President King was "elected", and again in 1985 when Presient Doe was "elected". Olly