Saturday, July 12, 2008

One of my favorite times of day here is pool time. It’s at the end of the day (4:00) and it’s a time for just having fun with the kids.

Most of the rest of my time has been spent doing this:

a HUGE spreadsheet that has probably any bit of information we could want about the products being made in the sheltered workshop (inventory, sales, new production, retail value, orders shipped out, etc. etc.). I had studied accounting, and as a result some related business classes, for the first 2 ½ years I was in university – and when I finally clued in that, even though I liked math and calculus and it all came easily to me, becoming a businessman wasn’t in my future, I left the field and never took a backward glance to see what I was missing. And none of my part time (or full time, for that matter) jobs were ever in retail. The thought of that has always given me a bit of a shudder. I always went for the food industry – fast food, fine (or at least nice – or maybe interesting) dining. This choice always came with some nice fringe benefits (free, or at least discounted, meals). And now I find myself in Africa, at a wonderful place, with good people and with people for whom I have a lot of admiration and respect (Ineke, the founder, recently received from the President of Ghana a national recognition award for her contribution to the Ghanaian health care system – in particular for instituting an insurance scheme for the hospital she was in back in the 80’s, upon which the national health insurance is now based). But I am basically an office- , and what feels to me like a sort-of business-, person, teaching myself Excel and creating monstrous spreadsheets, organizing a shop for selling the necklaces and other bead products we make, managing some personnel (which I'm learning is not something I'm so good at in this setting), and needing to do small talk with visitors hoping that they will buy things, but even more importantly carry parcels with our products to our distributor in Holland. It’s what’s needed to be done at this time, but . . . uggh. In the past I’ve sometimes avoided parties and other social occasions because I’m no good at small talk stuff (although, most of the time once I’ve started talking with people it’s fine, and even interesting). It’s not the most inspiring work for me – hence these multi-monthly time lags between blog updates – and not something that’s easy for me to feel passionate about, which is too bad. But, it’s for a beautiful project, filled with beautiful children. It’s good to learn these new skills, I guess, and to be challenged to do things I would normally avoid (being outgoing, doing inventories, etc.), but facing this field I happily left behind many years ago makes the 4:00 pool time an even more wonderful escape. (I have a couple of other escapes – so hopefully I’ll update the blog again sometime soon.) And - there's always hope that in the future there may be changes in my role to make more suited to my skills and interests.

I’ve also been fortunate to have a friend of mine – a Liberian guy I’ve known for 15 years! – visit me a couple of times. It was great to have an old friend around, someone to talk freely with, to have some good times with, etc. He was also able to give me some updates on what’s happening on the camp. Here are also a few links (some older, some more recent):

CRAJ urges refugees to abide by laws of host countries

Liberia: to return or not to return?

Relaunched Liberian repatriation operation gains momentum

Tripartite Committee Meets On Liberian Refugees

Liberia: 'The Love Of Liberty Brought Us Here'

I recently had to go to the coast for an SMA meeting, and while there I was able to see a few friends from the camp. Even the most nervous of these has felt the tension and fear ease up in the past month or so. They no longer feel the pressure to get out as soon as possible.

The only other visitors I’ve had mostly stay outside, but a few make it in. Here are some photos of these folks:

The big black scorpion was somewhere else on the compound, in fact, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen any more of them at the house. And the browner Praying Manthis chose to live inside with me for about a week, then disappeared. I hope he’s happy – or maybe he’s had his head eaten by his spouse (isn’t that what they do?).


At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Praying mantis - I believe it's the females that eat the males!! My zoology degree has to be good for something :)

At 2:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well you could have left those last pictures off completely--double ugh on those. Let's keep hoping that they stay outside and don't decide to pay you a closer visit.

At 11:30 PM, Blogger Rick said...

What a great batch of photos! I love the pool pix - that just looks so inviting. And the contrast between the happy kids in the pool and your spreadsheet of data - hmmm, which looks like more fun? And all the bugs are amazing - I almost missed seeing the toad in the corner of the photo with the moth. A real menagerie you have going. Next I'll have to check out the links and read up a bit. Thanks for the post.

At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great insight into your happenings and a world so far from ours. Your post indicates your overall pleasure at what you're accomplishing and the uniqueness it offers. Keep up your photography skills, people are hard to capture with sincere emotion and realistic not posed settings.
Like I know something. Be safe, you're in our prayers always
Mark & Debbie FL.


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