So week two has drawn to an end. Here’s a list of the exciting events that have transpired. I meant to make some of these their own separate posts, but who has time for that?
I went to church this weekend. Last time I was here I met a local pastor, Luther Tarpeh, who was trained in Nigeria during the war and has since returned. He’s traveled quite a bit, and is well educated so I enjoy hearing him speak. My favorite driver and entrepreneur, Jonathan Saah, drove me to church. We had my surfboard on the roof of his car, and since church is on the way to the beach, I figured we’d kill two birds with one stone. On the way to church, we got pulled over by the local authorities for violating the traffic law by having something tied to the roof. Jonathan talked to them about it; I talked to them about it. I tried to get a more clear definition of this particular law in question but to no avail. So I asked if the car had a roof rack would it be OK? They said yes because it was made to carry things. So I explained that I had bought the surf bag and straps in America just to put this surfboard on this car. Showing that this was indeed made to carry surfboards on cars. At this point, we had been there for like 5 minutes and they had checked Jonathan’s paper work, which was legit. So they got bored, realized we weren’t going to give them a bribe, and let us go. Jonathan and I had a good laugh about the experience.
The church service was pretty good – a little different than what I was used to, but pretty good. I enjoyed Luther’s message on using our spiritual gifts for God, but they had this PA setup in this little bitty concrete classroom. I’m pretty sure they had no need for a PA in such a room, but they did, and the treble was turned all the way up. It was painfully loud. I wondered if the PA was broken, if no one knew how to operate an equalizer, or if this was the style, to play your music as loud as possible, or a bit of all three. It turned out the PA was Chinese, and all the labels on the knobs where in Chinese. Which is why they weren’t able to correctly tune the sound. Next time I’ll offer my assistance before the service. They had a 10 minute time when people gave testimonies of what God had done in their lives this week. I really liked that. I’m a big fan of the power of the personal story. One lady talked about how her daughter, who had been sick for a month, got better the day after her and the pastor prayed for her. I was also impressed with Luther’s desire to keep things on time. The church had much more of a charismatic flair than I am used to, as you’d expect in Africa, but Luther was the man in following God’s desire for order.
This church is located in Harbel, which is in the Firestone rubber plantation. I’m not a big fan of Firestone, and today didn’t make me like them anymore. The majority of the church members work for and live on the Firestone plantation. After the church service we had a baptism. They said it was going to be in the river. So I thought, “cool, a nice baptism in a cool tropical river.” It turned out to be a damned up river where everyone washes their clothes, and as best I could tell, where the sewer run-off goes; it was disgusting. Luther prayed that God would bless the water; I prayed that he would sterilize it. It just blew my mind that this is how these people live, and they find it acceptable to swim in such filth. It’s also revolting that an American company, that could easily afford to provide clean running water for it’s employees and proper sanitation, doesn’t. There’s no way they’d expect an American employee to live this way, and what’s the difference between an American and Liberian? I’d pay $10 more for a tire if I knew these people would be living an acceptable life. In Firestone’s defense, they do provide housing, schools, and a clinic for their employees, and their employees are the fortunate 20% of Liberians who have jobs, but Firestone still falls far short.
It was cool to see the baptism and the excitement of the people there. They kept singing “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” which was really cool. I’m a big fan of their prolific use of old hymns. No Passion CDs or talk of the latest David Crowder album here. They have some local songs that I’m sure I’d like if I could understand them. I really like old hymns.
The night before, at a party, I met a girl who’s boyfriend surfed. So after church I met up with them at Al Jehazi beach. Apparently, this is the beach to surf at. I met four other surfers there. The waves were pretty big, and I didn’t get up, which sucked, but it was still cool meeting other surfers. I’m hoping to surf with them more. In the pictures to the right you can see Sam catching a nice ride.
In other news, I obtained by residency permit on Monday. I’m now able to live here for a year. I received a TRC ID card. Now I’m all official. And my first Ecobank checkbook arrived. At first, I wasn’t too impressed; the checks are just stapled together. But then I noticed that they do have holograms, so now I’m impressed. My Wachovia checks don’t have holograms.
This is a picture of the TRC public hearings in the Centennial Pavilion in downtown Monrovia just so you guys can get an idea of what they look like. This is the building where Liberians inaugurate their presidents.