Secret Service and Congress

GATECH-1 and the SSSI’m two weeks behind on my blogging and still pretty busy so I’ll be brief, or at least write a lot hastily. Two weeks ago I was able to go again to Robertsport, and once again it was a lot of fun. I traveled with a group that included the wife of one of the President’s senior advisors. So we had our own secret service guard traveling with us. He had a gun and everything, Glock-17 if you’re curious. I even had my car washed alongside the President’s motorcade of secret service vehicles. They were using a pressure washer and after a lot of talking they finally let me use it. I don’t think they understood why I wanted to do their job. I was just excited to be using a pressure washer in a country that doesn’t have running water.

Me about to drop inMy head against the sun setThe surfing was pretty good. Not as great as the week before, but still pretty good. Michael and I from right to play had a lot of good waves. For once we brought other people with us who had cameras. So we have some pictures of us surfing. Nothing to spectacular, but it’s still better than nothing. We also did some dusk surfing and had some awesome pictures of us against the sun set. Thanks to Amy Kirkwood and Gwen for the pictures.

Us on the porch of our tentWe stayed at Nana’s lodge. After hanging out a bunch in their bar, I finally got to sleep in their tents. It wasn’t half bad for a tent. The power cut out at night, so the fan also cut out, and it got a little hot. The sheets were a little stiff, probably still brand new, but other than that I was happy.

In other news this week Jonathan Saah, who I had posted about a few months ago, received the check for his microloan. He was pretty excited about it. He told me he had already begun talking with the landlord of the place he wants to move his café too. He also assured me that he’d be very timely in his repaying of the loan. I’ll keep you posted on this business venture.

Two Fridays ago myself and a crew from the TRC made it out to Groovies night club. The local band was pretty good and the drinks were reasonable. It was a lot of fun getting to hang out with those guys. In this picture Fully and I are hanging out at the table. Other pictures is just really cool looking and of Fully. It has not other purpose for being here than that.

Mr. Smith and II also had the opportunity to take Mr. Smith, a blind double amputee I’ve come to know, to one of the MercyShips clinics to see if they could help with his eyes. Smith lost his forearms and eye sight in the war. I was told to arrive early at these clinics so Smith and I arrived a little after 7 in the morning and there was already 40 people in line. The folks there seemed a little thrown off that I was in line. I hate pulling the white card, so I told them we’d wait in line like everyone else, but after a while they made us move forward.

Smith is one of my favorite amputee friends because of his constant gratitude and pleasantness. He’s never given me a hard time about not giving him enough and is always happy to know I’m about. Plus, no arms and no eyes in Liberia just can’t be easy.

Sadly the people at the clinic said they wouldn’t be able to help Smith’s eyes. The blindness was caused by scaring to the eyes due to an explosion he encountered in the war, and not because of cataracts or other treatable causes. I was afraid of how Smith might take this, but he was very OK with it. He said he was just thankful to be alive and that God would help him.

Smith and I at his houseAfter the clinic we both hung out at his place of dwelling for a while. It was modest, but not bad for a guy in his position. I met his wife and youngest son. He told me he had two other children that stay at a mission across town. His friend who leads him around told me that they can make around 200 Liberian dollars a day begging. That’s about $3.50 a day. At the end of the day they split it 50/50 he told me. While that is by no means enough money for anyone, it is enough for them to not starve. Smith asked me if I’d give his wife some money so that she could open up a small shop at the back of their home and sell stuff so he wouldn’t have to beg. I had him write down all the things he’d want to seed the business with and that we’d go shopping next week. I’ll keep you posted on that as well.

Presentation for CongressThis past week was also super busy. I was asked by a diplomatic officer at the US Embassy to give a presentation on our work with the TRC to a congressional delegation that was touring Liberia. USAID had given the TRC half a million dollars and they wanted to know what the TRC was doing. So on Monday I got to present. It was pretty neat. They all seemed impressed by it. I really felt like my Georgia Tech education had prepared me for such an event. Since every project based computer class I took ended with a PowerPoint presentation. I just thought of it as another end of semester presentation and went with it, didn’t even get nervous. On a side note, the fridge in the conference room the delegation had taken over was pretty well stocked with beer and other beverages. They even had Sam Adams. I couldn’t believe it. They would have to flown that over here themselves since you can’t get it here. I was really bummed that I had to present and couldn’t just drink a Sam Adams and listen to the other presentations.

Kristen and I at 4th of July partyThe US Ambassador to Liberia was also at the presentation. I was told that he was so impressed with the presentation that he had my name added to the embassy’s super exclusive July 4th party guest list. So on Friday I went there. That was super cool. It was held at the American School which I had never been to. It was as nice as my high school in the states. A lot of top government officials and foreign representatives where there. The Vice President was there and gave a speech. I think Ellen was out of town, otherwise I’m sure she would have been there. This is a picture of Kristen, who works with me at the TRC for another NGO and me at the party. Kristen’s presentation at the same congressional meeting also got her in the party. Sadly there were no fireworks, but we did get a presentation of the colors and the national anthem. That was very cool.

Steph, Trokon, John, and Zoey at blue lakeI’ve also been taking GT’s kiosk video project out and about. We went to Robertsport and Tubmanburg. I have some video of the unit being used here. It’s kind of crude, but get’s the point across. While at Tubmanburg we visited blue lake. Also, some of you may notice that Stephanie Kruse is now here with me. She’s hanging out and enjoying all that Liberia has to offer. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get her hooked up with a little bit of something to do while she’s here other than watching me work.

Gwen and I after churchFinally this weekend two of my roommates left, Amanda Leese and Gwen. We had a going away party for them and Gwen, who is a PhD candidate study Pentecostal Christianity, was “flowered” by one of the churches she attends for her going away. We both got all dressed up in more traditional dress for the occasion. I was told we were fortunate that the service only last 2 hours instead of 4.


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