Healthy Soul

Alive and Kicking in Harper City, Maryland County, Republic of Liberia

Whew! I am so excited to be connected to you again. Five months of wishing and hoping for today. It has taken me five months to learn:

1. Electrical systems need transformers – step-up and step-down – to regulate the flow. There are no power grids here. Each institution and/or home that has electriciy self-provides using generators of varying capacities. The university’s system feeds the current directly into our homes. It is up to us, the residents to get the equipment to protect our computers and appliances from the surges. I got this “power station” after my printer cord and cable converter box sizzled one Sunday morning.

Jennifer's power station

Jennifer's in-home power station. I have a transformer/regulator (the black and white box) to protect my appliances from power surges. It allows me to plug in appliances using 110V as well as those using 220 V. So I added two extension cords one for the 110 V appliances and one for the other appliances. The other black box is a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) that gives me about 30 additional minutes of power when the electricity goes off.

2. A cash only society means more than just not being able to use a credit or debit card to make purchases in Liberia. To my chagrin it also means that I am unable to make credit card purchases online for delivery to my sister’s address in the USA. The compressor on my computer gave up the ghost at the end of April. There seemed to be no replacement parts easily accessible in Harper. Calls to computer stores in Monrovia didn’t just want the part number, they wanted to see the computer as much of the spare parts are actually used parts. The decision was made to get a new computer. Bestbuy to the rescue I thought.

Can you imagine the frustration and sense of hopelessness when 10 minutes after placing the order and getting an approval code, there was an email message cancelling the order? That experience continues to be repeated at sites from which I had been ordering since I arrived here in January. No, the card has not been maxed out. Amazon seems to be the only online site accepting orders from Liberia. Apparently orders cannot be placed from IP addresses originating in Liberia. Talk about isolation!

3. Our local hospital – J. J. Dossen – functions without a surgical team. Every two months a medical team from the Tappita Hospital takes the eight hour drive, one way, to Harper for three days of surgery.

Dr. Sodey Lake, Nursing Director, Jackson F. Doe Memorial Regional Referral Hospital, Tappita, Nimba County, Liberia

Dr. Sodey Lake, Nursing Director, Jackson F. Doe Memorial Regional Referral Hospital, Tappita, Nimba County, Liberia. Dr. Lake along with Dr. Francis Kateh, the Medical Director, bring a team of doctors and nurses to perform surgeries, at no cost to the patients, at Harper's J.J. Dossen Hospital.

4. We will still have fun even when all the things we consider necessary for living, communication and health care seem to go awry. Patricia Jones and I took a trip to Prollo, Cote d’Ivoire in March. Getting from Liberia to Cote d’Ivoire near Harper means crossing the Cavalla River. We took the canoe, sans life jackets.

Jennifer and Patricia crossing the Cavalla River from Liberia to Cote d'Ivoire by canoe

Jennifer and Patricia crossing the Cavalla River from Liberia to Cote d'Ivoire by canoe.

5. Reverend Rita Townsend introduced a group of us to “The Rock”. A splendid way to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean without gambling with the riptides and undertows.

Rev. Rita Townsed, Tubman University's VP for Institutional Advancement introduces newcomers to "The Rock" - a special lookout point for enjoying the Atlantic Ocean. My first visit here was shared with Rev. Rita (foreground) and Iona Thomas-Connor, Chair, Nursing Department in the College of Health Sciences.

Rev. Rita Townsed, Tubman University's VP for Institutional Advancement introduces newcomers to "The Rock" - a special lookout point for enjoying the Atlantic Ocean. My first visit here was shared with Rev. Rita (foreground) and Iona Thomas-Connor, Chair, Nursing Department in the College of Health Sciences.

What has been happening in your life these past months? Birthdays, graduations, christenings, retirement parties . . . I’ve missed them all!

 

4 Comments

  1. Greetings Jennifer: I am glad to hear your updates. I was concerned with I didn’t hear from you for so long. I was sure it was an issue with power or “wifi”. Reading about the inability to use credit cards in Liberia makes one see how entangled our lives are with technology and online access. What is the reason behind the lack of credit card usage originating from Liberia? Also, your pictures were great. You look so peaceful on the boat. Miss you.

    • Hey Helen – I did not realize how much I would miss the easy, spontaneous, rambling conversations we would have! I am not quite sure about the exact reason for not approving credit card orders from Liberia, but this country is one so many “watch” lists since the war. Although there has been stable governance since 2005 many countries have still not removed the restrictions. Conducting banking transactions are stressors – you can be in line for hours to make a simple withdrawal. And yes, my life was so entangled with technology. I rarely went into a bank because I could use my ATM card for purchases and to make withdrawals anytime or any place. Here the closest ATM is in Zwedru, a town that is 6 hours away by car. And even if I got there there would be no guarantee that money would available.

      I’ve learned to live with cash. The exchange rate is $76 LRD to $1 USD – so when you walk out of the bank you have large stacks of bills, especially if the teller decides to give you 20’s or 50’s. The interesting thing is that there seems to be no robbery of persons leaving the banks with large black plastic bags that everyone knows has money.

      That canoe ride was fun – but it took a lot of nerve to sit there so close to the surface of the large deep river with strong currents.

  2. Greetings Dear One,

    What an adventure! I’m loving your courage and flexibility. I like that you balance the challenges with the pleasures. We often get such a one-sided view of traveling to Africa, either all positive or all negative, it’s so refreshing to hear both sides and how you maneuver yourself to it. I am so appreciating reading your blog. Travel Memoir Book in the future…:) ?

    • Hey there Indigne – This trip has taken me through the gamut of emotions – personally and professionally. I am learning so much about myself and what it really means to be outside my comfort zone. I am owning up just how much I have taken for granted. Travel memoirs . . . a possibility. Thanks for hanging in with me.

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