Sunday, August 11, 2013

So you want braids?

For the past four weeks, I have been the anomaly in our group of trainees.  Why, you ask?  One Saturday in July, I, along with my sisters Mona and Ma-Dee, headed to the market to get my hair braided.  We were visiting the shop of Miss Margibi County for the day – for real, Miss Margibi County herself braided my hair!  She just finished her third year studying accounting at Cuttington University here in Liberia, and in the summers, she braids hair to help pay for classes.  Her name is Patience, and I have never met anyone who dresses quite like she does.  Her hair was perfect, her jewelry was “plenty,” and she was wearing the most obnoxious orange pants.  But she did a rocking job on my hair, so who am I to complain?

Patience, her mother Hannah, and my sisters Mona and Fatu all helped in the process; thank goodness for their willingness to give the white woman braids.  The process consisted of adding four packs of hair to the hair that I already have – this hair is super long, jet black, and completely synthetic.  The way it works is this:  they take a small amount of fake hair, fold it in half, hold the folded end at the root of my hair, and braid my hair into the extension.  (While my friends like to joke that I have a “weave,” in reality, they’re just braided extensions.) 

So here’s the deal.  If you want braids, follow these rules:

1.       Eat a big breakfast.  After sitting for nine and a half hours, I was famished.  While the girls braiding my hair were able to eat on a rotating schedule, having your head at all sorts of weird angles is not conducive to eating.

2.       Speaking of nine and a half hours, take a pillow along with you.  Sitting on a wooden bench gets old very quickly.  While the women encouraged me to take “stretch breaks,” I still was aching to stand for the last six hours.

3.       Take lots of Tylenol before you go – the hair is heavy, and you will have a headache for the next two days.

4.       Make sure you have a scarf to wrap up your hair at night.  This is very important.

5.       Washing your hair will become a thing of the past.  Well, you’ll only have to do it once a week.  It takes time in a bucket bath, but it’s worth it.

6.       Get used to the “hair pat” quickly.  It’s almost impossible to scratch your head here, and for some reason, once you get braids, your head gets much itchier.  Instead, pat your head where it is itching…phenomenally, it works!

Roosevelt and I  
My sisters and I. 
All joking aside, I have loved having these braids.  It’s been a great way to integrate into my family and community, and I get lots of comments when I’m on a walkabout with my sisters – “your hair is fine-o!” or “sistah, you’re bluffin’ with your braids today!”  Unfortunately, these braids will have a short life.  My own hair is too “slippery,” and it is starting to come out of the braids.  I will keep it in for our swearing in ceremony; after that, Sarah and I are planning to take them out before we get to Pleebo.  It will be a great roommate bonding experience, I guess :) 

Much love,


Baking…in Liberia…on the Coal Pot

You’re all probably looking at the title of this blog post and wondering what I’m talking about.  Well, it’s exactly as it sounds.  I have figured out (for brownies, at least) just how to bake something delicious on the coal pot.

I picked up cocoa powder when we were in Monrovia in July and it has been staring at me since.  I knew I wanted to make brownies at some point during my time here, and I figured last weekend was as good of a time as any! 

Here is the set up.  First, you make your batter – classic recipe, just like in the States.  Next, you build a big fire in your coal pot.  Grease the cook pot you’re using, pour the batter in, invert the lid, and put the majority of the coals on the top of your pot.  Place the pot on a small fire for a short time to cook the bottom, then take it off the fire and let the coals on the top do the cooking. 

This is a coal pot - my version of an stove for the next two years.

It takes time to master the technique, if only because the coals on top of the cook pot make things incredibly hot and difficult to handle.  (We burnt through a hot pad while I was at my home stay.)  It was completely worth it, though, and the neighbors loved them!  I even left the ingredients with my sister so that she can make brownies for the family when I’m not there. 

If anything else, it was a great integration activity, and I’m glad I did it.  It also makes me feel better about our lives in Pleebo.  For those hard weeks, we can at least enjoy brownies from home :)  (Sally, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send me some chocolate chip cookies, though.  Those things are delicious.)  Next on my list?  Bread.  Let’s see how that goes – stay tuned!

Much love,


Last Week of PST

I cannot believe where the last eight weeks have gone.  Tomorrow, we meet Ma Ellen and swear in as official Peace Corps Volunteers.  Then on Tuesday, Sarah and I (along with four other volunteers in the southeast) fly to Maryland County to start our official service!  First of all, I want to thank all of you for your support while I have been here – it has been incredibly helpful in keeping me sane.  The emails, texts, and phone conversations are all greatly appreciated.

So what have I been up to since I last posted?  Model school finished, and I was very proud of all of my students.  They definitely came a long way from where they were when we started, and I, as a teacher, learned so much in those first three weeks.  There was a closing ceremony on the Saturday following model school’s completion, but due to a “runny belly,” I stayed home.  Kind of a bummer, but I’m feeling much better now! 

This last week was full of last-minute training opportunities, a final medical session, an admin session (where we got paid!), and all of the drama that comes with moving back to Doe Palace from our home stays.  Thursday night, we had a closing ceremony with our host families, and that was fun.  We sang the Liberian and American national anthems, presented certificates to our host families, and they were given invitations to our swearing-in program on Monday. 

Friday morning, we moved back into Doe.  I don’t know how I managed to do so, but I have significantly more stuff now than I did when I moved in.  Thankfully, I was able to purchase a cheap bag in the market to pack up my things.  We will stay here until tonight, go to Monrovia tomorrow, stay in Monrovia, and then fly to Maryland County on Tuesday. 

For the swearing-in program tomorrow, we are all getting dressed up in our lapa suits and “bluffin’” for Ma Ellen.  I have an Obama lapa, which means that it costs more money and is shiny.  (I’m not sure why it’s called Obama, but it is…)  Speaking of lapa suits, I now have three Liberian suits.  I picked out fabric that I liked and took it to a tailor to get it made into something that I can wear to teach in, etc.  One of my favorite fabrics he turned into a lapa suit that I love…had he not put pink tulle (I think?) as accents on the sleeves and the hem of the skirt.  Sarah told me it looks like something you’d wear to an 80s prom…so there’s that.  Good thing is, it is completely acceptable to look like that here, so I’m not worried too much.

Speaking of prom, we had a PST Prom on Friday night.  Held at Kem’s Guesthouse next door, we had music, beverages, and cake!  For $80 LD each (about one dollar US), we were able to enjoy cassava cake, banana cake, and “icing cake” – after not having much of anything that resembled a baked good here, that cake was delicious.  In other news, Sarah and I created the playlist for the evening, and it was awesome.  Pulling from my extensive music library of the “Now That’s What I Call Music” CDs, we jammed out to tunes from the late 90s/early 00s.  It was awesome, and I would even say it was much better than any prom I’ve ever heard about happening in America. 

This weekend has been awesome.  Having absolutely no place to be has felt incredibly liberating; after living by Peace Corps’ schedule for most of the last eight weeks, having our own agenda is a good feeling.  (Remind me how much I love this concept in a year, when I’m complaining about having too much free time…) 

Today, I will go visit my host family for the last time.  My sisters are all sad that I’m leaving, but such is life.  I will be sure to visit them when I come back to Doe Palace for training or other reasons, so it’s not like we’ll never see each other again :) 

In other news, Sarah and I make a great pair.  She somehow acquired pink eye over the last few days, and I have a nice spot of ringworm on my arm.  Thankfully, Dr. Shelly, our medical officer here in Liberia, provided her with an eye drop solution, and I found the anti-fungal cream in our med kit.  Hopefully we have gotten our sicknesses out of the way now and we'll be healthy during our time in Maryland County!  

Here’s to the next two years!


So you want to be a teacher (for the Peace Corps in Liberia)?

I’ve been reflecting on model school this week, and I’ve realized just how many lessons I learned in my small class these last three weeks.  Enjoy this list :)

1.       Always plan extra on the end of your lessons.  Running out of time is uncomfortable.

2.       If in doubt, ask one of your Liberian students to repeat something you just said back to the class. Their Liberian English is much better than yours will ever be.

3.       Chalkboards are a pain to write on.  To all of my teachers in early elementary who used the chalkboard, kudos to you.  This knock-off chalk is something else…

4.       Always bring an extra “duster” (eraser) with you to class. They disappear faster than LD from your pocket on a trip to Monrovia.

5.       Do not – I repeat, do not – forget to greet your class.  No matter how much of a rush you’re in, they will be offended if you do not say “Good Morning, 10th grade” first thing.

6.       On that note, be sure to speak with your students outside of class.  If you pass them in the market or on the road and forget to greet them, they will be vexed with you the following class period.  (And I didn’t even see the girl who was so upset with me…I need to be more watchful, I guess.

7.       Giving students “the look” can make them be quiet almost instantly.  I never had to use a student’s name to call them out.

8.       On that note, Liberian students are afraid to be shamed.  If you want to effectively punish a class, shame them (or the offending student).  They will respect you for it the next day, and your class can move forward as it should.  (When I say shame them, call them out individually, or as one volunteer suggested, just leave class.  They will be so bummed about missing out on that class they will behave the next day.) 

9.       Class periods are 45 minutes.  In reality, that is not much time, and you will spend most of it writing notes on the board.  Liberian students do not have text books; therefore, the only information they have is what you provide to them on the board.  Take time to do this, though – it is very important.

10.   Diagrams are super important.  That being said, it is also super important that you teach a Liberian student how to draw a diagram.  If you don’t, their arrow to the cell membrane could very easily be pointing to the nucleus, and they wouldn’t realize the problems that can cause.

All in all, teaching here is radically different from teaching in the States.  It’s not a bad thing, but it does take some getting used to.  American students are used to procedures that Liberian students are not used to, and it takes time to introduce these things to Liberian students.  My classroom management has improved tremendously, and I have become more confident in my abilities to teach science at the high school level.  If anything, this has allowed me to really review this material, and that’s been very helpful.

Much love to you all,

Miss Moore

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Approaching ten years of peace

A volunteer shared this link on the PC Liberia Facebook page, and I think it's a good perspective on the lives of the child soldiers of the war.  As August 18th is soon approaching (the 10 year anniversary of a peaceful country), I think it is appropriate to consider where this country has been and to think about where this country is going. 

I hope you enjoy the article, friends.

Much love, 

Time keeps on ticking...

I am in the midst of my last few days of model school, and we are less than two weeks from swearing in!  Where is time going!? 

Friday, July 26th was Liberia’s Independence Day, and it was great to have a three-day weekend!  We spent the day at home, cooking and just hanging out.  Many neighborhood children stopped by, telling me that “their 26th is on me.”  What does that mean?  It means that I am supposed to give them something so they can celebrate the 26th.  I ended up buying a bunch of “stick candy” – lollipops, actually – and passing those out to the children who regularly are at our house. 

My ma cooked us cabbage soup with “cow meat” – beef – and it was delicious.  So good.  I hope she makes it again.  :)  We hung out as a family and enjoyed a day off; overall, it was a great way to celebrate Liberia’s 166th birthday!

Saturday, we headed to the market so that I could buy some lappa to get a few outfits made, including one for our swearing in!  I found some really pretty prints and we took them to a tailor.  Next week, hopefully, they will be finished, and I will be ready to meet Ma Ellen!  I also picked up some popcorn for super cheap for us to cook at home – hooray for an easy snack!

The rest of the weekend was pretty typical – we did laundry, cooked some meals, and just hung out at home.  I worked on some lesson plans and just got ready for the week.  This week has been busy with the last few days of model school, and it couldn’t be going better!  My class seems to know the content pretty well, and I hope that they do well on the final exam tomorrow. 

We have all settled into a routine here, and things seem to be the same day after day.  It will be hard to break this routine in the next two weeks, once Sarah and I move to Pleebo, but I am sure that we will be just fine once we get there.  We found out a few days ago that we are going to get to take a helicopter to our site, and I’m super excited! 

My timeline for the rest of my time as a Peace Corps Trainee looks something like this.  Friday, August 9th, we move back into Doe Palace and get to spend the weekend with air conditioning and running water.  Then, on August 12th, we go to Monrovia and are sworn in as volunteers.  We get to spend the night in a hotel in Monrovia – big city life! – and then fly to Pleebo on either the 13th or 14th, depending on the UN flight schedule.  We can take one small bag with us, and the Peace Corps car will bring our luggage out to us in a week or so. 

I’m getting very anxious to move, yet it is so bizarre to me that we have been here for six weeks.  Time is really flying, and I hope that this is not indicative of my next two years.  I would like to enjoy my time here :)

I hope all is well back home!  I miss you all.

Much love,