Friday, March 28, 2014


We had a visit from our Peace Corps staff in January for a training session and with them, they brought packages!!  As many of you know, packages are a very exciting part of our life.  While we could definitely live with the items available here at site, the things that packages bring are a nice change of pace for us.

I just wanted to send a shout out to LaDonna for the package and the letter!  I’m grateful for your friendship and support.  I also want to thank Sue for the letter – it was a nice surprise and I love the updates on life back home :)  To Mom, of course, thank you for the boxes.  And from the looks of it, Sarah will be heading to Monrovia at the end of April, so hopefully we will have some more fun things waiting for us there.  :)

If you ever send me anything, it wouldn’t hurt to send me an email and let me know that you did.  I can then watch for it and let you know when I receive it!  And as always, I love updates from home.  I know I’m not updating as often as some of you would like, but I’d love to hear from you anyway!  Our internet situation is a little more stable these days, so I can access email/Facebook more often.  If you send me a message, I promise to reply.  Please just be patient with me.

I miss you all!  Stay warm over there, and I’ll see you in a little over a year :)

Love Sis Nyemade


Our students are notorious for giving us random gifts when they feel generous (or when their family has produce that they cannot eat before it spoils).  Lately, Sarah and I have been on the receiving end of quite a few gifts.

This week is finals week and on Tuesday, we received the biggest pineapple we have yet to receive – no joke, this pineapple was as big as my head.  We cut it up and ended up giving half to the children in our neighborhood; there is just no way the both of us could eat all that pineapple!  Another student gave us ten bananas on Tuesday, so we have been eating fruit like it’s going out of style.  We question whether they expect to pass their exams now that they have given us gifts…the answer to that, of course, is no, but we’re grateful for their generosity :)

The weirdest thing that I have had happen to me concerning gifts, though, came when a female student dropped $20 LD in my lap on her way to recess a few weeks ago.  I was helping another student, and when I noticed she had dropped something in my lap, I looked down to find this money.  Now, $20 LD is only about $0.25 American, but it can buy you something to eat here.  When she was walking back to class, I stopped her and asked why she gave me money.

Her response was that it was her gift to me, “from her heart.”  I explained that it is not correct for a teacher to accept money from a student, even if it is just small money for something to eat at recess.  I told her I appreciated the gesture but that I could not accept it.  She was very confused, as many teachers here still work on the bribe system – many times I have seen students slip $50 or $100 LD into a copy book for a good grade on a quiz or assignment – but I hope that she understood where I was coming from.

I don’t expect to completely change the culture surrounding teacher conduct while I am here, but if I can educate a few students on what is acceptable and what should never be done by teachers, then I guess I’m doing an okay job.  My stories about teacher conduct are plenty, and maybe one day, I will elaborate, but until then, just know that Sarah and I are the odd ones out at school some days.  That is fine, though.  I’d much rather be fair and disliked for not “helping a student” and changing their grade, than be a teacher who only works for small money here and there.

So until then, we will accept pineapples and bananas as gifts from our students, and maybe even sweet bread and juice at recess time.  I appreciate the relationship that we have with our students, and I hope that they are learning as much from me as I am learning from them. 

Growing Up

There is a two year old girl who lives in the house next to us named Grace.  Her mom sells fish for Regina and she has just started leaving Grace behind while she sells for the morning.  When we first moved to our community, Grace would go with her mom and all would be fine.  Now, however, her mom has to run away in the mornings before Grace realizes she is gone.  While I recognize it as a step in growing up, it is also incredibly sad to watch every day.

Lately, her mom has been telling her that she needs to “pee-pee” before going to work.  She will leave her basket on the ledge of the porch and run into the latrine building near the house.  When Grace sees her go inside, she’ll walk away slowly back onto the porch.  After a few minutes, her mom will peek out, see that Grace is gone, grab her basket of fish, and run out of site.  Ten minutes later, or so, it will dawn on Grace that her mom is still in the bathroom.

She will toddle her way over to the latrine and knock on the door, repeating “Mama?  Mama-oh!” until someone comes and hauls her back to the porch.  She cries and cries, falls asleep, wakes up, and the process will start again.  All this anguish is forgotten, however, when she sees her mom come home from the market.  The tears suddenly stop, she gets a huge smile on her face, and she waves at us as if to say, “See?  She did return for me!”  She is growing up small-small, but until then, we are left watching her question why her mom must spend hours in the latrine in the morning.  :)


March 9th, Sarah and I went over to our neighbor Annie to buy some bananas and we inquired about how her cat babies were doing.  We knew that her cat had recently had kittens, and we still wanted to get one.  Sure enough, it was time for us to bring our cat baby home.  Margot has now been a part of our household for two and a half weeks, and she is finally starting to earn her keep! 

We feed her milk, rice, and fish on a rotating basis, and she has started supplementing her diet with creatures she finds in our house.  Lately, that has included cockroaches, giant flies, and small lizards!  A few nights ago, however, I stood up and slid on something in our living room (it was dark and I couldn’t see what was on the floor).  We grabbed flashlights and found vomit – yuck.  Picking it up, we noticed something long and white…and soon, we noticed it was moving.

After consultation with one of her friends back home (thanks Tressa!), we concluded that Margot has roundworm.  Lovely.  We are currently in the process of trying some homeopathic remedies, hoping that it will kill her roundworm.  While there is a veterinarian in Monrovia, that is two days away and roundworm meds just aren’t worth $120 in a taxi and five days of travel.

She’s fun to have around, and I’m grateful she has started to kill the creatures she finds in our house.  This is her territory, too, and I’m happy she wants it all to herself.  Now if she could just kill some mice, we’d be set.  In time, I hope!

Babies, babies, babies

It is now officially Spring, though Liberia does not really have seasons like I have grown up thinking of seasons.  Everywhere around us, babies are being born.  The ducks that belong to our neighbors have been having babies – the latest group is 13 ducklings! – the chicks are plenty, and so many of the women we encounter seem to be pregnant.  Families are large here, and women tend to have babies until they can no longer become pregnant.

Our neighbor’s sister came to live with them about three months ago, and she gave birth on Decoration Day, March 12.  We knew that she was pregnant and that she was due to give birth soon, but we never realized it would happen like it did.  That day, Sarah and I were sitting on our porch and enjoying the national holiday when our neighbor went running by to get the midwife.  Perry’s mom is the midwife in our community, and soon she came running over.

A few hours later, we saw Gertrude, a small girl who lives in the same house.  We asked her if Beatrice had her baby, and Gertrude’s response was perfect – “Yes!  She’s fine!”  In this context, “fine” does not mean well or healthy, but instead, it means beautiful.  In the course of an hour, Beatrice had her first child, a daughter she has named Blessing.  I got to meet her a few days later, and she is beautiful.  It’s amazing to me how nonchalant the experience was; nothing stopped for this birth, and she gave birth right at the house with only a midwife and her sister attending to her.

Today, two weeks later, Beatrice is busy as ever, washing diapers and clothes every day, hauling water, and taking care of her newborn.  Looking at her, though, you’d never know she just had a baby.  When something is this routine in a society, there is no bounce back time, I guess.