Again much has happened since our last post I don't really know where to start. Well, lets start with the tournament. The PAC girls kickball team attempted to host a 4 team tournament. This is something that does not happen often in the pipeline community. After a chain of events the tournament finally started at 3PM Sunday August 5th when it was originally intended to start Saturday at 2PM. Here I think Jerome and I are the only ones who are ever on time. I think after 2 months we slowly are adjusting to showing up several hours late and we still would be early. Anyway, the games started off late but well until someone thought someone else was cheating them and then chaos broke out. I think a few hours passed with everyone arguing with each other why a certain team should play in the final vs a different team. ha ha ha....I have never seen anything like it. On the up side though, the PAC girls controlled themselves very well, it was probably to please me but in any case they maintained the "peace". At the end of the day the winner was awarded 500LD (8 US dollars).
New PAC programs have recently begun. The Life-Skills training program began a few weeks ago and a lot of people have shown interest. Especially for the tailoring program where new students seem to be showing up every week to sign up. The drafting/construction department is doing well also with high student attendance. All of this training is offered for free as most of these kids don't really have any money to pay for anything. We're really impressed with the PAC volunteer instructors also. They've shown great commitment and are working hard to make this program happen. Lots of young girls and mothers attend the tailoring program when most of them don't even have any other formal schooling. Most of them are illiterate. It's pretty cool to see them all there showing so much interest though. Jerome and I donated a little bit of money towards these programs to encourage them to keep things rolling. They really don't have many materials so this money will help to go towards a few basic teaching materials.
On April 8th we departed from our friends at PAC. We had a very nice going away the day before and it felt strange not to return to our compound every night. I'm going to miss the children, having a home base, the traditional Liberian food, our walks to the market and much more. One thing I will not miss is our toilet and our dusty room!!
So our journey to the Ivory Coast was quite the adventure! We decided to travel by land as flying was 5 times the price. We left Monrovia at 10AM on April 8th via bush taxi. This taxi is a small toyota corolla. Jerome and I payed for three seats as they usually carry 4 passangers in the back and two in the front passanger seat. By paying for three seats ensured that only one person sat in the front but still four sat in the back. Jerome and I rotated a few hours in the front seat and then a few in the back squished against 2 other men and another lady. So the journey took 10 hours to get across Liberia. Liberia's roads are very poor. There are about 4 hours of pavement that has not been maintained through out the war so there are pot holes everywhere! After the pavement the road is merely a dusty (because it is the dry season) rough dirt road. We had to cross through several check points, didn't have to bribe anyone but everyone is shocked when they see two white people get out of the little bush taxi. We had to go through a few make shift 'fake' police checkpoints. They merely put a few sticks across the road, they are dressed in uniform and made our driver pull over. He had to pay him a small bribe in order to get through. We reached Ganta (boarder of Guinea and Liberia) around 3PM. Our driver had to bring the car to the mechanic as the car was idling strange. After a few hours delay the car seemed to be ok and we continued on. We reached ToesTown (boarder of Liberia and Ivory Coast) at 8PM. When we got out of the car I could not stop laughing. Jerome did not even look like himself because he had so much red dust on his face (see pic). This was because we had to drive with the windows down as our car did not have AC in +30 degree weather. Since it was late when we arrived the boarder was closed so we had to stay overnight in a little hotel, if you can call it a hotel. Again it had no electricity, bucket showers, and our toilet was outside in a corner but it suited us just fine and was dirt cheap. We ate our last liberian meal that night which consisted of casava leaf, rice and more mystery meat. We enjoyed it under candle light (no electricity). The next morning we picked up at 7am. In order to cross we had to take motorbikes as the roads were quite poor. Jerome road with Prince and I with Justin. They strapped our bags on to the back of the bikes and we started on our way. The road was muddy and quite hilly but the drivers were excellent. There were about 4-5 check points within a 45 minute motorbike ride but it went surprisingly well. We did not have to bribe anyone and were not charged any extra fees. Once we crossed the boarder the first thing we noticed were powerlines. The smallest towns in Ivory Coast despite the unrest in recent years still have electricity whereas Monrovia (capital city) of Liberia does not even have current. The bikes dropped us at Toulepleu where we had to wait a few hours before getting on a mini van type bus. This van was quite the site!! To get a better picture about 30minutes into our journey the entire sliding door literally fell off and they fixed it by wrapping rope around it to keep it on the side. Ha ha ha....oh an adventure. After a few hours we made it to Bloulaquin where again we had to spend the night as there were no buses leaving until the next morning. We stayed in another hotel, very small and basic again but it had electricity and a shower so it was high class for us! I am very thankful that Jerome can speak french as few people know english and he has had to do all the organizing and asking questions etc. The next morning we left Bloulaquin on a bigger van type bus in quite good condition compared to others we have encountered. Everyone loaded up and we started our 9 hour journey to Abidjan. Ate a few peanuts, roasted plantains, and mangoes along the way whenever we stopped at the numerous checkpoints. On arrival to Abidjan we contacted a friend of Jerome's cousins friend who we had been emailing (Manu). Himself, his wife and his friends have been fantastic!!!! We called him and his wife right when we arrived then took a taxi to their place. We met his family talked a bit and then he took us to a very nice but very reasonably priced hotel. The hotel does not only have a shower but HOT showers!!!! We quickly showered and then Manu's friend Sadia took us out for roasted chicken and attieke (cous cous like grated casava). We are able to get money out easily here as there are ATMs everywhere, so no more western union!! For the little bit of Abidjan we have seen thus far, it is quite lively, lots of cook shops along the street, fruit stands on every corner, dance clubs, maquis, etc. But it seems to have two extremes, from very poor to quite wealthy. We blend in much more here, it is not such a shock to see a white person walking down the street as it was in Pipeline-Paynesville, Liberia. Jerome and I went out the other night for easter, strolled around in the streets, had some wine and a really good time. We went with Manu, his family and friends to a small village outside of Abidjan. The locals and their chief greated everyone and they had fufu, casava, rice, fish, chicken, palm wine prepared for everyone. It was right along the lagoon so we visited under palm trees with the breeze off the water, it was a pretty spectacular experience.
We miss everyone a lot. Feels strange not to be at PAC but we are also very excited for our adventures ahead. We think we may head for the beaches this week. Just going to go do some lounging and see if we can find some surf areas. We're going to go see if we can learn! It'll be fun to just hang around the beaches. From there we might start to make our way to Ghana.... or not who knows, the ball is in the air right now and it's full of air. Happy easter everyone! We miss the Alberta sunrise service but have enjoyed the African sunrise. I remain healthy, Jerome has also been feeling well despite a bit of bowel issues and he has lost quite a bit of weight!!! He is a lean lean man.
By the way I know this email sounds like I (Robin) wrote it but Jerome and I actually wrote it together. Whenever he added information he talked about himself in 3rd person.
Lots of Love,
Robin and Jerome