Hands….washing hands

March 29th, 2020

A highlight of the week was my friend Pam sending me a video of Neil Diamond (one of my all-time favorites) singing “Sweet Caroline” with substituted lyrics. Thanks, Pam! Google it and see for yourself!

We had 12 hours notice to pull together a small evacuation flight for U.S. citizens in Liberia this week. My small team and I spent all day Wednesday getting high-risk folks into the embassy to process paperwork, then met them at the airport that evening to board a plane. It was a bit eerie since the airport is officially closed; we had the place to ourselves. We arrived around 10 PM expecting a 3:30 AM departure…but long story short, the plane didn’t take off until 830 AM.  John and I spent the night in the airport lobby with DOD colleagues waiting for take-off and holding our breath until the plane was wheels up. After a short nap and a shower, I was back at work that afternoon…and it hasn’t stopped since.

We’re preparing for another flight, should one happen, to get U.S. citizens back to the United States. We’re pooped after working all weekend.  Fingers crossed we can get some more U.S. citizens back to America this week!

On the upside…life goes on. Our dear friend Mary learned she will be a grandmother this fall! Congratulations!

 

All coronavirus, all the time

March 22nd, 2020

Embassy fruit bats

I completely lost track of time, and forgot it was Sunday blog time. Coronavirus/COVID-19 has preoccupied every waking minute of every day, including all weekend for both John and me.  We’re working to take care of the Embassy community and get messages out to American citizens in Liberia – a full-time job.

Before the full impact of the need for social distancing, I was able to attend a pot luck brunch for the residents of our building (John had to work – a harbinger of things to come the rest of the week).  Monday was technically a holiday, but I went to the gym as usual and worked the rest of the day, culminating in a long meeting at the Ambassador’s residence to discuss our COVID-19 posture and readiness.

We in the embassy are now moving full force behind social distancing and skeleton crews at work. No more gym for me for the foreseeable future as access to communal spaces is restricted – something that makes me incredibly upset given the need for continuing therapy on my leg, but alternate exercises will have to suffice for now.  We are moving into uncertain times, for sure.

I did have one bright spot in the week – I received permission to photograph the bats around the embassy. There are an estimated 100,000 in our colony of fruit bats. I’ll post some photos later – it was a fun 30 minutes! The number of bats roosting in the trees, swirling around, and making screeching noises was a bit unnerving being so close to them, but so refreshing to be outside and in nature!

 

Let me know if you need toilet paper

March 15th, 2020

Preferred method of carrying anything from bread to jugs of juice or trays of fruit – you name it, you carry it on your head!

COVID-19 has occupied center stage this week, from work to social conversations. I keep seeing Facebook photos from the United States showing empty shelves and mad runs on toilet paper. So far, the shelves in Liberia are still stocked, so let me know if you need a care package!

Earlier in the week, we mid-level officers had the chance to sit down with Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the Ambassador’s residence, who is a former ambassador to Liberia and director general of the Foreign Service. She was interesting and very down to earth – a nice break during the week to get out of the office and hear her perspective.

Wednesday was a local holiday, but I treated it like a regular work day with a later start time, and headed to the gym and office to try to catch up (an impossible task).

Friday night we had a fun evening at Stephanie and Justin’s, playing Viticulture and Skull – fun to laugh a lot and enjoy some take-out Indian food.

 

Wearing lots of hats

March 8th, 2020

Flavie loves having her cat tree again!

With a team member out this week unexpectedly, I wore a few different hats this week, including being cashier for a morning, printing some visas, and taking fingerprints of visa applicants. Coronavirus marches on, which means meetings to be sure we’re on top of it, canceling travel as needed, and messaging again to U.S. citizens who may be considering travel to Liberia. Meanwhile, our normal day-to-day work and deadlines don’t stop – so it all made for a busy and stressful week.

On an upside, I had a nice relaxing day yesterday. I spent the afternoon reading a book about the Liberian civil wars, and had a great video chat with my good friend Tammy in DC. With a nod to COVID-19, John and I watched “Outbreak” last night – let’s hope this mess dies down soon!

Flavie seems really happy here. She has her cat tree again, which she loves. Her favorite spot is in the sun on the desk next to the tree; she has a pillow there she sleeps on and looks out the window.

Wall of Spam at the local grocery store

 

24 on 24

March 1st, 2020

John and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary on February 24! Congratulations to us! We had our downstairs neighbor up for a glass of wine, and she made guacamole – an odd combo, but delish!

Work continued to be busy this week, especially with the coronavirus. A large part of my job is to protect Americans overseas, so I worked a lot on our message to them on coronavirus and how Liberia is screening at the airport and dealing with people who must be placed under observation. That took up a lot of late Friday night and Saturday, but it needed to be done.

We had to say goodbye to two of our temporary local staff employees this week; they will head back to their home countries of Senegal and Iraq. They were just delightful. Lea and I took them to dinner Thursday night – it was fascinating to hear the Iraqi describe how the embassy was attacked recently (she was there!). It’s always amazing to hear how host country nationals assist in the protection of our embassies and their people all over the world.

I was grateful to end a stressful week with our downstairs neighbors Brooke and Ian with a relaxing dinner Friday night!