Archive for August, 2020

Short-ish week

Sunday, August 30th, 2020

Boy carrying water below our apartment

Monday was Liberian Flag Day, and ostensibly a holiday, but I spent most of the day at the office trying to catch up. I also sent a security alert to U.S. citizens regarding the demonstrations around town this week. Most of the demonstrations had to do with protesting rape – it is a bad problem here, and often committed against minors, some as young as three years old. A local said some of the rapes are ritualistic, which completely surprised and shocked me. Liberia also has a problem with female genital mutilation, something else I didn’t expect here — yet it does.

John has some great trees outside his office window, and during rainy season when the bats are gone, he’s seen some cool birds. He regularly sees the Western Plaintain Eater and this week was excited to see a hornbill!

Western Plantain Eater outside our apartment

John and I met with a local official we like very much on the veranda of the chief of mission residence (CMR) one morning this week. It was good to catch up with her over a cup of coffee and get a little business done, too. We went back to the veranda last night for dinner, mostly with John’s team, including our newly arrived permanent doctor. I enjoyed chatting with Rick (the Charge’s husband) and our new IT officer, J.

I made a quick trip with my upstairs neighbor to a small crafts fair Saturday morning, where I picked up a shopping bag to send as a gift and some great shea butter. Later in the day, I had a good chat with Pam and Jackie, although we missed Ann. It was a good tonic to an otherwise frustrating work week.


Rainy season?

Sunday, August 23rd, 2020

Thanks, Hendrix!

Although we had lots of rain and loud storms a couple of months ago, August has been relatively dry and cooler. The locals say it means September will be really rainy – we’ll see. I was prepared for constant downpours in July and August, but it hasn’t really happened.

I had a couple of calls this week with work colleagues around the world. The first was with a very kind and generous local staff employee in one of our embassies in east Africa – she walked me through the complicated process of doing an inter-country adoption “from scratch” so I could attend to an adopting couple this week. The other was with my new regional consular officer (the job I used to have), who is just getting settled in Frankfurt. I love having supportive colleagues ready to help!

John and I were guests of the Swedish ambassador, their new management/consular officer, and his husband at lunch on Monday. We ate outdoors at a local restaurant and had a lovely visit. It was the first restaurant we’d been to since the pandemic started and it felt both odd and good to be out.

Last night we were invited to dinner on the veranda hosted by Alyson and Rick at the CMR (chief of mission residence) – it was a bigger group than last weekend. I sat across from the deputy country director for USAID, and enjoyed getting to know her better. It’s such a pretty setting by the ocean and hearing the waves crash.

Friend week

Sunday, August 16th, 2020

Thank goodness for video chats! I remember living in Costa Rica in the late 1990s when email was just getting started and the only real way to communicate was by phone. We had some kind of bootleg system where we’d dial a 1-800 number and then get a callback to be connected, but it was still relatively expensive. Love the new technology.

Last weekend I had a birthday chat with Cousin James, and John and I did a chat with Jim and Joan – so nice to catch up! Later that day, I talked to Jaime and Jackie, old college friends. Yesterday I had my bi-weekly meet-up with Ann, Pam, and Jackie where we approved of Biden’s VP pick, Kamala Harris, and discussed instant pots (lol).  John and I were also on a Zoom call to say goodbye to departing colleagues during the week.

We had two small going-away ceremonies for colleagues this week, one for a long-time local staff member who received a special immigrant visa for his years of service to the embassy. He played a critical role during the Liberian civil wars, especially in 2003 when the embassy received mortar fire and thousands of refugees made camp on the land the current embassy sits on today. Given the trouble with flights and all of the different Presidential Proclamations limiting entry to America, we all breathed a sigh of relief when we got word he and his family made it through immigration in New Jersey this week – a mere two days before the visas expired!

Last night we had a really nice (socially distant) dinner on the veranda of the Ambassador’s house hosted by Rick and Alyson, with Matt and Kateri also in attendance. It was a bit windy and cloudy after an afternoon rain, but very pleasant with the sound of the waves crashing just below us. They served a really yummy steak salad which was a treat for me.

Yesterday I finally ventured out to the salon for a hair and nail fix for the first time since March – needless to say, it was long overdue. I was the only customer there and the staff wore masks, etc. so I felt pretty safe. It was a good reward for what was at times a frustrating week at work.


Full moon

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

Morning light

Last weekend was a full moon, and its effects lingered into this week. On the upside, the moonlight over the ocean was beautiful to wake up to! The downside was the effect on people’s behavior, which we often have to deal with in the consular section! We continue to work on pop-up emergencies this weekend, but it keeps us busy and out of trouble.

I had a nice video chat with Mary during the week, and we had two friends over for a socially distanced pizza/game night last night. The local grocery store had broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and grapefruit  this week – and they restocked Royal club soda, which had gone missing for months. My cup runneth over!

Liberian Independence Day

Sunday, August 2nd, 2020

Hibiscus on OEC

We enjoyed a nice three-day weekend last weekend. We had JR and Sabina over for masked, socially-distanced coffee, followed by a game of Wingspan. They brought some of JR’s delicious walnut sourdough bread (maybe with raisins or dates?) Delish. They’re so nice and fun – I hate that they are leaving. After they left, we took a walk over on the old embassy compound on a walkway that runs above/along the ocean – it was a beautiful afternoon with some cloud cover and nice breezes.

We had a going-away team call on Thursday. In addition to Sabina leaving, our wonderful Lea’s last day was Friday. Although she’s been working remotely for the last few months, I rely on her heavily, so it is a blow to lose her as she goes to her onward post in Mexico. John loses out, too, since her husband is his financial management officer. We will miss them.

At John’s suggestion, I read “Mighty be our Powers” this week by Liberian peacebuilder, Leymah Gbowee, about her life during the Liberian civil wars and her efforts to start a women’s movement to work for peace. It’s an incredible story of a horrific time.