Friday, March 6, 2015

Life at the Front: Part III

In my last post, I implied that our first swimming attempt was a certified failure.  That's not entirely true.  (I did make the mistake of putting on sunscreen, which means that my painfully white winter skin stayed painfully white.)  There was one redeeming factor to it...I found some sea glass.  Behold the glory:

I haven't visited any of the “sea glass spots” where those beauties often end up, so perhaps my collection will grow to rival my previous one; few people have been “harvesting” sea glass since the missionaries were evacuated.

Before I launch into the two main points of this post, I must make a confession: some of my pictures don't fit into the general scheme of this article.  Accordingly, I'm just going to dump them here with captions.  Enjoy:

Our neighbors brought us some almonds; they're thinner, softer, and longer than the almonds you find in the States.
A view of Peace Island from the highway; it's called an island because it's surrounded by swamp.
Pretty typical sign for the urban Liberian, although I've never seen anyone label their apartment before.
That one building at ELWA Junction is finally finished and functional.  I kinda like the clock to the upper left; it's a nice touch.
Done?  Okay.  The dump is over.

Several days after we arrived, we headed in town to go to Lonestar, one of the three major phone networks in Liberia.  Dad went in armed with the iPhones we acquired in the States, and at the end of the day, we got two of our three phones working on Liberian networks.

While we were in town, we saw a mind-boggling number of Ebola signs.  I took pictures of all of the ones I could; here's a selection.

This sign was across the road from Lonestar.

Even "NO LEMON", an automotive service center that focuses on post-war countries, got an Ebola facelift.
One of the main themes seems to be that “stopping Ebola is everyone's business”.  I think it's safe to say that a lot of the expat money pouring into Ebola relief has gone into mobilization and advertisements.

Not all the signs were about Ebola, obviously.  Here's a new Cellcom sign I find simultaneously hilarious and disturbing:

On our way to Lonestar, we passed the “new Ministry of Defense”, as they call it, even though the building had been half-constructed decades ago, and abandoned during the civil war.  The site had been requisitioned for a large Ebola unit.

It was from one such unit that Liberia's only (some are calling it "last") case of Ebola was recently released.  News has been getting progressively better since we arrived; according to some secondhand information I obtained, there were around twelve unconfirmed cases when we arrived.  Last week there was just one confirmed case, the aforementioned woman who was cured and released.

Word on the street has been that Ebola finish from Liberia; still, everyone is being cautious.  One doctor told me that we have to prove it's not April, referencing the time period last year when Ebola slowed down drastically and opened the doors for a massive resurgence.

Part of the Ebola response is that I've been seeing a large number of helicopters.  Some appear to be run by the United States. Here's a glimpse of one I got with my phone, flying over ELWA:

Like I mentioned earlier, all of the expats are being very cautious.  Alex and Dad visited a Samaritan's Purse hub last week and the precautions were very thorough.  The bottoms of their shoes were sprayed with bleach, their temperatures were checked, and a “certification” was stapled to their clothes with their temperature and the date.  (As a minor collector of Ebola artifacts, I've half a mind to visit the SP office and get a certification myself, so I can save it for posterity.  I'll frame it beside my copy of “Time's Person of the Year - 2014”.)

Still, even in the midst of Ebola response, the normal rhythm of life is being reestablished.  Here are some familiar (and unchanged) places that I think you may appreciate:

Across the road from the entrance to the ELWA campus
The Exclusive!
The beach.  I think this deserves a virtual heart: <3
The painted palm trees.  For those of you who don't know, Liberians often paint trees and locales for Christmastime, to make everything look fine before the big holiday.
Business as usual at the house—it's a hot day, so naturally we've got the laundry out.
The lagoon, on the interior side of the bridge.  If you want to contextualize, pronounce it lah-GOON.
Also, the beach is still just as awesome as ever.  We went swimming for several hours yesterday, and it was glorious.

Before we left the States, some very generous people gave us what is called a “Watershot” case for iPhone.  It allows you to take pictures with your phone underwater, as deep as 130 feet.  (Not that I'm going to go that far down.)  Here's a picture of it:

During our beach trip, I took over 600 pictures with the Watershot, some above water, and some under the water.  (I deleted most of them, since underwater pictures tend to be blurry if you don't hold the camera still.  I ended up with 52 pictures total.)  I caught some pretty stunning stuff; here's a brief gallery, complete with captions.  Be very, very jealous.

Some of my favorite fish; they swim in small schools in the rockier parts of the bay.
I'm not sure what fish this is.  It's one of the more generic fellows that swim through from time to time.

I feel kind of like a submarine should come rumbling through here.  Oooooo-ummmmmm...

I caught this guy accidentally turning towards me and got a quick shot.  Not the clearest picture, but isn't it cool?  It tends to blend into the sand, save for the neon orange fins and a light electric blue streak running from the mouth to the gills.

Water pouring over one of the rocks, with the sunset behind.  You can see that, during the dry season, the sun disappears into the haze rather than the horizon.
Doesn't that foam look kind of delicious?  It's at this spot that we have a slightly dangerous game, of who can stay balanced on the rock the longest as the waves pummel us.  Falling off is pretty safe, however, since there's a deep spot just behind us that reaches seven or eight feet deep at high tide.  (This was taken at mid-tide, when the water was probably stomach-deep.  The waves that wash over the walk are gentler and don't really take much skill to withstand.)
I also got some quasi-artistic shots, and they were totally on purpose.  Really.

The little wave that could.  (On a serious note, I had no idea an iPhone could take such good pictures.)
I got Beth to take a picture of me (our goggles-strap was broken so I had to hold them to my face).  It's like sea-ception or something.  I feel proud of the artistic achievement.
Beth took a picture of her feet.
I took a dramatic picture of Beth framed against a sunset, sitting on a rock as the waves crash around her.  Slap a filter on it, and voila!  "This is real art, Emmet!  Dark and brooding."
Take a look at the beach; it's beautiful.

Ah, yes, Liberia.  It's good to be back.

About this series of posts: “Life at the Front” isn't sure what it's supposed to be, so it settled for part Ebola commentary and part missionary life, which ends up being pretty sporadic.

I'll be continuing this whenever possible, covering both the developments in my personal life and whatever news comes my way concerning the current Ebola outbreak. Including taking iPhone pictures of signs I've never seen before. (Guilty as charged.) My sisters tell me I look like a tourist. (Certainly not guilty as charged.)

But, I've got this notion in my mind that I'm writing down things that people are interested in. So I can afford looking slightly idiotic as I brandish my smart phone and fake a wide-eyed tourist look.

Dad and I are going in to Immigration sometime this week, so I should get enough story and picture fodder for Part IV—stay tuned!


  1. There are professional photographers who do some of their actual photography with their iPhones. I am not even kidding. Also, I like the picture of the sun above the waves. 'Tis very dramatic.

  2. Great pictures, man.
    Also, I thought the white paint on the base of the tree trunks was interesting. We do that for our fruit trees so they don't bud too early. The white reflects heat away so the trees don't get excited about a random warm day before the frost season is over. :)

  3. So, what exactly is Sea Glass?

    Those almonds look so good and awesome!!!!!
    Love all the pictures - the beach looks beautiful, and the "Little Wave that could" is hilarious!!

    Love reading about Africa!

    1. Sea glass is what happens to broken glass on the seashore. After years of rubbing up against the sand, the broken edges smooth away and the clear glass fades to a more cloudy hue; it's beautiful and jewel-like, rounded and cloudy pieces of glass.

      It's so poetic that I wrote a poem about it a while back. It turned out pretty well.



    1. Nope - these goggles were ours, and broke many months ago. We were short on goggles at the time where these pictures were taken.

      Speaking of your goggles - thanks for letting us use them!

  5. Oh gosh the 'little wave that could' and the one pouring over the rock---- a-mazing. A-MAZING.

    So now that you have filled up my vision, I want to know:
    What does the beach smell like? How is it different from the tang of the thick seawater and wild grasses and heavy, rough sand we have here in the North American East?

    What does it sound like?

    What birds or critters are letting you know you are on THEIR turf. (Here it's always the sea gulls and Pelicans making noise while the Sand Pipers race the waves intent on drawing lace over the sand)

    What does it FEEL like? Is the sand powder fine? Rough as pumice? Too hot to walk on without shoes?

  6. Those water pictures are frameworthy, especially the 'little wave that could' and the 'real art, Emmet! Dark and brooding' ones.

    Thanks for 'looking like a tourist' on our behalf. We appreciate it.