Thursday, 23 February 2012

Adventure to the Airport in Paris

Off we set, Kates and I to get the "Air France" bus that was supposed to be about a km away from the airport with all our luggage in tow. We arrived at the bus terminal to find out that there wasn't another bus for 1.5 hours and that there "weren't enough" drivers that day. This was going to make us late for our flight.

Down we went underground to catch the "Metro"... luggage in tow..... picture us dragging two weeks of stuff with us around Paris.....

We got on the first subway with some sweat, going up and down many stairs and trying to figure out which way to go.

The next train wasn't so smooth. When the train arrived, it seemed like, hundreds of people were getting on and off. Katie went first dragging a suitcase bigger than her... and guess what???

The door closed. My life flashed before me.

Luckily it closed right on the huge suitcase and her foot (which she is still complaining about). I never seen so many people jump to our rescue.... everyone grabbed the doors and tried prying them open so that "Mom" could get on. This was no easy task (especially as I was holding Katie by the coat... the minute the door started to close I reach in and grabbed on). So long story short I, with the help of those people, got on the train.. and we had a good little nervous giggle together!!

Then we went off into the sunset to the airport.... just in time.... I mean by minutes to get on our plane.

I think my daughter is a criminal as over the course of this entire trip..... she was searched 3 times at the airport.... should I be concerned???

Katie and I leaving Paris!

Happy and Sad to be back from the adventure of a lifetime!!



Sunday, 19 February 2012

Soccer with no shoes



Don and some of his team



Don's Biomass for loading onto a vessel enroute to Europe



Don's Rubber Trees waiting for chipping



Some of Don's woodchips at the port he cleared of sunken wreckages



The stick... several children got the stick while we were there....Mr De Maeyer what do you think?



All the children at the orphanage



Ceremonial welcome at the orphanage



Can you ever shut a teacher up?



On stage at the high school assembly



They teach young here.



Back to school for me.....Gr 8... don't they look older?



Happy to be in swealtering hot school?



Friday, 17 February 2012

Ahhhh... The beautiful side of Liberia

In sickness and in health.

> Today is our last day. Coming home from Buchanan yesterday did me in. The two hour road from hell. We were sick to begin with. Several of us have our stomachs running. Katie has a nasty cold and was vomiting before we left and during the trip. She was told to suck on a pickle by a local store owner. Since then, strangly, her vomiting has stopped. But her cold is nasty. I have been in this room for 19 hours, save a weak attemp for food last night. . Today I must find the strength to get up. Standing is problematic - I get the serious shakes. We have our 13 hour journey on a red eye back to Geneva. I need to dig deep and find some intestinal fortitude. I remind myself how lucky I am to be sick in a nice hotel room, rather than a mud hut without a toilet. We are VERY FORTUNATE!!
> I miss the rest of my family. I long to squish Jules and Ror.
> Wish us luck!!!
> Dianne,
> Sent from my SMASHED iPhone

Thursday, 16 February 2012

High school in Monrovia

What a big day. We did so much. Here in this photo we were at a Buchanan High School. We arrived to this huge assembly of students, teachers and admin. they we so thankful we were there and thankful to Don for supporting the school. We were put on stage and were sweltering hot. We were sang to, given gifts and they made a plea for computers (sound familiar) and air conditioning. Don and I were asked to speak to the students. This was very interesting. By the time we left ( an hour later) I was soaked. Don's driver laughed at me because I had drip marks all over my pants. It was hot. When we were leaving the Vice Principal gave me a paper in his handshake and wants us to investigate an exchange for one of the children to come to my school. 

Sent from my SMASHED iPhone

Fwd: A stop at the market

Here we were stopping at this market to buy pineapples and bananas for the orphanage. We were completely swarmed by these people. Some of our group were afraid to get out of the cars. The children were asking for everything. They wanted our empty juice cans. Yes our empty cans. I gave one boy one of the pads of paper that I brought for the schools. 

Sent from my SMASHED iPhone

Fwd: Grade 5 class

> This was a very poor school (well they all are) and I gave them all the school supplies that I brought. These students
> all stood when I went in the room and very respectfully said this welcome teacher chat. No one seemed happy to be there.

Fwd: The Orphanage

This visit, by far, was the most alarming disturbing thing, I have probably ever seen. These beautiful children all left without families. When we arrived 
they had a ceremonial welcoming at the gate. It was very formal. They were just so thankful that Don "the president" was there - they wanted to show their gratification. It included a plate with an egg, some nuts, and other random items. Benson the BRE, public relations  and translator,  helped us understand what was going on. He even got nuts spat onto his forehead. 

We then went into the room where all of the adults and 60 students were singing. I got this all on video. They then proceeded with an hour long ceremony including a Bassa naming of Don and Jac and they were both gowned. 

We met a two year old, Paul, who was found as an infant in the garbage can. All of the children wanted to touch us and were staring like crazy at us. The children sang to us 2 songs, all of which, I caught on video. 

The food situation was horrible and cooking over a fire to feed them all. The kids get a bit of tea and bread in the am  and rice in the pm. 

Even worse, was the sleeping arrangements 10 kids per room. I will post some pics of that. Brutal. 

What a place. They asked me to come back and stay to work for them. They need teachers they said. 

Sent from my SMASHED iPhone

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Kakata - Farm Builders and it's a good plan!

> Today we went to farm builders, Don's favorite part of his company. Farm Builders works with the Liberians to get their farms back up and running. They can do this in several capacities (restart their farm, side by side relationship or total farm management). Brian explained this to us. We saw "clone" trees and learned about grafting trees from the clones to ensure the qualities of the hybrid get integrated into the new trees.
> We went to "Bills" rubber plant and I watched rubber being made. It stunk, but was very fascinating. Who knew? They were filling containers to ship to the US.
> Don explained how to "tap" a rubber tree every second day and that the tappers tap 520 trees per day.
> We also went to Bills house for lunch. Bill is a very wealthy Liberian who is well connected and has a beautiful rubber plantation as well as the rubber factory. He works with and supports BRE.
> My favorite part of the day was when we pulled of the road and met some locals and had them describe how to make charcoal. They showed us step by step and I took many pictures. They were surrounded by children taking care of children. Bare foot and dirty. I asked a lady if I could take her picture and that of her baby, she allowed me to but then announced that she was hungry and had no food for baby. Sad. We gave them all the baby bananas that we had. So far- one of my favorite pics (her baby strapped to her back - with a fly on his forehead). I wish I could upload them but they are on my good camera. Apple should get on this - an opening for USB or data card on iphones, so data can be transferred. Anyhow, I digress.
> Tomorrow, I suspect will be my favorite day- 2 hr drive to Buchanan to the orphanage, a high school and to visit the port that Don cleared here. Perhaps a ride on a tug boat.
> Don is very well connected and very well respected. It is apparent. All the Liberians faces light up when they see him " hi boss". Also, his ex pat employees really respect him and speak highly of his ability to persuade anyone to become passionate about a cause. He has convinced many to join BRE.
> Wyatt was interested in the fact that Don is the "Big Boss". Dons lesson to Wy - "just because you are the boss doesn't mean you have to be bossy".
> Finally, we met a 9 yr old who was an American and moved to Liberia in Aug. She said school was different here because the teachers " beat the kids with sticks and that even today one teacher broke a ruler in to many pieces from hitting a student" for not listening. Her plan was to never get into trouble. It's a good plan.
> Dianne,
> Sent from my SMASHED iPhone

Farm Builders

Liberian Children

Monday, 13 February 2012


Well today was UNBELIEVABLE in so many ways. I write this with excitement, disbelief, thankfulness and so many more mixed emotions.

We went to the offices of BRE (Buchanan Renewable Energy)in the am and Kates was a bit nauseous when we arrived. I think the streets were a bit overwhelming for her. But she got the courage to go into slums like you can only see in magazines. I really have no words to describe it. The conditions are inhumane.

If you get a chance google West Point Liberia. This is where we went. Certainly, we looked out of place and turned a lot of heads. Wyatt (my 7 yr old Nephew) kept saying over and over like a chant. "Daddy - they are staring at me, why is everyone staring at us".

These pictures that I posted are from west point. We were with Don's very faithful "drivers/security" (Logan and BloJay" who had us in their sites all day.

After West Point, we interacted with some high school students which was very interesting. We took pics of them and promised to email. I think this was keeping Logan and BloJay on their toes.

Another interesting thing...... no one goes unescorted from BRE. Don walked 100m and was escorted by BRE guards.

Logan said. "we take care of "Boss"".

We went to an Ex-Pat type apartment for a swim in the afternoon and then went to Liam's (Dons country Manager) for a fantastic dinner. Completely gated with barbed wire, security and the whole nine yards. I met some amazing people who work for BRE, both Ex Pats and Liberians. My favorite was Floyd. Born and raised Liberian, with an MBA from the US. He was very insightful about our education system and had interesting perspective.

Incidentally, I write this blog on my SMASHED iPhone. It's like the "Little Engine That Could". It keeps on working. Apple- my hero.

Tomorrow will be amazing. We will go to Farm Builders where we will see rubber plantations and much more. We will have lunch at a Liberians farmhouse. Can't wait.
Sent from my smashed iPhone.



There are no real words

More from Monrovia


Streets of Monrovia

Streets of Monrovia

More street footage

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Katie meets Dwalu

Dwalu is a dignitary ambassador here in Liberia.

Arrival in Liberia!

We arrived after a very long day of travel (most of which, I slept - I couldn't keep my eyes open - sleeping in the airport, on the plane, and almost standing up). We were welcomed by this guy,in the pic, in camouflage. He completely enabled us to bypass the whole customs process. Spared us a lot of anarchy evidently . Apparently, Don is well connected here. There were two cars waiting to escort us to our hotel. Logan and Blogay were the drivers. Apparently, according to Don, we are in good hands. Logan, who drove Jacquie and I, was head of security for the opposition party for the presidential elections in Nov. Blogay, Don's driver, drove Don and the kids. I tried to take many pictures, however, Kates had the good camera. My iPhone couldn't cut it at the speed we were going. It was amazing though!! Jac noticed, at one point when we slowed and several people were close to the car, that Logan locked us up.

Tomorrow we go into town - Monrovia and we can see some of Don's work residences.

We also met Don's CFO and another Ops guy for dinner in this gorgeous outside restaurant beside the pool.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

TIME snapshot.

Jet Lag or Excitement?

Well it's 3:30 am Geneva time and Katie and I are cuddling in bed wide awake despite taking sleep aids. Last night we slept so well. Kates is learning all about time zones. What better education than reading about it. The question is why are we awake? Excitement about Liberia or jet lag? I suspect it is a bit of both. Tomorrow will be challenging on 3 hrs sleep. The taxi will be here in 1.5 hrs. Not really enough time to try for more sleep. 1.5 hrs to Belgium, 3.5 hrs layover then 7 hrs to Liberia. Maybe we can sleep along the way here and there. Apparently, the Monrovia airport will be culture shock - another good lesson for the kids ( I should mention - my sister-in-law, Jacquie and my nephew, Wyatt (7) are coming along for the adventure)!

I imagine this blog will be more interesting tomorrow once the REAL adventure starts. No more reading about boring pills and sleep or lack there of.

Sent from my iPhone

Malaria Prevention is the plan!
11 hours of sleep! 14 hours until we leave then 15 hours of travel!  Today was a first for Kates.  She swallowed, not one, but two pills whole.  Amazing.  The four of us had to start our Malaria prevention.  I have to admit that I was worried about these pills, but so far so good.  The other thing is that I figured out how to blog from my mobile which solved a problem.  I am not planning to bring a computer so uploading photos was proving to be difficult.  Where there is a will, there is a way!  I think we are all set.... Boarding Passes printed!  Off to a walk to a nearby frozen river here in Geneva to throw rocks at the ICE.... sounds interesting.

Friday, 10 February 2012

It seems like I have been awake for hours.  This is Kates in Montreal with our carry on stuff.  We are now in Geneva and just had lunch.  It was so nice to arrive here to a sunny day, however, it is very cold.
We are very tired. So tired so, that I let our bag go around the baggage carousel several times before I even realized it was ours.
Jacquie was here to pick us up.  And now we are just relaxing at Don and Jac's beautiful cottage-like home.