Saturday is a work day for most of DEN-L staff. Like organizers in the US, DEN-L staff, trainers and trainees work 6 day weeks (Saturday is “optional”). For my part, I did a little more reading, found a little bit more out about the war days and the rebuilding efforts. A quote from the first Director of DEN-L’s thesis: “The power of the poor is found in their large numbers but this power can only become useful if it is united and organized. Civil society strengthening through conflict resolution training provides a foundation for involving large numbers of people needed to strengthen the peace building process.” I really enjoy the emphasis on training and education here. I’ve read two theses so far and have another two lined up. It’s also important as theses are so rarely read by outsiders! I’m definitely sending DEN-L a copy of mine when it’s done.
I’m an oddity on the compound. Not just because I’m light skinned and American, but because I drink stout. And everyone loves to offer me stout. It’s a novelty, I think. It’s good to be a novelty act. So there was some work on the internet, which I was asked to “help” with, meaning I was offered a stout and a chair, watching the boys (my little brothers) and the internet experts work on it. It’s all set up now, we just need to activate it by calling the UK provider. Hopefully is all I have to say about that.*
Saturday ended with watching Blood Diamond with the Frenchmen and my new friend. The Frenchmen are not really French, but French speakers. They’re from Chad and CAR respectively. And my new friend is with the Ministry of Health but I haven’t found a good nickname for him. It was interesting and disturbing to watch that movie with them. The Frenchmen asked me if I’d ever seen war like that, on the streets of the city I lived in (because they had). Obviously, as an American born in the 80’s…no, I haven’t. I guess there have been riots…but it wasn’t a truckload of armed boys and men rolling into town and opening fire. And I haven’t even seen any riots. For me, movies like Blood Diamond, just make me sad, but the Frenchmen were totally engaged, and when my new friend came, he just kept making fun of Leonardo DiCaprio (“why does the white guy keep walking in front, like he knows where he’s going” when searching for the diamond).
Sunday, woke up, got breakfast (getting use to instant coffee), sat around while the Frenchmen washed their clothes (I’m waiting till I absolutely have to…though I guess that doesn’t make much sense, now that I think about it). Read a bit of the thesis I’m working on, talked to the AGM (assistant general manager), or more accurately, he talked my ear off and I said, yeah? Hm…and asked a few key questions. He talked mostly about the interns who were here before, about Matt and about his own work, how he wants to go to school but never had the chance and is looking for a way off the compound. It’s interesting to me the amount of stories I’ve heard.
One of my little brothers and I made paper flowers (Matt taught him how), had lunch, went to Graduation.
Cuttington University is the college and university in the area. Everyone from all over Liberia went to the graduation. I bet I wasn’t the only American there, as well (though I didn’t see anyone else). Two of DEN-L staff graduated this year so there was a lot of pride in this years graduation from DEN-L. Pictures below.
The graduation party we stopped by was very interesting. It was the principal of the local school (elementary to junior high) who received his Masters. The wife, who was apparently running the party (of at least 50, more like 70 people), brought the DEN-L director, the Frenchmen and me plates of food, as we were some kind of special guests. Unfortunately, the director wanted to leave quickly so we stayed for the opening song, a small prayer, and the beginning of what I can only describe as an MC stand up, probably a family member or close friend. She required that when she said “Praise the lord” we said “Amen.” There was also a choir from the local Baptist church who were a bunch of older ladies and sang a call and response song that I didn’t understand. The graduate sat ceremoniously in the front, facing his guests from the side. There were bleacher seats and then a bunch of plastic chairs in the front for special guests. We sat in the front, off on the side, as to be obviously out of place. The poor Frenchmen have a very hard time as they speak very little English, though it’s improving.
It was the first amount of sun I’ve gotten so far, and my friends all laughed when I showed them the two tones on my arm where my sleeve had been. Apparently, they had never seen a tan before. The AGM was more use to it, as the interns before me had lighter complexions. He told the story that one of the past interns got sick from the sun because she was so red.
*Obviously it has since been set up, as I’m posting all of these that I wrote when I didn’t have access. This is the last one that I wrote ahead of time though, the rest will be more timely…