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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 15, 2011 A Jack-of-All-Trades

The faculty had its second meeting; the overall goal was to organize the school schedule, planning time for the Upper School to rotate classes and provide the Lower School with the times of art, PE, music, and foreign language classes. I have to say that I was pleased with the way we worked. Sometimes this task can be very tiresome and confusing, but we were able to hash out a schedule in just over two hours. The most impressive thing, I think, about the morning is that no one ever seemed frustrated or bossy!

After the meeting, Gertrude, the PreK/K teacher, offered to “carry” me to lunch. When someone in Liberia offers to “carry” you, they are inviting you out and, therefore, have the intention of paying. Theresa, my teaching assistant also came. We ate at P.A.’s Rib House, where I had a cheeseburger and fries!

Those two women are a riot. They’ve known each other for years and love to laugh together. They talk a mile a minute; I try my best to keep up with them and to decipher what they’re saying through their heavy accents.

I get a kick out of them saying my name. It comes out at Tah instead of Tai. I was also amused to find out that they both thought I was 21 and teaching for the first time.

They’ve both offered to show me the ropes, so to speak. Gertrude already plans to take me to Waterside, a market area where she can help me get good prices on lapa, large pieces of bright African cloth, with which to get curtains and seat covers made. Undoubtedly, Theresa will be the one holding my hand as I navigate my way through my first year teaching 2nd and 3rd grade!

I think both of these ladies represent the upper class of Liberia. They have very elegant African dresses, speak “serious” English, and handle larger households. Both are in their late forties or early fifties and have grown children. Gertrude has a daughter living in North Carolina who is a registered nurse with hopes of becoming a doctor. Theresa has two daughters, one of whom is married.

Gertrude is a jack-of-all-trades, but she is very humble about her experiences and the great wealth I assume she has. She lived in the US for several years and owned two salons, which is how she made her money. (Doing African American hair pays very well, with weaves costing over $300 a pop. In Liberia, black women can get the same services done for $5-$10!) Here, she teachers PreK and kindergarten, manages Judge Phillip Banks’ office, and employs people to sell water. She said that during the dry season, she can make $200 in a day selling water! She has three cars and a driver, several “houseboys,” and employees who tend the stalls where the water is sold. (I must note that the SUV we rode in today is the first car I’ve ridden in so far that didn’t smell funny!)

Gertrude gave me great pricing advice about having Aletha’s daughter come in and clean. She said that, for five days a week, she would pay $50 a month. Adisa and I decided to have the girl come in 4 times a week (twice for me and twice for Adisa) and pay a total $40 a month between the two of us. You sure can’t beat having someone help around the house for two hours a day twice a week for $20 a month!

Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep and finally had the inclination to clean. It took me over an hour to do dishes, to sweep the whole place, and to scrub off all the muck from my multiple pairs of flip flops. I will certainly cough up the money for a part-time housekeeper!

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