Recent Posts


20 Nov 16
Ivy Jones

We got a puppy! The way we got the puppy was one day we went to the beach and we were walking home and the kids saw some puppies. They were newborns. We found out that they were for sale, and so we planned to buy one. We had already had a dog, but then we found out that he was violent. So we gave him to some people that killed him and ate him.

So anyway, we saw the puppies and planned to buy one. But they were still nursing, so we had to wait two weeks. When we got the dog, I did not go. But when they did come back whith her, she was twice as big, and sick, and smelled really bad. That’s because she puked during the car ride. Mom and I gave ger two baths, and then she slept in a towel the rest of the day. She slept in the hall by my room, and she whined during the night. She improved a lot the next day, and for dinner that night, we gave her some dry rice and milk. She liked it, and ate until the bowl was clean.:)
I wanted a puppy because it would be fun to train it from the start. Everyone here took a vote on names, and she is not named Olypia. The only bad thing is that she whines almost every night.:( But I like that she is very playful. There is a toy dog that we have. it has a cord from its neke like a leash. if i hold onto the leash so the toy dog is on the ground, and bounce it up and doun, she will fight it. and i also got a peice of rope whith a knogt at the end like a ball. i tied that rope to a stick. i hold onto the end of the stick, and she trys to catch the knogt at the end of the rope hanging on the stick. when she does catch it, we play tug of war wheth the rope. Me and Simon made a dog house for her.:)

Homeschool and home-works

20 Nov 16
Simon Jones

I started home schooling! I was just sick and tired of going to school and only having one or two teachers show up. It was a complete waste of time! Most days I slept through more than half of the school day because either there is no teacher to teach so it’s just an unsupervised room full of teenagers, or the teacher was there but he just stayed outside and was on his phone or talking to another teacher who was also not doing his job as a teacher. Once this second container arrives which has the village drill in it we will start doing water projects, and with me being home I can go and help with those.
About two weeks ago I got three spider bites. All on my right hand. One on my thumb, one on the tip of my index finger, and one on my middle finger. My hand swelled up huge and I couldn’t bend my middle finger at all.
Three weeks ago the tile got put down on the floor of the dome and yesterday we painted! The tile is white and walls are white. It’s so much brighter than it was when it was just the gray cement. In preparation for the tile I had to sweep out the whole thing. It’s kind of hard to get a cement floor clean but I did my best. The next thing to do was to tape over the skylights. The was particularly hard because the ceiling and the walls are round so I had to wedge the ladder in between the floor and the wall/ceiling. The ladder was straight up and down for some of the lights. For the lights that were near the middle of the dome I put the ladder in an A frame and had to stand on the second to top rung to be able to barely reach the top and be able to cover the light. The last step was to sweep the walls and ceiling of cement dust so the paint would stick. When we painted I had to hold the suction tube of the paint sprayer in the paint buck, and mix the paint (with my bare hands).
We got a puppy about two weeks ago. Her name is Olympia. On the way home from picking her up from a community by the beach I sat in the bed of the truck with the puppy on my lap and she threw up on me! I think we have a special bond now haha. When we bought the dog (for only $5) they told us that they didn’t feed her anything but milk, that was a total lie. She threw up three whole peppers and it smelled so bad. Me and Ivy made her a little dog house and she sleeps just outside our door. Last night she was crying until about 11 o’clock at night because she had run through a nest of driver ants which bite really hard. I felt bad and I wanted to go help her get them off but I didn’t want to get bit.
Last Friday Diamond’s (one of the boys here at the compound who is about my age) motor bike broke down and I happened to pass him on my way from taking the mechanic (who was at the compound fixing the suburban) to the main road about 6 miles away. On my way back from taking him I passed him and we talked a little about the problem and decided that we would have to fix it once we got back to the compound. I had the bright idea to tow his bike with my bike because I was riding the big, powerful dirt bike, which I had wrecked about a month earlier. So I rode home and got a tow rope and rode back. We hooked it to the front of his bike and to the back of my bike. He put his bike in neutral and then I took off with him behind me. It worked! We didn’t wreck! I still can’t believe that it worked, Diamond said that we are the first ones that he knows of to “hold” (or tow) a motor bike with another motor bike.
Anyway it’s been smooth sailing for the past week and I haven’t had any new injuries and I hope I’m able to keep that up for at least another week or two.

A fine balance

13 Nov 16
Andy Jones
one comments

I’ve been intrigued recently by the balance between homeostasis and extremes across many elements of life and paradigms in a new culture and environment. This post draws from my own experience and from observations of all family members, and is about  going (or trying not to go) from zero to manic way too superfast.

There is a fine balance between…

Maintaining a low enough level of physical activity to not perspire Vs. drenched shirt sweaty hot stickiness. Zero to flooded in a matter of a couple of nails pounded or just a few seconds in direct sunlight.

Keeping calm and carrying on through the heat and dirty and tired Vs. blow-your-top eruption of “I’ve had it up to here and so help me I will not take another minute of this…”; not directed at anything or anybody in particular. Zero to boiling in a matter of a few fruit flies or the thousandth bounce over a pothole today.

Appreciating, adapting to, and adopting the beautiful and good of a new culture Vs. going full-on native, toss out all wisdom of prior experience, “If it works for ‘them’ it works for me”, swallow it whole, no-filter abandon. Zero to “How did I get white skin? I thought I was Liberian!” in a matter of, say, a crush or two 🙂

Looking forward to feeling refreshingly cooled by a bucket bath with well water Vs. Dreading feeling chilled to the bone by the first cup of a bucket bath with well water

“I’m getting the hang of village life; this is working out well enough for our family in the bush.” Vs.”Why are we even here?! There is no way this can work out for another seven months. We’ll all be dead, guaranteed.”

Knowing how and when to do favors Vs. Setting up unrealistic expectations of future service (e.g. driving 10km to the main road in the truck and picking pedestrians up on the way who are asking for a ride, which adds time, liability, wear and tear, and opens the door for additional criticism and not meeting heightened expectations). From “We were totally fine before you came along” zero to “There is no way we can function now without you” in a matter of a kind gesture or two.

Comfortably sharing living space with critters, spiders, and bugs Vs. Freaking out on the unlucky guy with 6 legs who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Zero to territorial silverback in a matter of one brown recluse bite.

Playing nice to get along with police officers who stop me on the road because they smell money Vs. Becoming quasi-militant and creating a public scene by calling out the cop for corruption and extortion, refusing to “cooperate” or “put myself together” and generally not playing nicely with others. Zero to nearly arrested in a matter of just three measly pull-overs in one day.

Fighting to retain the optimism of Rousseau Vs. Surrendering to the skepticism of Hobbes. To trust but verify, or to verify then trust? To be taken advantage of because of generosity, or to hedge against deceit by withholding as a rule? From Rousseau zero to Hobbes in a matter of one or two construction projects.

Time and energy spent caring for self while still maintaining selflessness Vs. Putting one’s needs before the needs of others needlessly. Where is the balance between investing in myself by allowing my “needs” (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social) to be met only to the point that I am more empowered to be of service to others, and over-indulging with legalistic justification that “I’m not good for anybody else if I’m not (happy/healthy/wealthy/etc.)”. Needs Vs. Wants. Self Vs. Service.

Knowing at what point professional medical care is required for any given ailment or injury Vs. DIY home-style remedies that are probably good enough.

Maintaining connections with friends “back home” Vs. Being fully engaged here, now.

Giving adequate attention to the discomforts and mini-ailments of others as a means of sympathizing and providing relief or support Vs. Indulging hypochondria and promoting whining.  Also applies internally between self and self.

Buying fruit green enough that it won’t all spoil in 24 hours Vs. Having to wait a week for any fruit to reach a minimum level of edibility. Green…green…green…green…green…..riperotten.

Creating dependence mentalities through charity Vs. Enabling and promoting self-reliance and self-confidence through charity.

Practicing a level of personal and family health care that is sufficiently prudent and proactively preventive Vs. Giving way to an overly-cautious, experience-limiting, worry-fermenting, or faith-inhibiting timidity toward all things new, challenging, or “fun”.

Knowing when to push for changes toward improvement of a public good (at the family, organization, community, or national level) but ruffling feathers and stepping on toes in the process Vs. Let it be so because it seems to be working well enough for most people served as it now is, so just shut up and sit down and deal with it.

Democracy Vs. Tyranny in family life and in organizational leadership.

this list may grow…








Banjor Branch Blues

11 Nov 16
Kayla Jones

In my blog post this week, I will attempt to paint a picture of what a typical Sunday here is like.

We are in the Banjor Branch of the Bushrod Island District. It meets at 9am.

We awake the same time every day of the week, and in the same way – between 5:30 and 6:30 to the alarm of the Imam in the mosque next door (have I mentioned how much I love waking up to his prayer song? Really. It will definitely be one of the top things I miss when we leave here).

I prepare a quick breakfast of oatmeal or cream of wheat and then at 7:45, we pile into one of the two vehicles going to church. In “Gavin” – the six seat belt truck donated by my nephew for his Eagle Project – we take…. all six Joneses, Faith, Josephine, and Patrick, and our neighbor (and investigator), Joe Prince Bishop. He hops in the covered bed of the truck. Rufus leaves about 20 minutes after us in the Suburban with the other 15 people. One person always stays behind (by rotation) to guard the compound and prepare lunch. It is a long and bumpy ride that takes about 45 minutes.

We get to the chapel in enough time for Andy to set up the keyboard and practice the hymns that are on the program for the day. Having a keyboard is a new thing in the Branch. Songs have always been sung a’capella. So the tune and speed of the songs have been sung the same way for so long that introducing the proper way, (with accompaniment) sounds a little like a tug-o-war! At 8:45, a conductor goes to the front and requests are yelled out from the congregation for songs they want to sing as prelude music, “One four four!” “One nine!” The conductor then sings the first line, to give the tune, and then he says, “One, two sing.” Which signals everyone to begin. The chapel is just a concrete box. There is not a picture on the wall anywhere. Tile floors. Plastic chairs – every one of which is filled. I would guess attendences is…150? Anyway, put all those enthusiastic voices in this room and we can really raise the roof!

Since we get there a bit early, we are there to watch everyone walk in, all dressed in their Sunday best. Boys and men wear just what we’re used to – white shirts, ties, dark pants or slacks, church shoes (if they can afford it – if not, sandals, tee shirts and long pants do just fine). They look sharp. Women and girls are in a bright array of colors – mostly tailored dresses in African prints. The women often have matching head wraps. Others are just in regular dresses that we’d see back in Utah. One thing I quickly learned though was that each week as I meet new women, I need to pay special attention to their faces. I made the mistake the first couple of weeks of just remembering their hairstyles, which are often interesting and intricate. Well, turns out that this changes from week to week in elaborate ways, because most women wear wigs or have weaves or extentions! One of the first friends I met had long braids one Sunday. You can imagine my embarassment the next week when I didn’t even recognize her when she came with short cornrows!

Names are also tricky. I’ve taken to writing them down in a notebook as I meet people. They are hard to remember. “Massa Twampo”, for example.

Sacrament Meeting and Gospel Doctrine, which are both held in the chapel, are a challenge. There is no microphone (well there is, but they don’t use it. The first week the Branch President tried using it, he was shouting into it. Everyone was giving funny faces at him, so he put it down and shouted, “You can all hear me, ya? I don’t need this.” And we haven’t seen it since), but there ARE ceiling fans (thank goodness). However, the ceiling fans make it impossible to hear the speaker from the pulpit unless you are in the first five rows. I often just read my scriptures through the meeting. Truthfully, it’s hard to stay awake, and several DO try to snooze. Funny tidbit here though: sleeping is totally UNacceptable – even if you are 2 years old. I’ve seen many little kids get wacked on the back for nodding off, even by complete strangers during District Conference. There is also NO CRYING. It is seriously the quietest meetings I’ve ever been in. Children just sit on their chairs like zombies through the whole hour. No Cheerios. No “quiet books”. It’s truly amazing.

The classes are hard because I’m still getting used to the accent/dialect. I got the giggles last week in Gospel Doctrine because the teacher reminded me of Martin Short’s character, “Fronk”, from Father of the Bride. It takes all my concentration to follow what is being said. By hour three, the heat and hunger have gotten the best of me and the little bit that I was grasping seems to just switch off. All of the sudden everyone might as well be speaking Japanese. This is particularly embarrassing if I’m called on…. eeekk! Luckily, in Relief Society there is a 70-something Liberian woman, Sister Collins, who has lived in Maryland for many, many years. She’s here running a school. Anyway, I’m grateful for her help translating when I get that deer in the headlights look on my face!

Bathrooms? Well, best if you go before you get there and hold it until you get home. Which is about… 5 1/2 hours. We made the mistake of sitting near the back window in Sacrament Meeting last week. Let’s just say, the grass grows pretty well back there 😉

Relief Society never ends on time. Every week it ends 15-30 minutes after church should technically be over. The teacher just goes until she makes it through ALL the material. Also, there are no clocks ANYWHERE here. And most women don’t wear watches. And then they round up every woman in the ward to squish into the room to sing the 4 verses of “Happy Birthday” to anyone who’s had a birthday this month, or last month, or…ever (so it seems).

1.”Happy Birthday to you (as we know it…..)
2. We wish you success, We wish you success. We wish you success, dear, Happy Birthday to you
3. How old are you? How old are you?…..
4. May God bless you. May God bless you….”

The baptismal font is outside. I have seen one baptism, which was right after church. There have been MANY though. There seems to have been at least one new member being confirmed each Sunday. The missionaries are doing a great job! We have two sets of Elders in our Branch. One companionship is an Elder from Ghana (who also plays the keyboard), and one from Ivory Coast. The other companionship is a couple of white boys from the USA.

Overall, I have been extremely impressed at the knowledge  the members have of the scriptures. They love to memorize them as well.  Also, hymns are beloved. There isn’t a lot of variety in those chosen, but they LOVE the hymns they do know (And they aren’t just for Sundays either. They are sung and whistled and hummed all through the week by the orphans as chores are done.  Someday I’ll try to record our rousing rendition of Secret Prayer during devotional, accompanied by the djembes. It’s a Heartwood Family favorite!).

I love my calling as a seminary teacher. Studying the New Testament and testifying four days a week has really brought peace and light to my soul as I strive to realize my  individual “purpose” here.

Is it different attending church here? You betcha! But it is a privilege to worship and serve with the Saints in Liberia. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true no matter where we are in the world, and I have learned something new each week that I put in the effort to be taught by the spirit and feel closer to my Savior.

Mr. Routine’s Transition

30 Oct 16
Andy Jones

Approaching two months in Liberia and I’m starting to feel like this is real life. Which differs slightly from something like having an experience as part of my life, or away from “regular” life. My previous 19 trips to West Africa were an important part of my life, but life and home for me is increasingly becoming wherever my family is. I think this transition a result of having established anchor relationships within the community, having settled into a daily routine, and of course, having my family here. As a routine guy I’ve discovered how important routine apparently is for me to get high marks on my happy meter. People and schedules. Oh, and food. That makes a big difference too. Knowing what we will eat and when, and where we get it. Sorted.

Take a fair warning that this post is more or less about my daily schedule, which most will not find useful. I expect my readership will go down from three to one as a result (thanks for reading, Mom 🙂 A day in the life of Andy seven weeks in. Or just look at the photos on our flickr album.

The sun rises around 630am and sets around 645pm. The various roosters in the village, including our own, begin their announcements around 430am and continue to around 7am. The Imam, Abdoulaye Sarnor, with whom I have been fortunate to build an anchor friendship, begins singing his beautiful Arabic calls to prayer between 515-6am. So while sleep is not reliable starting around 5am, I usually manage to work through the sounds of the life for another hour or so, hitting my knees for prayer around the time the Muslims are wrapping their worship at 6am. Bedtime is around 930-10pm, so on the books I’m consistently getting the recommended dosage of sleep; far more than I have anytime since before 2nd grade (when I started to wake myself up to practice the violin before the school bus pickup, and have continued the habit of jump starting my day with personal time I can control early in the morning). However, sleep is not as restful as it was in our air conditioned home with a super cush mattress and body pillow and alarm system: Throughout any given night I’ll be awakened a few times due to drench-the-sheets sweating, or to hours-long thunderous applause for the lightning show, or to check the plumbing, or to address hip pain from sleeping on a 4″ foam pad, or from itchy bug bites, or to the sound of flip-flops shuffling on the footpath outside my window on the front steps and the screen door opening – thinking it to be one of of the kids coming to our room for comfort I used to quickly get up to check and to call out… but now I don’t because mysteriosly nobody has ever been there. 3am sharp. Hmmm. Anyway, despite the extra hours of sleep the body still seems heavy and exhaused when I lift myself off the rattan bed.

Then I’m off for quick run. I used to detest running; it seemed like such a chore that was boring and associated with pain. The Erik Allebest tells me if you keep at it and log enough miles per run something happens with the body and endorphins and what, to the point running becomes empowering and enjoyable. While I’m not even close to approaching that kind of ecstacy, I do surprise myself now by looking forward to a quick morning jog. My route is along a sandy footpath through tropical greens surrounded by lively critters also in the midst of their morning routines, graced by the pink and orange sunrise, often cooled by a light rain, greeted by friendly mothers and grandmothers carefully sweeping their dirt: “Yah hall-o Ahn-dee, Haw ‘da mawn’in?”, “Fine, thank you. And you?”, “Oh, thank God.” Yoga stretching helps to wake up a sleepy body and makes the second half more enjoyable. I consider myself lucky when Kayla or Simon or Charlie join me. I used to alternate between jogging and jumping over a rope, until the moment my rope got sliced in two by the sharp end of a stray nail in the roof of the palavar house (after which I continued for a few days by swinging the two halves and jumping in time, until the morning Ivy made fun of me, chiding “I used to think you were really good because you never missed. But now I know you’re just a cheater.” Ha!) Drenched in sweat from the run I put on some gloves and do isometric strength training mixed with lifting DIY coffee-can/cement/metal pipe dumb bells, and pull ups and leg lifts from the rafters of the Sanitation Station. Sixteen ounces of protien drink (reffered to as my “tea”) and a bucket bath later, I’m feeling awake and strong and ready for the day’s work, which will often include a whole lot more of lifting and sawing and pounding and maneuvering.

Personal quiet time spent investing in my spiritual life – prayer, meditation, and study of scripture and other inspired texts – has unexpectedly suffered in Liberia. I’d anticipated having more down time as I looked forward to a slower-paced life. Unfortunately that has not been the case. Just as it was stateside, there is still a great deal of demand on my time, including the pressing need for Jones family time and Heartwood family time. Apparently my “busy” life is a matter of paradigm: Life is short and there is so much to do! I struggle with the idea of relaxation and leisure, so I’m constantly engaged in something active, especially with regard to pushing forward the humanitarian work I’ve started. With regard to personal time, the difference between then and now is that previously I was able to wake up early, before the rest of the family got moving, giving me a quiet house and total control over my schedule to prioritize my spiritual life and need for solitude. Now I’ll often settle for reciting memorized verses as I’m spending many hours on the motorcycle commuting to Monrovia throughout the week, and trying with limited yield to squeeze in a few minutes here or there for study. The problem I have with this arrangement is personal quiet time has yet to become part of routine. That’s piece is going to have to change soon. Maybe I’ll have to respond to Abdoulaye’s “Good morning, good morning, good morning to all Muslims! Wake up and leave your beds to come to the house of Allah to give your daily absolutions” as a personal invitation to sacrifice coveted sleep for something more restful and useful.

Breakfast is enjoyed as a family before Simon and Ruby leave for school around 7am. We used to eat hot cereal with the occassional sconey donut with the rest of the Heartwood family, but we wanted more variety and Kayla wanted to prepare food for the family. So now we eat eggs, hash browns, pancakes, pan-fried toast, or hearty oatmeal, with lots of fruit. It is a lot of work for Kayla in the kitchen, but it is work she values, and certainly we all appreciate the fruits of her labors. Whether it is a morally correct choice to enjoy more variety in the diet than the rest of our dear family here is a matter for another blog post. It is no small dilemma that I continue to struggle with, which deserves a blog post of its own.

Then my work day begins. In SLC my official work hours were from around 830am-530pm, based at my office on 500 N. For the first month I had to go to Monrovia and beyond almost every week day, first by motorcycle taxi / keke / taxi (up to 2.5 hours one way), then after I invested in a TVS commuter motorcycle in mid-Sept I could commute by myself much far less time (30-45 minutes one way). I’d leave around 830-9am and often not return home until 6-7pm (deneding on if I was able to stop off at the internet cafe to handle urgent matters). Thanks to completion of the first phase of vehicle registration and having received the first container, my commute dropped to thrice weekly. But now, with the completion of our 65’ metal internet tower this weekend, I will be able to work more from home, and only have to travel about once a week or so. I have been spending about 30% of my work day commuting, 25% on DIY projects around the compound, 25% on AHP administration, 10% on the social enterprise, and 10% on Heartwood family and community work. Given the difficulty in accessing internet and the huge proportion of time required getting from point A to point B, and the urgency of some of the DIY projects and AHP work I’ve had to do, I have seriously neglected my responsibilities with the business (props to Troy), and with Kayla and the Jones brigade (props to each of them). November will see a significant shift in how my time is spent, which I anticipate with a smile.

After trying to capture a moment of peace with the western sky at sundown we eat dinner, I’ll take another bucket bath about 12 hours after the last, have nightly devotional with the Family for 30-45 minutes, make some notes about what I did, and make plans for what I’m going to do, squeeze in a little time in conversation or play with the kids, do some parenting for the younger (and older) Heartwood children, have Jones family prayer, and then prepare for bed by around 10pm.

Sundays are what they are meant to be – a day of rest from labors to focus on family, community, and church work. We leave for church around 8am for arrival by 9am, and arrive home around 2pm. At church we actively serve in our callings, and enjoy our association with members of the Banjor Branch of the Bushrod Island Stake. As soon as the keyboard is repaired I’ll be accompanying the hymns, and I have been busy putting the Young Men program in order by making sure ordinations and confirmations are completed, helping to organize quorums, teaching, etc… We usually invite friends from the community to join us, some of whom have been jumping in the back of Gavin the Grey to catch a ride to church. After lunch I usually make time to teach a guitar class (courtesy of a guitar donated by an expat who was returning to the US), do interviews with the orphan children, work with Rufus on organization of the Home, read scripture, write blogs, do the hard work of disciplining children who need a little love, have meets and greets with community members, are otherwise make deposits into the human relationships savings bank.


my typical day consists of…

30 Oct 16
Kayla Jones


This experience is starting to feel like a blur as one day fades into the next. I just realized today that we’ve been here nearly two months. I rarely know the day, let alone the date. The passage of time for me is marked by the diminishing of supplies and books read. I’m down two tubes of toothpaste. My church shoes and flip flops are both ruined, and I’ve read The Book of Matthew (Seminary), Jacob-Mosiah, Mary Poppins (to Charlie and Ivy), The Light Between Oceans, and am now making my way through Anna Karenina.
I love reading, and it is glorious having time to do it. Ruby has always been a voracious reader, but it’s been so great for me to watch Simon, Charlie and Ivy all come to the library and finish book after book too. That has definitely been a positive thing about being here to me. Love it!

I will give you a little snippet of what a day in the life of Kayla is like here in Zuannah Town.
5:30am, awake to the Imam’s call to prayer next door, and then listen to the Muslims prayers (which are a lot like singing chants) for the next half hour. This is a beautiful way to wake up!

6:00am, Andy and I roll out of bed, but all older children are up and about already, busily getting their chores done before they have to leave for school

This week was awesome because Simon had a late start to school, so I didn’t have to do early breakfast. Due to this slight change in our routine, Andy and I went on a jog together each morning (except once, when it was raining). I discovered that this small thing could be the key to my happiness – an exercise date with my love!

Usually though…. by 6:15, I’m in the kitchen making breakfast for my family. – eggs and toast, banana pancakes, hashbrowns and eggs, oatmeal, fried plantain, cream of wheat – something like that.

6:45am, family prayer and breakfast

7:00am, Simon and Ruby are off to school and I clean up breakfast and start the coal pot for the oven. I make 6 loaves of bread every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Two for my family and 4 for the 20 other people. They are BIG loaf pans. 1 is equal to about 1 and 1/2 a regular loaf I used to make at home. Anyway, this bread making process can take anywhere from 2 hours to 4 hours depending on if the coal is wet or dry. The coal pot is my nemesis! I SO miss the ease of baking with the ovens I have known my whole life. I’ve always loved baking. Now I dread it, because it is so time consuming and the outcome is so unpredictable. I WILL figure it out though!

By 9:00am, if the sky looks favorable, Charlie, Ivy and I start laundry. I really try to do a load each day or else it can get overwhelming very quickly. I only do mine and Andy’s washing. The kids all do their own. If it’s a smallish load, it takes about an hour. Double that for a bigger load. Andy designed and had built a standing washing station built over by the sink, which really saves my back. I have to pump 3 buckets (about… 3 gallons each) from the well to fill the washing and rinsing tubs. I have noticed pronounced arm muscles growing on each one of us! The washboard is between these two tubs. Soak clothes, scrub clothes, rinse clothes, wring clothes, hang clothes. If the sky is being temperamental, that last step can last all day – hang clothes, run and take down clothes QUICKLY, hang clothes back up, run and take down clothes QUICKLY, repeat as needed 🙂

In between these chores I start Charlie and Ivy on their lessons. After an explanation of the math concept for that day is taught they are pretty independent with their assignments. It’s so great. And I love that just being here and having this experience, and doing these chores are all part of a valuable education too. They love staying home and the quiet time we have while all the others are off at school. I don’t regret the homeschool decision one bit.

11:30, Charlie, Ivy and I make some lunch. Usually Ramen, or PB&J with the bread I just made. And fruit. Oh yes, we have made sure we always have an abundance of fruit! All fresh from the market, sourced from surrounding villages and farms, and organic. And cheap!

12:15, the little kids come home from school. Usually our lessons are done for homeschool but sometimes not, and we can’t play yet.
I also take an hour for myself during this time before the older kids come home, to prepare my seminary lesson for later that afternoon.

2:45, everyone is home from school and I do a “Proper English Class”. Usually it’s just reading Hymns or a Shel Sylverstein poem together, enunciating each sound and listening to each child make the sound. In their accent they typically drop the last sound off of nearly every word, making it so hard to understand. It also means they have a hard time spelling the last half of many words 🙂
After this class, I do homework help, reading lessons, and multiplication flash cards with any and all children that want it.

5:00pm, Seminary class is held. I have 9 students. It is slow and difficult having to explain each thing in such detail. And having them do the journal writing they’re supposed to be doing during class is very time intesive. Any reading aloud is VERY SLOW. I started homeschooling Simon through Seminary, apart from this class. It was too tedious for him. Besides, I’m only ever able to make it through about 1/4 of the material. I’d like him to get more out of it just because he can.

Sometime between 6 and 7 is dinner. We always eat what is made for dinner (different from my plan in the last blog post which was to only share dinner meals three times a week). It’s usually fried chicken or fresh or dried fish with rice (ALWAYS), and some sort of “soup” – cassava, bitterball, potato greens, palm nut, etc…. Some are better than others, but my kids are being real champs about the food – better than I, I’ll admit. Simon and Ruby actually love the rice bowls a lot.

Between 7 and 8 we do dishes and take our bucket baths.

8pm, is devotional. We all gather in the Palava House for Hymns, declaration of “thank yous” for good deeds done that day, talks (assigned the previous night) on topics from For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet, sometimes a reading and discussion of one of the rules of the home, and discussion of any issues that need brought up.

9pm, brush teeth and go to bed. It’s amazing how much sleep we’re getting. The heat is just exhausting. We NEVER sleep in past 7 though, even on the weekends. We’ve all been having wild and vivid dreams. The kids often dream about going back to SLC and finding no one missed them – haha! I dreamed the other night of M&Ms – peanut, plain, pretzle…. We all had a good laugh at that 🙂

That’s about it! Reading through this, it doesn’t seem much different than what I was doing back in the states – cooking, cleaning, laundry, helping kids with school work, church callings, family spiritual nourishment. I guess the biggest difference is the time it takes to do those chores. It really is hard work. It’s not hard to feel just fine about not exercising, when your everyday tasks make your muscles burn and sweat run down your back. Because of the extra time required little attention is given to leisure.

Things I’m happy about right now:

1. Saturday shopping. For the past few weeks, every Saturday the Jones fam hops into the 4WD truck and makes the trek into town. This is a big deal for me – being the only day, apart from Sunday, that I get out of Zuannah Town. I can tell Andy hates it because the traffic is so bad and he battles with it all week, but it is the highlight of my week! I love just having our own little family time, and buying snacks on the side of the road from vendors – meat pies, tea bread with mayo, cinnamon rolls!, COLD water bags.
Things I’m looking forward to:

1. Internet. A tower is being built right now so that we have internet access out here in the bush. While I do not desire any more connection than I’ve had for myself – DIS-connecting was one of the top things I was looking forward to! – if having internet HERE will allow Andy to be here more, the sooner the better!

2. The completion of the DOME HOME.


coexisting at the orphanage

30 Oct 16
Kayla Jones
one comments

Well, month two of the Liberia experience has officially begun, and let’s just say that I face it with much more ease than month number 1. Up until now it feels as if I have been struggling to keep afloat. I’m grateful that perserverance and prayer have changed that. With a little effort and tweaking this is really starting to work for our family now. I can’t say I didn’t have many days when I seriously doubted it!

Things that have changed:

1. While I planned to help teach at the school, the NGO that is supporting it decided that it was best to have the actual teachers teaching phonics. Apparently, not only do they need to learn how to teach it, but they can also greatly benefit from it. Language skills, written and spoken, are lacking quite a bit. This worked out fine for me, because now I am now homeschooling Charlie and Ivy! They went to the village school for a few weeks. They learned some Liberian history, and the National Anthem. They got a good feel for what it’s like to attend school (which is mostly just “loud”), and then decided they wanted me to teach them this year. I was more than happy to oblige. I have greatly missed private time with my kiddos. There are 26 of us that live at the orphanage now. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by noise and chaos. We LOVE our four hours, just the three of us, until the four little kids get home from school at 12:30. This is ample time for us to re-charge and feel ready to play nicely with others 🙂
Simon and Ruby haven’t complained about school and seem to be enjoying the experience. We are working on getting internet out where we live. If we’re able, they may choose to stay home for their lessons as well. If nothing else, they will at least be able to better supplement their education beyond just the math text books we brought for them.

2. A whole new world has opened up to me now that I have gotten past my fear of the motorcycle. Andy took me into town TWiCE this week. It is a bumpy ride, with the potholes and enormous washed out parts of the dirt roads. I am literally sore from my body being so tense on these rides! It’s about a 20 minute ride to the paved road on a motorcycle (35 by car). Up until this week, my only ventures into town have been going to church on Sundays. Andy has been busy with this container, so I’ve just been staying out in Zuannah Town all the time. I was feeling a little stir crazy. Okay, maybe A LOT stir crazy. Also, it was really frustrating having to go to Vic to ask for things like toilet paper or laundry soap. And my kids were ALWAYS hungry! This is a new feeling for them – haha. Charlie said, “there are NO snacks here!” True story. This situation wasn’t working for us, and certainly was not helping me feel at home here. This brings me to number three….

3. Instead of us just putting money into the orphan home monthly budget to cover the expenses of our family, we are now taking care of our own needs seperately. This sounds so logical, and you may ask why we didn’t do that to start with. Well, it’s a bit trickier than you may think. It can feel very divisive. And just try to eat with a hungry child watching you! Impossible. (Not that the kids at the orphanage are underfed or anything… it is more a matter of timely food preparation). So Andy and I sat down with Vic and Rufus and figured out how to make this work for all of us. We decided what was needed was a very scheduled eating system, which included times and menu that everyone could count on. The existing system worked well enough for those already here, but not really with us in the mix. Breakfast and dinner are always prepared, but most days lunch isn’t provided as a meal. Not because no one is hungry. Everyone is hungry. Just no one makes anything. They just eat a piece of bread with butter or leftover rice. With the new plan Vic and I will rotate days when we will be in charge of having food for the kids when they return from school, and I won’t feel guilty about providing lunch for my own kids.
Also, instead of our family always eating what is prepared – which isn’t ALL bad, but I would like a bit more variety and a say in how we are nourished. Nine months is a long time of eating fish, rice and cassava leaf. So… Andy bought me a little single burner propane stove, and we will go into town twice a week to buy food. There is a supermarket run by some middle eastern people that have most things I’m familiar with. Some prices are astronomical, while some are the same or cheaper than in Utah. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, but can I just say one word, people? NUTELLA! 🙂 We are now making our own breakfast, lunch and 4 dinners per week. The other 3 nights of the week, we will eat with the others. Friday nights I make cookies, and three times a week I bake bread for us all. Last night I fixed for my little family of six, eggplant parmesean. My goodness, it was heavenly! That was our first day having dairy since being here. I’m glad our guts didn’t seem disturbed by this long lost food group! We have no refrigeration, so anything I buy that would require it needs to be consumed that day.

That’s all the news for this week! We are currently at the stake center. They are broadcasting the Saturday second session and the Priesthood session. I’m so glad we could participate, even if it’s just a little!

Love you,

slip and stitch

30 Oct 16
Simon Jones
one comments

So about 3 weeks ago the container arrived which had the 2 vehicles and big dirt bikes. Naturally, I was pretty excited and could not wait to ride the bikes. I had been practicing on the small motorcycle for the past 2 weeks before the dirt bikes arrived, so that I could be ready and able to jump right on. The follwing Friday night, my dad came up to me and told me that he had time right now to take me out. I got right up and put my shoes on. I walked to the dome house, which is where all of the motorbikes are stored for now. He hopped on one, put the key in, put it in neutral, and wheeled it outside the gate. I did the same.

Once we were both outside the gate we started the bikes. He told me to get used to the throttle and the clutch, because they are a lot stiffer than the small motorcycle, which I had become so used to riding. I spent about 2 minutes messing with the clutch and throttle and then my dad took off. I was like, “Okay boss” – and I followed right after him. He lead the way to the school’s soccer field, which is just about a 2 minute walk from the compound.

He started doing figure eights, and I was just following in his tracks. Once we were about to finish another figure eight, I watched him fall when his bike slid and tipped. I started to go around him not knowing what had caused him to wreck, and then I tipped too. I didn’t know what had happened at first. I got up and my dad was already standing, just staring at the bikes, thinking. We had both hit a long pice of wet bamboo hidden in the long grass. When our front tires hit the bamboo, the tires slipped out from under the bike, causing us to tip. I stood there too for about 30 seconds and then I felt a really hot sensation on my right forearm, so I looked down. There was a 3 and a half inch gash. It wasn’t bleeding a ton, there was just white. I knew it wasn’t bone but I just stared at it and said, “Wow. That’s deep”. My dad told me to to come over to him so he could have a look. He said that we were going to have to get me to the clinic right away and that I was going to need stitches. He told me to go wash it really well and that he would be over in a little bit. He was going to try to figure out how to get the 2 bikes back so they wouldn’t get jacked or played on by kids.

I started walking, and then I turned my arm over because I was dripping blood from some place other than my forearm. Most of my palm was covered in blood and there was about an inch wide puncture wound, and I could tell it was pretty deep. As I was walking back to the compound, three people stopped me wanting to see my arm. I was fine with it because I wasn’t in a real hurry. It suprisingly didn’t hurt. I finally got back to the compound and everyone was just staring at me. I went over to the sink and started running water over it. I did that for about five minutes until my dad got back. He came over and took another look at the cuts and then got the alocohol to pour on it to clean it. It didn’t hurt. At least that’s what I told myself. It actually hurt like crazy! We then wrapped it up in gauze and drove to the clinic which was about a 45 minute-1 hour drive. My mom came and one of the other orphans named Leo who had a problem with his finger.

Once we got to the clinic, we checked in. They already had my name and all of my information because I had been there earlier in the week when I was diagnosed with Malaria (that’s another story…). The generator didn’t come on until 7pm, so the whole clinic was dark. We did the stitches outside on a white, plastic card table with sugar ants all over it – no steril pad for me to lay my arm on. Not the best of conditions, but then again, we’re in Africa so what do you expect? By the light of my dad’s iPhone, Dr. Bobby put the Novacain in my arm and started the stitches. He must have had a dull hook though because I could tell that he was really having to use his strength to get it though my skin. He finally switched out the hook for one he crafted out of a needle and it was a lot better for both the me AND the doctor. I got 12 stitches in my right forearm.

Next was my palm. I only got 5 stitches in there, but the worst part was numbing it. Putting the needle in hurt so bad! Once he was finished we got pictures (of course), and then he bandanged me up. It didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would when the numbness went away, but it sure was annoying having so many bandages on and not really being able to use my right hand at all. The bright side? I didn’t have to do dishes, homework, or most of my chores for a week!

Anyway the stitches are out now and there’s a gnarly scar on my forearm. My palm still isn’t healed though.

Look at the pictures on our online album. There’s a link somewhere on this blog site I think.

I love you all! Hope you’re all doing great!

brushing, blisters, and buddies

30 Oct 16
Simon Jones
one comments


This past week was not very eventful. The only time I leave the compound is to go to school and Saturday we went to the beach but that’s really it. The beach is really fun! The waves were amazing! They were huge and they were breaking pretty close to the beach which was nice to not have to go out so far. We also had to had to “brush” the area behind one of the houses that we are going to make a part of the orphanage and that took forever! Brushing is pretty much mowing the lawn with a cutlass. We’re just clearing weeds half as tall as me to bushes and small trees that are taller than me. I have 7 blisters but I got pretty tan so it was worth it 🙂

We have been here for 1 whole month already! I feel like it went by really fast. Just to think that there are only 8 more of those to go comforts me a little. It’s hard with the separation from my friends back home. Talking to them makes me miss them even more, but we’re not here forever. We will see them again. There is this one special person in particualr that I miss very much. His name is Jare. I can’t wait to be able to see him again!

Hopfully we will be able to move into the “dome home” this month. These guys that my dad hired to help out with the house, have been working on it for the past week – patching up leaks and what not on the top of the roof. It always scares me when I see them up there because the roof is round so they could fall off any time! My friend took me down to the Poe river on Saturday and told me about how we would be going craw fishing during the dry season when the water is lower and not moving as fast. I’m exited for that.

I miss you all and I can’t wait to see you again!

a (mon)day in the life of a ruby in a liberian village

30 Oct 16
Ruby Jones

Hello dear friends and family!

Today I’d like to explain a little bit about everyday activities. Any given Monday, for example, here is what I generally experience: I wake up about 5:30am to the rooster and E-mom, crawl out of my mosquito net, throw on some clothes and head out to do my chores. My chores vary depending on the day of the week, but include drawing water for the bathroom, drawing water for the washing and drinking water, cleaning, sweeping, etc. Usually I finish by about 6 or 6:15 and then I go and get ready for school and eat. I try to leave the house by 7-7:15 to walk to school with Bintu or whoever else is ready to leave. I call Bintu “Ma” because her name is Bintu Ma Sowah Paye. Walking at a moderately fast pace it takes between 45 minutes and 1 hr.

When we reach school around 8, when school is supposed to start, we wait around for a while for a teacher to show up and unlock the doors. When we do get in, who knows what classes we’ll have or if we’ll even have any. There’s a lot of messing around with no real authority nearby to care. Sometimes if a teacher remembers to ring a bell we’ll go out for recess, when some people go home, and some stick around to see what class could possibly be next. I usually go down the road with my friends and get something to eat, or Ma brings bread for us from home. We come back in class a while later, (nothing is specific time wise. No one cares how long anything is in school.) and wait to see if a teacher will show up. If there is, we take notes, and rarely get homework that never gets collected or checked. I have all male teachers by the way. I have no idea why but there isn’t a single female employed at Kpekor Public School. At about 1pm we all leave and begin the trek home. If the sun is hot that day, when we reach home I look like someone wasted (poured) water on me. Soaked through my clothes with sweat.
At home I go change, sometimes bathe, and go in my moms’ room for a snack. Usually bread that she made that morning, or gari. Gari is my favorite snack that is made from ground casava stick. It looks like tiny white flecks which can be very messy. It goes in a cup with water, powdered milk, sugar, coconut, peanuts, whatever your heart so desires. It’s easy to fix and it’s sweet. After my gut is full or at least satisfied I go and do my washing if I need to.
Laundry washing is quite a task that has taken a lot of practice and that I’m continually getting better at. First I draw water and collect the materials I need: dirty clothes, soap packet, ball of soap, and chloride. These all go in the water and begin washing by hand. After washing and rinsing and hanging everything on the line, (this could take anywhere between 15 minutes and literally 6 hours depending on how much clothing need laundered) I’m finished.
Then I help make dinner or do homework, or read or play or whatever I feel like. Around 6pm someone rings a bell and we all gather in the back kitchen to pray over the food. Then we eat rice and soup and fruit. Every day. I am so much in love with this meal 🙂 Then I draw (pump) water and take my bath. It takes around 35 pumps to fill a bucket big enough for a bath and can take 1-5 minutes depending on if you’re me or Ivy. After I bathe I plait (brid) my hair or ask someone else to if I want more than two.
Devotional is at 8pm. On Mondays that means FHE which is a time where anyone who has a joke or a riddle or a skit or a song or dance can come share it. It’s our day of the week to share fun (make each other laugh). Then Tuesday through Thursday is regular devotional when two people gives talks like they would in sacrament meeting, and Friday and Saturday are movie night. Last week we watched Frozen, and I sang every single song. Not lying. Sunday night is testimony meeting. All of these nightly devotionals happen in the palaver house, behind the building we stay in.
Then I get ready for bed and crawl into my mosquito net. The end.
Life is different in such a good way. It’s less complicated. Less crowded. Less lonely. Less sad. Less monotonous. Even though every day here I’m doing mostly the same things, it feels different. It’s so much fun. 🙂 Love, Ruby Roo, Rubicks cube, rubizzlee, rubbles, and little sis Jones



my happy place

30 Oct 16
Ruby Jones
one comments


Hello friends! I’m going to use some of the Liberian vocabulary words and common sayings I’ve learned and use often. The definition is in parentheses.

This has been a crazy week! On Monday I wasn’t feeling well so I didn’t go to school. On Tuesday we came home early because no teachers showed up. On Wednesday, same thing. We found out the teachers were on strike, so we didn’t even go to school on Thursday and Friday. Which is good, because I’m ruining shoes just walking to and from school! Two pairs were trashed just last week. I’ve said before that I LOVE the walk to school, and it never fails to interest me. On Friday, just for fun, my best bud Leo (14) says “Ruby I’m tired. Come tow me.”(carry on your back) We were just messing around, but there was no way I would mean him. (deny) So I handed my backpack off to Morris and carried Leo until I my body gave up. Just as a side note, the sun was flogging us. (SO hot and humid) Then, to be fair, he towed me for a little. Then I towed Diamond, Bintu, and Morris. I was shocked when I put Morris on my back! This 19 year old guy was about as heavy as Charlie. He is super short, and built of muscle. He’s called “Gospel” because he is strong and can use tools. It was plenty fun and even though I was dangerously overheated, it was an enjoyable workout.

I spent most of my week with Leo and Diamond. They taught me a ton of games: Police, African Tic Tac Toe, G, and they even tried to teach me a Liberian rap that I now love. I don’t know if you can look it up, but you should try. It’s called Unto You I Give My Praise by Soulfresh. Leo tried to teach me how to cut a coconut, but I couldn’t have failed harder haha 🙂 I nearly cut my finger off. A machete is harder to aim with than I thought. My dad taught Leo and I how to play a rythem on the new djembes, so he and I played almost every day. Diamond started teaching me how to sew, and that is thanks to Grandma Jones, who taught him. I had a great time doing that.

Just outside the fence, behind the kitchen, under the big mango tree, there is a bamboo bench in the shade. This is my happy place. I bring my book out there and lay down looking up at the inside of the beautiful tree, watching the same small spider spinning it’s web and catching its meal. For some reason this is a really peaceful place for me to go and relax, most times taking a nap. Usually when I’m there, Leo will come and sit with me and we talk. Even though I’m a person that seriously needs alone time, I always love talking with Leo. He said “Nobody on earth wants to be alone.” He’s a gentleman and my best friend so far, so he keeps me company when I’m alone or troubled.

Last night I ate sugar cane for the first time. It’s just a stick that has bark on it. I’m not entirely sure I was eating it right, but what I did was bite off the bark a bit at a time and suck on it for a bit. Then I took bites of the core and suck on that. It is sweet! When it lost the flavor I chunked it. (chucked, or threw) I also ate pig feet, condensed milk on bread, and chicken. When I say chicken, I mean everyone in my family got a drumstick and I ate my chicken. And my bone. And my moms’ bone. And my dads’ bone. And then my teeth hurt from all the intense crunching.

I finished my book this week!!! Loved it! Thank you Britanny! The Secret Garden is going on my long list of favorites.

We went to the beach yesterday, and I held a crab! Last week I accidentily made it known that crabs freak me out, so the boys entertained themselves by trying to force me to hold one. Not fun. However, yesterday Leo showed me how to find them, safely hold them, and even remove the claws so they can’t burn you. (pinch) It was actually enjoyable after that. I held a few dead baby crabs, a few living, and even a huge harmless one. As we were about to leave Leo came to me with one in his hand that he wanted me to hold. I asked “Is it big? Did you rip off the claws?” but he just smiled, didn’t answer, and handed me a medium size crab with its pincers!! It burned me a few times and I dropped it. I was kinda mad at him for that, but he caught it again before it could get away, and I held it again, more careful this time. I don’t want to dig for them yet, but at least I’m not as scared of them anymore, so I’m proud of myself 🙂

I love it here, I love my life, and I love the Lord, who made this beautiful journey possible. I have made an effort to memorize a few hymns that I like. So far I have Lord I Would Follow Thee and I’m familiar with The Lord Is My Light. The first week I was here I was actually scared that I would wake up from this living dream to my less challenging life on Cavallo Drive. I love hearing from you all, and I hope some of you will consider or further look into visiting Liberia!

your buddy, Ruby Jones
P.S. in the picture, it’s me, Ivy, Leo, and Diamond. Sorry the light isn’t very good 🙂

teeth, towers, and mooncraters

30 Oct 16
Charlie Jones

Hello. The 80 foot tower is getting taller and taller. The reason that the constuction guys are building it is so we can get internet here. They are building it in the compound, and I don’t know why. Must be for some technical reason or something like that. Or maybe so I can climb it.

Going to church here is a very hot, sweaty, difficult thing to do here. First of all my family sometimes has to ride with Faith, Patrick, and Joesephine. The reason I don’t enjoy doing that is because they can all get extremely rowdy and loud. As for me, I am glad that I sit up in the middle seat by Andy and Kayla because then I don’t have to sit back with them. Simon, Ruby, and Ivy do. It is not like I’m geting special priviledges or anything like that, I get carsick really easily. Plus, there are these mooncraters in the road that are super bumpy. I hate it a little.

A tooth of mine finally came out. It has been really bloody. Especially when I brush my teeth. It hurts whenever I do that, so I just try not to brush that side of my mouth so my teeth won’t hurt. I know and understand that if I don’t brush the side of my mouth where the tooth was lost, then those specific teeth won’t be cleaned. So, I have been having mouth pains for some time now. The tooth above it finally pushed it out of the way, it seems.

Since there is not much else to do here I have been reading a lot. I’v never been interested in reading until about a week after we arrived here. I try not to read books too thick, like Percy Jackson or Just Jane, because then you get too consumed in the book and lose track of time and the next thing you know you’re starving, but your family has already had dinner without you. So if you didn’t know, now you know.

There is not much left to talk about now, so I hope that everybody back home is safe and happy without us.



friends and foes

30 Oct 16
Charlie Jones
one comments

Hello! I’m sorry that I haven’t written on this for quite some time now.

The last couple weeks have been nuts. I can’t believe thet we’ve been here for a month and a half! I mean, just yesterday I got attacked by our stupid dog, Heartwood. He went crazy because he was guarding his stash of bones we started to feed him and I walked by him. There was some blood, but the dog’s dead now because somebody ate him, and I didn’t have to go to the clinic. I’m fine.

I am kind of over sharing a room with Simon and Ruby and Ivy. I mean, it’s already hard enough to share a room with Simon back in America, but Ivy and Ruby too? Come on,give me a break… Plus there’s like this stuffy, very stinky smell that is in our room and nobody can seem to smell it except for me. So that stincks. Literally. I think because we are not too good at handwashing our clothes yet, and plus it takes a while for them to dry because of the rainy season.

I am definitely enjoying home school way better than Zuannah Town Public School. First of all, I can understand who is talking to me and second of all, there are no sweaty, sticky uniforms to wear all day or confusing questions to answer. I just like it way better. Me and Ivy and my mom.

I miss all of you who might be reading this, but there are a few people in particular: my grandparents from both sides, Ben Botchway, Avelino and Oting, Jared, Seth, Gaege, and most importantly, Terrel Fransisco. Terrel is the one who gave me his lucky shoes. Terrel is the one who just turned 13 years old. Terrel, if you are reading this I just want to give a shout out to you and to say that you’re a very good friend of mine – just like all the other people that I mentioned. I like you all.




breaking down houses and home schooling

30 Oct 16
Charlie Jones
one comments


Hi. Yesterday we went to the beach. The waves were huge! They went out so far.

There was this house next to the compound that was falling apart and dangerous, so some really strong guys broke it down.

Today we are watching general conference on this huge thing at the stake center.

Ivy and I are not going to the public school anymore. We are going to just be homeschooled, Ivy and I. The teachers are just not that good at teaching. Plus I can’t really understand them much. Recess was just standing or sitting in the sun mostly.



Kayla: Teacher and Student

28 Sep 16
Kayla Jones

This week had some highs and lows. We’ve been here nearly a month now and the surroundings and way of life seem normal now.

I was initally asked by an NGO that is working with the Zuannah Town Elementary School to provide reading support to the students at the school – which would mean having teachers identify which of their students needed extra help with their reading skills. This I know how to do. When I showed up to do this on Monday morning though, the principal and teachers decided that they didn’t want me taking kids out of the classrooms, because they would miss out on lessons. It was decided that it would be more beneficial if I just taught phonics in all of the grades. 15 minutes per class, per grade. Also, I am to “Develop your own lesson plans”. Okay… being the agreeable person that I am, I enthusiastically said that I would. Well, I quickly discovered that what I remember about teaching my own kids phonics will run out in no time at all. After three days of teaching, I called the woman from the NGO to ask if she had any materials for me to follow so I could better do this. She said that she did not want me teaching phonics. The teachers needed to be the ones to do it so that: a. they learn how to teach it, and b. they improve their own skills of phonics (phonics is not part of the educational system in Liberia). For example: my kids copy teachers’ notes off the board that are most often grammatically incorrect. Ivy’s teacher wrote her a note to remind her that her beaded ankle bracelet is not allowed in school. The note read: “Please, Ivy. Tell me you are not wearing beans.” She was SO confused, and laughed and laughed when she told me! Also, fish is “fich”, beach is “beash”. The reason for this is that most Liberians speak in pidgin english that drops the last half of most words. If a person doesn’t read the words in a book there would be no way of knowing how to spell (or pronounce) the full word in most cases. Another one of my favorites: if something should be thrown away, you “chunk it”. Or if they want you to throw a ball, “chunk it”. Hahahha! Love that one….

Anyway, back to the school. I did love being there. So the next day I went, I told the principal that I had spoken to NGO lady from New Jersey, Christina, and she didn’t want me teaching phonics. That day, I took it upon myself to work my weeding out/organization skills that I got obsessed with this year and organized their library/teacher’s lounge. They have a ton of text books and storybooks that were EVERYWHERE – no order to it whatsoever. So I got my earplugs (the school is SO loud because each room is just a cinderblock amplifier box), and found my happy place going through every single book. Weeding out outdated materials, and organizing by subject so that you can clearly see what’s what to be utilized in a classroom. And cleaning. Oh my word, the dead critters I found! Not to mention the dirt and droppings. One book I removed from the shelf caused a lizard to jump out at me! It took me 5 hours, but I transformed that place 🙂 It felt fantastic and the staff was so appreciative. The principal kept saying over and over what a hard worker I was. Which is so funny now that I’ve seen the way things run here. The motto seems to be, “Why do today what can be done tomorrow?” haha

The day after that, the NGO team showed up at the school again and were doing reading and math assessments on all of the children. I was asked to help, so that was enjoyable. I love the children. It’s fun to work at the school, but I’m just not sure in what capacity I would be helpful. I’ll pop in tomorrow and see what’s up.

I guess the frustrating thing I’ve faced that I didn’t foresee happening, is the feeling that we didn’t move to a new home but that we’re just staying at someone’s place – for a really long time. In reality, this IS our place. We created it. It is easy to feel that this is Rufus and Vic’s place though. They run it. They oversee the chores of the children. Vic does the shopping and runs the kitchen. Rufus directs the nightly devotional. If I think about it too much, I feel like the annoying guest that seriously outstays their welcome. The fact is though, these children have no parents. They are hungry for love and affection (which isn’t really the African way, from what I’ve seen). There is no one that seems to be assigned to attend to the little things, like making sure the small children are bathed regularly, or brush their teeth. The older girls are pretty helpful with the little girls (braiding their hair), but poor Patrick. He is the only small boy and he is terribly overlooked and under cared for. He is the obvious place to start.

The other day Vic went to the market (since we have no refrigeration, she has to go buy perishable food every other day), and I was the only one home. The small children get out of school around 12:30, which is about an hour before others start coming home. They were all so hungry, but Vic had her room locked up – which has the food they usually eat after school (gari). I had access to the pantry, so I decided to try to make them some spaghetti. I couldn’t get the dang coal pot lit though! There were only had 3 matches, which I quickly wasted. We decided to get everything else ready and hope Vic got home soon to get more matches out of her room. I was slicing up the onion and Faith was eating it as soon as it hit the cutting board! Raw onion! Then I opened some cans of tomato paste to put in the pot, and these kids were licking the remains of the tomato paste from the cans. Ah! Did I mention there’s no can opener? Cans are just opened with a knife. So I snatched away the cans before someone cut off their tongue, and gave them dry spaghetti instead. Luckily, Vic came home soon after that, and we got those kiddos some food. Boy, did I feel helpless though. I never want that to happen again.

I know there has been a system in place for many years that seems to work well enough for everybody living here at the orphan home. They have their budgets, their methods for getting things done, their division of chores, etc. Stepping into that system and developing my own system within it has its challenges. Ownership needs to be more fully felt though, on my part. I’m such a tentative person that hates to step on toes. It takes real effort for me to step in. I’ll figure it out 🙂 Tis a process!


The new normal

28 Sep 16
Simon Jones

These past weeks have been full of new experiences. I started school as an 11th grader at a private school about 6 and a half miles away from the compound. Every morning Princess Dennis and I are picked up by Skill. He is our personal motorcycle-taxi driver that picks us up and drops us off every morning and afternoon. He gets paid $40/month for this contract. School is from 8-1. We have 6 subjects a day, all in the same, small, hot, classroom. There are different teachers for every subject, which is nice.

For lunch everyday, me, and usually 3 other kids go across the street to a small house/restaurant to eat. It costs $170LD – Which transfers to about a $1.70 US. I like the food. I can’t say that I really enjoyed spicy food back home, but now I look forward to it every afternoon. We are all sweating by the the time the food is gone. And it’s not just me who’s fanning himself and sweating like crazy, so that make me feel a little better.

About a week ago I found out that I am by far the youngest kid in my class. Every other one of my classmates are no younger than 20! They all call me “small boy” cause I’m so young. I have a different name in almost all of my classes too. In Bible class, I’m Simon Peter. In Physics, I’m Simpson. In Trigonometry, I’m Sammy Johnson. It’s just takes so long to correct them that I just let them have their way. At the orphanage the little kids call me some version of Samuel.

We went to the beach the other day, and I learned how to “dig crab”. All over the beach there are these holes about a half inch to about 3.5 inches across. About 2 feet down that hole, is a crab. Depending on the size of the hole it could be a crab about the size of my 2 fists or the size of my thumb nail. That was quite the adventure! What they do when they catch them is rip off the pinchers so that they can’t hurt them and then they just play with them until they end up killing them, so they just go dig another and do the same process. That night I saw a bit of crab claw in my dinner, I think.

We’ve been here for almost a month, so everything we do here is just starting to be normal – the showers, the food, school, going to the bathroom, watching the dog get beat up and he seems to kinda like it (no kidding). It’s all just part of a routine now. Not for long though. We get the first container in a few weeks and it has the vehicles, and 2 dirt bikes! For the past week my dad has been teaching me how to drive one. The gear shifting is a little tricky, but I’m getting the hang of it.



Tales from the 9th grade in a Liberian village

28 Sep 16
Ruby Jones

Greetings! I’m sorry I have been so inconsistent with my writing, but I feel like there’s not much to talk about! I’m experiencing so much but it’s so hard to summarize. Tomorrow I will be starting my third week of school, which has been all new ups and downs. I wake up at about 6am, do chores, get ready, eat breakfast, get an umbrella for the rain that I prayed wouldn’t come, and embark on a trek to school. The walk is usually enjoyable. I get to be surrounded by beautiful green palm trees and lush plants as far as the eye can see. If I stay still and listen I can hear birds and bugs, and I can nearly feel the life that is growing before my eyes.

The walk is about an hour, and every once in a while when I have to literally wade through the middle of the dirt road, knee deep in water, it feels like a whole lot more than an hour. I walk to school with Diamond, Leo, Moses, Bintu, and sometimes Decontee and Felicia. It’s wonderful quality time that we use to: sing, discuss school, discuss politics, discuss fears and hopes, discuss goals, discuss our pasts, and tell jokes. My favorite is when the boys give me koloqua lessons. It’s always a diverting way to pass time 🙂

At school, all the grades have their own classrooms, K-9. There are 14 9th graders, not including me. I think I am the youngest, and the oldest is my friend and neighbor Morris, who is 19. The classroom is small, hot, and worst of all, dim. It is SO hard to stay awake when there is a boring teacher giving a lecture that I can’t understand in a dark room. I end up drawing or passing notes, taking notes, or even falling asleep. No one cares really. In class we just copy the notes written by the teacher on the blackboard (with horrible spelling and grammer errors), and listening and mostly not listening 🙂

The uniform is a white button down shirt every day, a green skirt every day, and black shoes. I have no clue why this is the uniform and why they make it sound so mandatory even though nobody in charge enforces it. There’s a boy named Abraham in my class that has never worn uniform once and literally nobody has mentioned it. It is probably understood that he cannot afford one, and his grandpa is one of the teachers.

At about mid-day when some teacher feels like it, they will bang a bell with a spoon signaling lunch break. The break can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half. The length just depends on when a teacher remembers to ring the bell again. On recess, most kids go down to the small shops by the road to buy a snack. Lots of days I walk with Bintu or the boys down the street just to get “fresh air”, but sometimes I stay by the school and read The Secret Garden. Everyone is interested with my book, but I have to be careful not to let it out of my sight so it doesn’t get stolen or damaged. When I read or walk, I have a large entourage of small children holding my hands and my skirt, just following me everywhere. These are my friends, these first graders that I end up spending lots of time with. My absolute favorite tiny human at school is a little girl named Sata who loves to loosen my plat (braid) and do it up again.

My classes are honestly based on which teachers show up that day. Sometimes it’s 2 or 3 subjects, sometimes it’s 7. In between, the students take turns telling jokes, messing around, literally saying prayers as a class, and rarely but possible, just leaving school entirely. This is always a lot of fun, and I feel like it’s sometimes more educational than if a teacher was present.

Anyways, my time here is just dandy in every way and I miss you all so much! Thanks for reading!

I’m rich!

27 Sep 16
Ivy Jones

I got my allowance on Monday. All the kids here in the orphanage get a monthly allowance. It’s different for different ages. I got $160.00! Well, Liberian Dollers. Which is the same as $1.60. But you can buy a lot of stuff with that!

I made a fort made out of palm leaves and sticks with Charlie and my friends and I like it.

It’s really hot at church and there’s only one fan in the whole Primary room and it wasn’t on today.

I like school in Utah better than I like school here. It’s really loud at my school because the walls dividing the classrooms don’t go all the way to the ceiling, so you can hear other classes when you’re trying to learn. And sometimes, kids just throw things over the wall and you’ll just be sitting in your chair minding your own business, and bam! You get hit in the head with a balled up piece of paper.

We went to the beach yesterday. It was fun. I always get lots of water in my mouth though and it’s gross. Also, myy eyelashes don’t cooperate right and I always get hit by the big waves and it feels like they’re getting pulled off.

Today is windy.

My feet are itchy.

On a scale of 1-10, I give this week a 7.

I’m going to go take my bucket bath now.



beach, church, and school

27 Sep 16
Charlie Jones
one comments

Hello! I hope you are all having good times back in America without us. On Saturday, we went to the beach. There is a lagoon there that connects to the ocean that the little kids like to play in, while all the older kids play in the ocean. When I was in the ocean the waves were huge! I felt like I almost was drowning some of the times the big waves came crashing down. It is Sunday afternoon. We got back from church about five hours ago and the crickets are beginning to chirp loudly, just like they do every single night since arrived. Church is very different here then it is back in Utah. It’s about an hour shorter and is way more boring. I can’t really understand much. Plus, we have the primary program soon and I am not excited about it at all. School starts at 8:00 every day so you don’t have to get up till’ at least 7:00. Then you walk 5 minutes to school and then wait another 30 minutes for all the teachers to get there. After that you go in and do school and then get out at 2:40 at last. I miss you all.


Mention-able memories of the kids…

27 Sep 16
Andy Jones

As of 18 Sept 2016:
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaching Simon how to operate a motorcycle. I had him ride behind me while I explained the procedure. Then we traded places and he took turns alternating between the extremes of clutch out / throttle open action, killing it before moving two inches or almost popping wheelies and tossing me off the back. The way he beams when he is able to start moving out of first gear and work up to third you’d think this was a dream come true for him. The first thing he says to me when I return from my battles in the Ministries is whether we can please “do a lesson”. He has learned well so far, and will be as good as any of us in no time. There’s a fun memory to hang on to. His willingness to go to a new school with people he doesn’t know, and his concern for the quality of his education, is admirable. The possiblity that he could actually learn trig in that school with no lights with teachers he can barely understand has given him enough hope to try. And by tring he will succeed.

Every time I see Ruby I want to remember what I’m looking at. She is constantly engaged in something great. Playing with the little Tokpahs, getting lessons in Coloqua pidgin English, reading a great book to herself or a different great book to friends, making bread or beating cassava leaf, or eating whatever dish has been served, regardless of its content. She seems to always be smiling. Read her blog posts and you’ll know why. This girl is on fire! It is all in her attitude. She has released that part of her that loves adventure and learning new things, which is obvious to everyone around her and which attracts everyone to her. But my favorite thing is that when I dropped her forgotten water bottle off to her at school on day two, she secretly showed me her charm collection which she had brought with her that day – her mojo of momentos from friends, because “I was scared to come to school today so I brought this…” and explained quietly what each charm meant to her. The beautiful thing about this memory is that it reveals something very insightful about Ruby. He thriving is because she has made the choice to be here in every way. It cannot be taken for granted that for some it seems easy, as if no personal effort or sacrifice were involved in being happy or successful in a new or difficult situation. She has chosen the better part: Through her choice to be positive and loving that part of her that loves adventure and learning new things remained open, which is obvious to everyone around her and which attracts everyone to her.

Fire ants seem like the mean stepcousins to those I was introduced to in southeast Texas. You can’t feel them on you until they’re biting and injecting venom. These little wounds itch terribly, and when you doing as DeContee says, “Enjoying it too much”, for even a few seconds of scratching, you must definitely pay the price of open sores that itch more the more you scratch. Charlie boy apparently was enjoying himself a little too much as he connected the fire ant bites with an open sore trench that became angrily infected with mad swelling and icky discharge. I have played doctor on his foot the last three nights, using parts of the medical kits donated by a couple of sweet American grade school girls earlier this year, which has gratefully eliminated the infection and enabled healing to begin. In order to avoid contamination of the wound and to make sure he was included with the rest of the family, I bandaged him up well and carried him (10 years old and 65 pounds) about 4 miles to the beach this last Saturday, where he enjoyed his time scavenging among the ocean trash from Monrovia that has washed onto the shore, yielding him three pairs of mismatched sandals and slides. Another fun memory to hang on to. Charlie has not complained once throughout the process.

Ivy has had heat rash on and off since the first day. She is often uncomfortably itchy but I have never heard her complain. She is choosing to take it all in stride and to find ways to cope that work for her. She takes time alone when she needs it. She asks for help when she needs it. She finds happiness where she can, and that is enough. At District Conference today she was being laid on by Faith who was a little sleeping heater box, while laying on Small Princess who was wearing a fleece coat in 85 degree weather. I can imagine how suffocating that could have felt to her. But she loves her playmates and stuck with it for over three hours, never mentioning a negative feeling. She just wanted me to gently tickle her hand as I sat behind her, and that was enough to recharge her battery for the moment. Really, I am amazed and deeply grateful for her response to the Spirit, leading her toward humility and openness, love and learning, and inner peace. This one seems to have found her “zen”. I give her a ten.

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