Recent Posts

On food in Liberia…

27 Sep 16
Andy Jones

Perhaps a food has never been so beloved as rice is in Liberia. The children at the Home would be content to eat rice three meals a day. Rufus, the Director, told me, “No matter what else we can eat – bread, fruit, spaghetti – we are not satisfied at the end of the day unless we have the belly full of rice. Bread cannot satisfy; it gets stuck in the throat and cannot go down to the stomach to help you.” White rice is the foundation of every supper, with a little soup (similar to Thai or Indian sauces that go over rice) and a piece of meat (usually fish, sometimes chicken or beef). This main meal can take between 3-5 hours to prepare, which is the chore of a pair of children at the Home, and serves as late lunch/early dinner/midnight snack/leftover breakfast. The soup is vegetable or palm oil based, and typically is prepared with chile pepper. Thankfully the cook is sensitive to our mild preference and withholds the pepper for our portion. Served with supper is typically cucumber or orange, and sometimes a piece of bread that Kayla has helped to bake (see her post about her travails in the kitchen ūüôā

Breakfast consists of cream of wheat or quick oats, sometimes sided with baked or fried bread, or egg. Lunch often doesn’t happen, but when it does usually it is spaghetting with oil and pepper. Water is pumped from the well, which is a pleasant upgrade from the processed culinary water we were used to in Rose Park. The occassional snack or treat could be sweet bread, donut, biscuit/cookie, or a variety of seasonal fresh fruits.

I have been surprised and impressed with how Kayla and the kids have adjusted to their new Liberian diets. Kayla determined before she left Utah that she would be willing to consume meat on occassion if she felt her protien intake was not up to par. It has not been, so she has been. Fish and chicken. Equally remarkable has been the way each of the kids has been willing to eat anything that has been placed in front of them, including whole fried fish, bits of beef bone, and chicken bone. Inspired by their new Liberian friends, each has discovered their teeth to be very capable of grinding a chicken leg bone into something swallowable and tasty. I quote this conversation verbatim, had with Ivy as I was eating my dinner late today : “Dad?” “(num num) Yeah?” “Are you going to eat that?” “Eat what (num num)?” “Your chicken.” “Yup.” “What about the bone?” “Nah.” “Can I have it?” “You want to eat the bone?” “Yes. I like it!” “Fine. It’s yours…” “Ivy?” “(crunch crunch) Yeah?” “Could you have imagined two weeks ago that you would be asking me if you could eat my chicken bone as a snack?” “Well (crunch crunch)… We didn’t really have any before, and I didn’t even know you could eat bones back then.” “Fair enough. Enjoy!” Ruby gets credit for being first to make the attempt. Ya think maybe the kids need more non-rice food if they’re begging to eat the bones? Or maybe they’re just amazing people for being so willing to embrace a new culture and diet and way of life so completely. Probably both ūüôā

When I’m in Monrovia running after our NGO documents I usually will grab some snack from street vendors. Roasted cow corn (by this I mean not the sweet and fluffy corn grown for human consumption back home in Idaho, but the tough stuff grown in the fields by dairymen to feed to their hefers), sketchy looking gyros, roasted plantain, sweet bread, egg sandwich, sack of peanuts with fun-size bananas, and of course plenty of 5 cent water satchets along the way (a pint-size plastic bag full of “purified” drinking water from which you tear the corner off with your teeth and suck the water out).

On inefficiencies (and corruption?) in the Liberian government

27 Sep 16
Andy Jones

During the first two weeks I have interfaced with the Republic of Liberia a number of times by attempting specifically to: process Tax Clearance (certificate from the Liberia Revenue Authority showing the NGO is current on all taxes owed) and Duty Free (a one-off grant from the LRA that the NGO may pay a reduced rate on import duties) for our first donated 40′ container which arrived to the Monrovia port a month early (yay and yikes); obtain resident and re-entry permits (the long-term version of a visa) for the family from Immigration; obtain a Liberian driver license from the Ministry of Transport; properly register a motorcycle for the NGO; obtain police cleareance (like a background check that only tests your social connections OR how well you’ve bribed police officers). To understand the context of effort required, all of these processes require in-person interaction at the various Ministries (government departments) which are in Monrovia. It takes me between 2-3 hours to get to any of them, which includes a trek in the rain and mud and traffic via motorcycle taxi and car taxi and keke (three wheeled covered motorcycle),and costs about $15 round trip. No email. No websites. No phone numbers. No written (or followed) procedure whereby one can know what to expect and within what timeframe.

In all this I have not experienced anything different from what I already have come to expect over the past 17 years in running an NGO in West Africa, which is crazy-making inefficiency of official and unofficial procedure that causes extreme waste of time and private resources, and enables the perpetuation of a culture of corruption. To go through the official channel means one will be required to “go and come” any number of times as documents and permissions are followed up on, with little certainty as to the current status or estimated time of completion. To go through the unofficial channel is to pay extra money for services and entitlements that should be rightfully granted, thereby upholding corruption in the system.

For an example of going through the official channel:

In order to submit our Duty Free we were required to go the the LRA to get the information that would be required to sumit. That was Sept 5th. The next day we came back with our packet prepared. But we had to deliver not to the duty-free desk, but to the basement where somebody beind an unmarked desk was to receive it. From there the document was to be carried by him to the third floor, approved, then to the fourth, where it arrived on day three. At that point we got a call saying it was ready to go, except for our pending tax clearance. A couple of days later we got our tax clearnace (another story there which involved me being required to pay the property tax, plus penalty and interest, on behalf of the land owner and landlord of the compound we rent for the orphanage because he had failed to pay, because apparently “tax must be paid” :-), and attached it to our packet. We submitted it to the fourth floor, where it had already been once or more times previously, and where it has now been stuck for 3 days. When I went back on Friday as told by the document handler on the fourth floor I was informed it wasn’t ready, and to come back Monday. I was told the reason for the delay in finalizing the document that had once been approved once already, was that one commissioner was supposed to go speak to the commissioner general about “a concern”. No further information could be obtained, even with persistent questioning. He told me the commissioner wasn’t in the office. But I learned from a different official that the commissioner was in the office, and had approved other documents that day.

The following¬†day I returned to the LRA and was able to speak to the person (a young man who appeared to be in his twenties) on whom our letter was waiting for approval. I found that the reason for the delay was because I didn’t list everything on the invoice in the cover letter (even though the cover letter references the attached invoice for a comprehensive list of contents of the container), as if it were a requirement (it isn’t possible to find within the LRA a written explanation of what a cover letter should contain, or even a requirement of having a cover letter). I was told within a couple of days it would probably be approved. I was wished “good luck” by the secretary as I was leaving the office. I stopped and turned and said, “I could use a little luck; it isn’t easy working with this government as we serve the Liberian people.”

As I was leaving on my motorbike the very guy who I had been speaking to appeared by my side in the parking lot. He was going to town to get to a college class, and asked me for a free ride on the back of my bike. I oblidged, and considered myself lucky. On Sept 20th¬†our letter was “approved”, which means it has passed over six or seven different desks, and we were called to come back in. I picked it up and gave it to our broker, who explained that now he must type up the entry to submit to customer with our letter. This took three days, and the packet was submitted to customs (third floor where our packet had already been at least once for approvals and signatures). The broker told me that the entry must be reviewed by the Commissioner of Customs, who could deny the duty free that had already been given an approval. Then we must pay whatever duty may be assessed, bring the receipts, and then re-submit for a second assessment of duties and fees and penalties (old vehicles carry with them a penalty), which we must then pay. Then, after everything has been paid, the entry is submitted to customs located at the port, who has to give yet another approval, and could deny duty free despite any prior approvals or assessments, and levy additional charges before releasing the container.

I am writing now on Sept 27th, three¬†weeks into the duty free process, sitting on a metal bench in the Commissioner’s lobby. I was told by the broker that the Commissioner denied our duty free entirely. I saw the handwritten note on the letter: “Attn: Deputy Minister, Not exempt on these items.” The DMP could not tell me why, but that maybe I should go to the Ministry of Gender, Childre, and Social Protection (in charge of orphanages) and have them petition on our behalf for duty free. Even if I could get a letter, it would take days or weeks, and still there is no guarantee we would get duty free at the end of the process. The personal secretary to the Commissioner says he is in the building, or was, but nobody knows where he went or when he would be back, but I was welcome to wait. I’m an hour and a half into my wait. I do not actually have any confidence that I’ll be able to make any progress, and I’m now resolved that we are going to have to spend some of the money that has been donated to implement our projects to pay the import duties and taxes we are rightfully entitled to an exemption from paying.

The mission statement of the LRA involves promised transparency, timeliness, and fairness in collecting lawful revenues. Meanwhile we are paying daily fees to the continer yard for storage until it is discharged. So far we are up to about $600. The duties and taxes we would have had to pay had we not applied for duty free comes to $2,600. That’s a snapshot of what the official channel can be like. Of course we can hope that not all government officials behave this way. The good folks in charge of orphanages are approachable and generally easy to work with. And I’m sure there some officials, somewhere at the LRA, who are committed to building their country through honest application of established guidelines and laws. Maybe someday I’ll meet one.

Multiply this experience by driver license, resident permit, NGO accreditation, etc. and you’ll have an idea of how difficult it is to get anything done properly when relying on government procedures through the official channels.

The other option is to go through the unofficial route, which is to arrange for a handler from within or without the department who has the connections to push through the process more quickly, perhaps not officially, and certainly at an additional cost. The extra cost is called “cold water” to drink: the government agent – the gatekeeper – I’m told, cannot seem to find the strength to sign my paper or stamp my document without a little “cold water” to drink. Any number of excuses can be fabricated as to the reason why any given procedure has stagnated, until a little grease has been applied to the wheel. For example, I was stopped twice by stern fellows in street clothes telling me to pull my motorcycle to the side of the road. Each tried to reach over and take the key from my bike, which I didn’t allow. They asked to see my documents, which I promptly showed. Then I was asked to step aside and speak to the guy. “Your documents are in order. You can just ‘put yourself together’ now and you can go.” I said, “I can give you my respect, and appreciation for keeping the streets safe of rouge motorbike drivers. But I cannot give you anything else.” I was held for another 15 minutes while I was thretened to be taken down to the police station for violation of traffic laws. I was told my bike would be broken. I said to please give me a ticket if I am in violation of a written law, and I will pay it to the government LRA. But I cannot give any money to law enforcement officers on the street. I got an earful about how the real work is done on the street, not in the government offices, and that I should “do something” for them. When I eventually started to pull my phone out to call their boss I was encouraged to go and to have a nice day.

In a country where there are billboards sponsored throughout the city by the UN that contain anti-corruption messages, and where I committed to promoting government honesty by not paying bribes, it kind of seems like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position to be in. I see a bribe as money paid to receive a service or permission that shouldn’t legally be granted because the legal requirement has not been met (i.e. pass through a border without a visa, or receive a title for a stolen vehicle). Where we are in compliance with all legal requirements and still are not given permissions needed to do our work properly, is the “cold water” principle considered a bribe? What recourse is available to a small NGO when up against an unethical government employee? Do the ends of doing good charity work justify the means of taking the fast track? When using a handler it is expected that a portion of the money paid will be used to pay officials to grant permissions that should be given for free once established requirements are met, but typically are delayed, if granted at all. Will the fast track always exist? Is this issue unique to governments of low-income countries, or is the practice of government employees exploiting their position as gate keeper for personal gain a universal public problem? Either way, I am not just annoyed at the inconvenience such a system causes; I am not just put out by the extra energy, expense, and time required to work within such a system; I take it to be an offence to me and to the people of Liberia when individuals who have been placed in a position of public trust leverage that position for their personal gain. I’m normally pretty easy going, but I can get myself up in a dither when I am needing to jump through a proverbial hoop in order to advance my charity work but some thirsty person in a uniform is stopping me until they get their “cold water”.

On Equatorial Precipitation

27 Sep 16
Andy Jones
one comments

I misunderstood. Somehow I had the impression that rainy season in Liberia started in around May and ended in around September. I was off by a month or two: Based on evidence of rain EVERY day since our arrival 18 days ago, and sometimes non-stop havey rain 3-4 days in a row, it would seem rainy season hasn’t even considered moving on yet. Her work of destroying roads and increasing the difficulty factor in accomplishing almost anything besides reading a book indoors is apparently still ongoing. This rain is beyond keeping the earth green or filling water reservoirs. During a moderate downpour our gutter-and-barrel rain water collection systems at the Orphan Home refill within minutes, as do the massive puddles on the 6 mile dirt road from Brewerville to Zuannah Town. My rainsuit doesn’t manage to keep me dry, nor do umbrellas. When it comes to laundry, clothes can take days to dry. If one has hope that the sun may shine for a moment all the clothes get hung out to dry, draped over the fence or hung on the line, but typically get re-gathered in a mad rush when the drizzle > sprinkle > tsunami sequence begins. Notwithstanding, I admire the lush greens of this equatorial climate. I appreciate a solid storm during the night because it drowns out the lively wild sounds of the critter night club party along the Po River that runs just behind our compound. The temperature is actually comfortably mild in the mornings and evenings, mid to high 70s and humid. And because of almost continual cloud cover we are spared the oppressive heat of direct sunlight almost all of the time. I’m not complaining about the rain. I am simply describing what is,and what we get to adjust to as best we can.

Photos of the mud puddles on our Flickr album:



Twenty trips but feels like the first

27 Sep 16
Andy Jones
one comments

18 Sept 2016

If my count is correct, this is my twentieth trip to West Africa. To Liberia, something like a fifteen times. Add weeks spent in Honduras and India. I have learned much as I have experienced hundreds of days and nights, and thousands of hours spent serving and working in a developing economy, navigating the government systems, coping with communication and transportation issues, and expanding in appreciation for and underanding of cultures, foods, languages, and paradigms different from those in places where I have previously lived. However…

This time everything is different. Quite different. My family is here. That’s a biggie! I’m not a high maintenance kind of guy, and tend to fare well enough in tough living conditions. But now I have responsibility for 5 others – their safety and well-being. My hyperfocus on getting work done is now split among many other concerns. Also, I LIVE now here, which has created a shift in how I can and have to approach almost everything. Not having to pack a month’s worth of accomplishments into a week affords me more time to breathe and enjoy relationships. The shift from “I can endure about anything for a day, a week, or even a month” to “I need to work out MY system within THIS system that is sustainable for me and my family” takes patience and humility and a new kind of awareness.

My blog will contain a few pieces of what I have experienced and learned during this time of living and serving in Liberia. I have often thought how fun it could be to make a reality TV show that follows an NGO worker who is trying to do charity work in Liberia, to really showcase what it is like on the ground trying to accomplish something of value. It could be very insighful for those not familiar with life in Liberia, and entertaining.

More to come…

Questions from a love one answered

18 Sep 16
Kayla Jones

I am taking advantage of limited opportunities to charge the laptop and get a good connection, by posting an excerpt from an email as a blog post. A concerned and worried loved one had a lot of questions for me. Here is my attempt to provide a few answers, which other friends and family may also have but have not asked…

Dear ____________,

I’m sorry that you feel so tormented by worry. I know that in your language,¬†worry¬†translates to an expression of love. And I feel that. Thank you for loving my family so much.

Because you got my email and I got yours, be encouraged that we can communicate in this way – hooray!
To answer you questions:
1. Why are we not in our dome home yet?
It’s not finished.¬†Our first container with the vehicles¬†is already here! Andy’s time has been spent running around Montovia getting official paperwork completed so that it can be released to us. Getting anything “official” done is quite the inefficient process, so to answer your question, there hasn’t been time yet. We are comfortable in our current situation though.
2. What are we sleeping on?
We each have a 3 inch foam pad. In the kids’ room there is a linoleum-like floor that their pads are on. They each have a bottom sheet, a top sheet a pillow¬†and a mosquito net. They each¬†have one shelf and bamboo rod¬†hung from the ceiling¬†to hang their clothes up. Their¬†room is painted white with 2 Windows with bars on them. They have curtains and a lock on their door. It’s in a building that also has a storage room and a library room. Andy and I are 10 feet away in another building. I can call to them from my window and they can hear me. Our room is a lot smaller than the kids’. Probably 7 feet by 7 feet. We have a queen size foam mattress that is atop a bamboo bed frame. We have more bamboo clothes racks, a¬†4 tiered shelf and a chair. We also sleep under a mosquito net. We sleep soundly and well.
3. How does food prep work? Are we healthy?
They have a very organized chore system. One of the older girls is in charge of the main meal each day, with younger girls helping with food prep. It is primitively done with coal stoves, but works just fine. They have a big metal box with a glass front that works as their oven, once you put a coal pot inside it on the floor. I have taught them to make bread. It’s delicious! I have so far only made one meal – yes, for everyone. I made tortillas, and then mixed together beans, onion, eggs and some chicken seasoning. Not too shabby ūüėČ I’m learning. I’ve started helping a lot in the morning to make sure the kids have food before leaving for school. As with every family, school mornings are rushed!
We are healthy. Ivy had a little itchy heat rash on her face and arms the first week, but that has gone away now. She also threw up a couple of times Sunday night, but was right as rain by morning time. They are all eating so well. The other night there was a drum stick atop our plate of rice and all of my kids did like everyone else,¬†and ate the ENTIRE BONE! Ha! I remember hearing that you shouldn’t feed a dog chicken bones..?? anyway, not for me, thank you. But I did eat it the meat down TO the bone. My family probably may have more protein in their diets now than they did in SLC!
4. Do we have private time with our family?
It’s true that there are MANY more people around, but I still manage one on one time with each of them. I am often in my room journaling or preparing lessons for seminary or the elementary school. My kids come in and talk to me, do their homework, journaling,¬†or we lie on my bed and read together. At night the 6 of us gather in the kids’ room and have family prayer and then I read the kids a chapter out of the book I’m¬†reading to them. After we get this container, Andy will be around A LOT more. And when the village drill gets here in the second container, Simon will be working with his dad. I’m excited for that.
5. Am I expected to “parent” the orphans?
Well, my children certainly come first, but if a child is crying,¬†an argument has broken out, or little people say, “let’s play cards”, I¬†certainly don’t just walk by. We are also free with affection, as they seem so hungry for a hug, or a story read to them. It is natural and easy to oblige.
6. Can I grow a garden?
They already have one in place, but I did bring several types of heirloom seeds and gardening supplies given to us by a dear friend before we left. It is still the rainy season though, so I’ll wait a bit. The rain is truly unbelievable!
7. Church?
Thanks for sharing about the new RM booklets. Haven’t even thought to try to get on If¬†I get any reception out here, which is very rare, I’m usually trying to look up a recipe that I could fix with the ingredients available here.
I’m not sure how General Conference will work. We’ll figure it out. This week we have a regional conference with 3 general authorities coming!
Yes, we will go to church each Sunday. Andy has already been earmarked for Young Men’s,¬†and Simon has already taught in his Quorum. I teach seminary out here at the home each evening to the 10 teenagers. Ruby, Charlie, Ivy and I didn’t make it to church this past Sunday because it wasn’t our turn in the car, and it was a complete downpour. Since Andy and Simon had responsibilities at church, they donned rain suits and hopped on the motorcycle.
8. How far away are the missionaries?
They have come out here to the home 3 times because they were teaching Mercy the discussions. Simon and I sat in on them, along with two others Andy had invited to join the discussion. She was baptized last Saturday, and asked Andy to do it. I met the mission president and his wife (from Midway, Utah) at church. Andy already knew them well. They’re great. The missionaries that taught the discussions were from Ghana and Sierre Leon. The missionaries at church were from Nigeria and California.
9. Are we clean?
Haha ūüôā Yes.¬†I even scrub behind my ears. Ivy often takes her bucket bath with me and Charlie with Andy – so we¬†make sure they’re¬†thorough.¬†You get yourself all wet, then suds up from head to toe and then rinse. No big deal. We bathe every night. It’s nice to get into our beds clean after these sweaty, humid days.

We do laundry often, before our load gets overwhelming. Doing it by hand is quite the chore! We will all come home with more arm muscle.

10. Am I sure my kids are safe?
I feel just as comfortable as I did in Rose Park. Our compound is completely gated in, and the kids stay within it, with the exception of school and church. They never go anywhere alone and walk to school in big groups. Starting next week I will be teaching phonics at the elementary school where Charlie and Ivy are.
We’ve met all our neighbors here in Zuannah Town – 26 houses. Everyone already knows and loves Andy and are happy to meet his family.
11. Are we planning on doing this every school year?
No clue. We’ve been here two weeks. We’ll see how it goes, make it a matter of prayer,¬†weigh our pros and cons and have a family council about it. We love our children and want what’s best for them. I guess we’ve learned that sometimes what is best isn’t always the most comfortable or the most easy option.
I know this is different from the way of many. ¬†I’m not “running away”. I¬†just find a lot of value in different experiences and different cultures and we wanted to share that with our children. They may decide they have no appetite for this kind of thing, which is totally their opinion to form and deserves respect. We decided to have a family experience this year though. One that would challenge us and provide a wealth of learning experiences that will hopefully lead to growth for all.
I love you! Thank you for your love and concern.

11 days of fun and missing friends back home

18 Sep 16
Ivy Jones

I am having much fun here! My best friends are: Small Princess, Felicia, Big Princess, Decontee, and that’s it. My least favorite thing is taking a bath. You have to pump a bucket with teh water pump. Then you take it to the bathroom and you have a little cup that you take and scoop up some water. Then you wash and dump it on you. Then you are done. Other than that, I’m having a fine time. I miss all of my friends. for some reason, I have this thing called heat-rash. It is where I get all these tiny bumps all over my arms, and neck, and chest, and face. And it really itches! I have to put on this heat rash powder every night after my bucket bath. They call it a bucket bath.
School starts tomorrow, which is Monday. Today is Sunday. I stayed home from church today because we have so many people that we have to switch off every Sunday, and I went last week. There is no piano in any of the rooms, so when we sing songs, it is so plain – even in the sacrament meeting room! I miss everyone so much! I hope you are having a good school year. Wish me luck on my school year! I am going to go to the fifth grade. Simon, Ruby, and Charlie are also jumping up a grade.
Whenever I walk around in Zuannah Town or go into town, everybody stares at us because we are white. I miss you all so much! Goodbye! win_20160911_10_25_25_pro

Wow. I really love it here :-)

18 Sep 16
Ruby Jones

Hello everyone!

This is my second blog post. I have been in Zuannah Town, Liberia for a week and 3 1/2 days. I’m loving life here so much! It sounds weird, but living here seems like the most natural thing in the world. It took a matter of one or two hours to adjust to everything, but since then, it feels like home to me. Bucket baths, mosquito nets, frequent rain, laundry by hand, dishes by hand, cramped bumpy car rides, spicy food, rice for every meal, the humidity, and tons of singing, (I guess some africans love singing, because we sing the longest songs for devotional every night and at church) it all brand new, but I feel like it’s the way I want to live my life. I love everything. I’m making many friends here, and I love spending time with the little ones, Josephine, Patrick, Faith, and Gifty. Everyone is so happy and helpful. They never complain, even though some of them are working all day. Laundry takes hours! My knuckles are all cut and by the time I was done with the washing yesterday, they were bleeding badly. Washing clothes by hand is not as easy as it sounds, and drying…forget about it. It’s rainy season. No point in even trying to dry clothes after washing them.
I’ve been asked what I do on the daily. There’s honestly not much to it. I wake up, eat, get ready, sometimes do laundry, eat, play cards, play volleyball, chat, read, eat, devotional at 8pm, take a bucket bath, go to sleep, repeat. Not in that order or anything, but whatever I want to do basically. There is so much chill time during the day. This will all change tomorrow, because I’m starting school. I will be a 9th grader at Kprekor middle school. I will be doing homeschool math when I come home, so I can keep up on 8th grade education in the U.S.
I miss you guys so much, and thank you for reading this! I love and miss my 3 other musketeers, Luisa, Josie and Janey. I’m trying to send letters but who knows if they’ll reach you ūüôĀ I miss my grandparents, and Grandma Jones <3 I hope you are doing well. I can receive emails, so I hope I can keep in touch with more of you, and I appreciate the occasional email from Luisa. Love you guys so much! I love it here, and if it weren’t for you guys, I would never want to come back. Thanks to the Vaenukus for all of their love and their friendship. Heni, I have that picture you gave me! Thank you all so much! Thank you to everyone who wrote me letters, I read them often. Thank you to Brittany for my book, which I’m working on finishing. Thank you to everyone who came to drop us off. That was one of the most touching and memorable moments of my life.
I’ll write some more next week, bye! Ruby Jones (Rubizzle, Rubbles, Rubes, and Rubics cube)


Day Eleven

18 Sep 16
Charlie Jones

I have not blogged here for a long time. Tomorrow I start school. I’m going to be in sixth grade. I have my uniform and everything, and I really like it. Tonight for dinner we are going to eat snails but usually we eat rice, beans, cassava leaves and bread. We went to the beach a while ago. The waves were huge! It was very fun. It rains so much here. In fact, just yesterday we took a motorcycle taxi to the baptism place with my dad. It rained so much that my wellies were filled with water and my pants were soaked! It was very uncomfortable. The way they speak here is hard to understand.


Week One Done

10 Sep 16
Simon Jones

We arrived here last Thursday, since we have been here I have met many new people, Moses, Leo, Diamond, and some of my closest friends so far. Moses and Diamond are 17 years old and Leo is 15. They have taught me how to “beat” a coconut or chop it open with a machete/cutlass.

Our new home here is not finished so we have been staying in our own dorm, all of the Jones kids are sharing one room which isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Moses took me to the river near our house a couple days ago and showed me a canoe. It is carved from a tree, it is about 15 feet long and about a foot and a half wide so its vary tippy you have to be a good swimmer to go out into the river just in case it tips.

Here we have to take bucket baths. You have to go pump your own water from the well which is on our property, and then you go into the stall, you have your cup, soap, and shampoo. That’s it. The first pour of the well water over your head is always a shock. Even though it’s so hot and humid the water still feels a little chilly but it’s still refreshing.

I haven’t struggled with much here. The food is different but i still eat all the meals, my favorite meal so far has been rice with cassave leaf and fish on top. It’s actually really good! The thing that I have a hard time with the their language. They call it colloqua. It’s very fast and I don’t get any of it so they have to break it down into “proper english” so that we can understand it, but there is still the accent that is difficult to get.

We start school Monday, it is from 8-1. Me and Princess (one of the girls here) who is 17 have to take a motorcycle taxi every morning to get to school. It is about an hour away and it’s a bumpy ride because the roads are so bad.

Over all i’m having an okay experience here. I miss you all very much. Until next time.

Simon Jones.


Settling In…

08 Sep 16
Kayla Jones

Sept. 1, 2016
For so long we have talked about taking our children to Africa. And now, here we are! Such an interesting year, looking back at everything that has led up to this.
so now, i can’t believe we’re actually here. I keep having this moments where I think, “this is it. i’m IN liberia – back in africa, like i’ve always dreamed. with my children!” I’m so happy we made this happen.

in all honesty, i DID have a moment the first night of total displacement; wondering and worry about every little thing while andy sawed logs next to me. i finally decided to wake him up so he could listen to me, kiss away my tears, and give me the priesthood blessing that we got too busy to do before we left. it was a good decision. although, i blame this little breakdown on utter exhaustion from the travel. i haven’t felt that way a moment since.

FOOD – well, my vegetarianism is offically taking a 9 month break. alternative sources to animal protein are scarce. so…. this is what we have eaten so far:

– cream of wheat
– oatmeal
– onion eggs
– fried, sugar bread (donuts!)

Mid-day (can either be a proper meal or just a snack, depending on who the cook is that day):
– butter rice with hard boiled egg.
– fried plantain
– grapefruit
– fried potatoes (think big french fries with no salt)
– coconuts picked from the tree on the property and cut with a cutlass to perfection so we can first drink the water, and then you hit the coconut on the cement to crack it so you can scrape out the meat with your teeth.
– rice with a red sauce and topped with crawfish

– rice with kidney beans and fish in a red sauce
– rice with casava stew, topped with fish
– rice with potato greens, topped with crawfish and fish

– Fruit (watermelon, oranges, cucumber)

Amazingly, we have all done quite well with this. I find that it’s so hot, that we are rarely hungry, or even think about food. I brought multivitamins for all of us to take each day, and I am happy to offer Ivy and Charlie their “gummy-vites”, which feel like quite a treat.

1. Upon arriving and seeing how we’ll be living, Charlie asking, “Can we stay longer than 9 months?”
2. “3 guys on a scooter” StudioC reference by Ivy when driving through the craziness of Monrovia
3. Andy, Rufus, Simon and Charlie running errands “in town” (Monrovia) and get completely stuck in a washed out road on the way home. After an hour, a prayer said, and inspiration given, they return home – but not until well after dark, giving me a bit of a fright.
4. Simon and Moses riding home from Liberia on a motorcycle taxi.
5. Prior to coming, I was so worried about Charlie, who is prone to anxiety and shyness. I have barely seen this kid during the days. He jumps in and is so happy to do everything just like the other kids do. he has made a good friend in rufus and vic’s son, gordon. he’s Not made a single complaint about the food, and not had a single fear sleeping in a whole other building away from me and Andy. AMAZING.
6. Walking to the Heartwood Homestead property today with all the children, and then on to the SEA!!!! Wonderful afternoon playing in the waves. The small children: Giftee, Faith, Patrick, and Josephine were absolutely terrified though. faith was on simon’s shoulder and she was clinging to his head for dear life!
7. Ruby, loving on all the young kids and being wonderfully positive each step of the way. She and I helped the children’s tutor that comes each Friday and did a little reading lessons with them.
8. Spending an abundance of time with Ivy. She and I have become special buddies and I am focusing the majority of my energy on her. I have been completely suprised that of all my children, she is the one struggling. We spend most of our days together playing cards, talking and snuggling.
9. because of a lack of vehicles, they take turns who gets to go to church each week. we all went. ruby, ivy, and i smashed in the 5 seat belt ex Terra with 9 other people for the 45 minute extremely bumpy ride through washed out dirt roads to church. simon, andy and charlie took a motorcycle taxi in. i’d say there were a little over 100 people in the branch. 15 young men, andy said. in the concrete room sacrament was in, it was so hot. for some reason they weren’t running the generator, so no fans, lights, or microphone. when we sang songs, it was nearly too loud for my ears! they LOVE to sing hymns. we sing probably five per day here at the homestead, and before sacrament meeting starts they sing song after song waiting for everyone to arrive. my throat literally hurts from singing!

Well, that’s our first few days in a nutshell. So far, so good! It is 100% different than life in Salt Lake City. Our ears are slow to understand what they’re saying, so I pray to overcome that stumbling block quickly! Tomorrow is Monday and all the kids start school – so that should be interesting…

sorry for all the typos and grammatical errors. i am not used to this keyboard and i hurry as to not run down the battery. i don’t know when i’ll be able to charge it again!

Love to you all!

Pics on Flickr gallery and Facebook

03 Sep 16
Andy Jones

If the two days of travel getting to Liberia are anything like the next two months, we will be alright. Tired but safe. Jostled about but grounded. Out things mostly intact and events mostly playing out as expected. The real value of the experience is found in lovely people and loving relationships, as always.

Limited connectivity = limited sharing ūüôĀ

New photos uploaded to the Flickr album, link on my previous post.

Cassava leaf stew. Fish heads. Beach volleyball. Bucket baths. Mosquito and ant bites. Sleepless jet lagged nights. Lovely hugs. Pidgin English. Bright smiles. Heartfelt prayers.

It’s still all about love!

So… why are you guys going to….uh…where was it? Oh ya, Lybia.

21 Aug 16
Andy Jones

Fair enough. We’ve got a comfortable home in a great community surrounded by good people here in Rose Park (Salt Lake City, Utah). We have a stable business. Loyal friends and family. Good schools and extracurricular opportunities. ¬†Living the American Dream! Then to leave that good life, built over ten years, to live off-grid in one of the top five poorest countires in the world, where we will¬†get to pump all of our water by hand, prepare food over a coal stove and clean¬†clothes with a washboard, live in a 450sf dome, run¬†the risk of getting malaria and falling behind in school, and all on a volunteer basis… why?

While we don’t expect anyone to agree with our reasons, here they are…

  1. Family: We want to grow closer as a family, and hope our new living circumstances and the work we will be doing will give us the opportunity to do so. The Heartwood Family at the orphanage we will be adopted into will expand our chances to love and be loved
  2. Service: There is a great deal of work to be done within the projects operated by Africa Heartwood Project Рa non-profit organization started by Kayla and me in 2008. Our primary focus will be on Village Water Projects and buildig the Heartwood Orphan Homestead. Livelihoods for Cultural Artisans. And more.
  3. Learning: We consider any opportunity to travel and experience up close a way of life different from the one to which we are accustomed to be valuable. Attending a government school in a Liberian village could be a very rich non-academic learning experience for each of the children.

Meet the family at the Heartwood Orphan Home where we will be living in this short video:

Here’s a preview of the DomeHome we will live in once it is completed in September 2016:




Very first blog!

15 Aug 16
Ruby Jones

Hey there! This is my first blog post.. and I don’t really know what to say. This is for us to keep in touch and let you all know what’s up in Liberia. It’s gonna be really fun to take videos of ¬†what life will be like. (which, to my understanding, will almost kill me) My most relevant worry is what I will take with me! What the heck would you bring if you were uprooting your life to travel to another continent? We each get to take two suitcases, and I want to take things to help keep me from getting homesick. So that means I’m taking pictures of people I love, gifts and letters from friends, and things that make me happy. Which means OF COURSE I’m taking my Pride and Prejudice book, that I’ll probably read about 5 times while I’m gone ūüôā

I’m going to miss so many people and places. Who am I kidding with taking keepsakes? No matter what, I’m for sure going to be homesick. I’ll miss my ward family (Youth and leaders especially) and extended family, who mean so dang much to me I can’t even say how much I’m going to miss you. And no pressure if you don’t want to spend your time reading a blog, who knows if it’ll even be interesting… I’ve never done a blog or anything like it before, so I’m sorry if it’s not what you thought. Thanks for at least pretending to be interested though. Thanks for being so supportive and thoughtful, taking time to be my friends, and showing so much love to our family. I love the young women so much, you’re making it hard to leave!You guys are my besties! You’ve always made me feel so happy and at home. I’ll think about you every day. I found a quote recently that I love (and may have shared it with a few of you already) and it says “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -Winnie the Pooh

Thanks for reading! ūüôā Ruby Jones




15 Aug 16
Ivy Jones

I am kind of exited to go to Africa? I know that I’m going to be really ¬†hot during the day and night. One thing that I’m really not exited about is the spiders! I don’t like spiders! I’m going to miss school because I don’t get to go back to it. I’m also going to miss all of my friends. But I know that when I come back from Africa, I’ll feel the same ¬†because I know that I’ll make friends there. Anyway, I think that I’m going to have to do a lot of work there because washing the dishes takes all day there. And the clothes! YOU HAVE TO DO THEM BY HAND!!! I’m exited to go for the beach and friends. I don’t want to get bit by mosquidos. THE END







15 Aug 16
Charlie Jones

I am really annoyed that everyone keeps asking me if I’m exited to go to Liberia, so hopefully this will will stop them from asking. I’m not exited because I’m going to miss some people, but I’m exited for a trip. So if your reading this than than tell everybody that you think I might know to shut their mouths and stop asking me that stupid, stupid question, bye. I’m kind of kidding kind of not. Here are the things I’m exited about:

  • Rice.
  • Fish.
  • The sea.
  • Palm trees.
  • Home schooling.
  • Dirt.
  • Working




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