Monday, July 27, 2009

If it's Monday, This Must Be Liberia

Renita continues on her whirlwind tour West Africa. She left Ghana Saturday after only two days there, but it was time enough for her to secure a house and do some other preparatory activities for when she returns to Accra. For some reason. I keep thinking she’ll one day come back here, but no—she’s not coming back. We’re all joining her there. It’s a weird thought.

Like I said, on Saturday she left Ghana—on her way to our old stomping grounds in Liberia. Immediately upon arriving, she headed straight for Foster Town and the hotel on Thinkers Village Beach. Our old friends and family did not know she was coming, so all were shocked and delighted to see her. Monday is Liberia Day, so there will be a feast and lots of partying around the neighborhood. She’s already met with the leaders of FACT, the local community development group, and offered her wisdom to some local squabbles. Mostly though, she’s just enjoying being back.

The rest of the week will continue to whirl by for her. On Tuesday, she’ll meet with the Partners Worldwide in-country affiliate, LEAD inc, to continue planning and catching up with her old co-workers/friends there. On Wednesday, she travels-- by taxi—into the interior, all the way to the border of Cote d’Ivoire, where she’ll cross that border, and if the roads permit, head into the hills to meet up with the Ivoirian affiliate, and she’ll stay there in the up-country for four days. Quite the adventure for the girl from Red Deer.

Meanwhile, back in Grand Rapids, the kids are squeezing every ounce of fun they can get out of this place. They’ll both be at the Camp Call Turf Adventure Camp until Friday, running through obstacle courses and climbing high ropes. I will be holding down a half-packed fort, waiting to pack the other half and trying to remember what I forgot. We are on the cusp of two phases of our lives, and the view is a bit nerve-wracking and at the same time sobering. Stay tuned, I may have an extra edition for you later in the week.

Why, it's Eastman, running up to greet Mrs Trooly!

... and baby Renita! What a doll. No, she did not recognize big Renita.

My dear wife, with a newborn baby at Eastman and Trokon's house. Thats Eastman's mom looking over her shoulder.

A Family chat with Patence, mother of Rae-Rae (little Renita) in the blue.

Eastman took this shot. That's Enoch, second from left, and Trokon barely in the picture on the right. I don't know the other two.

Taking it easy at Thinker's Village.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mrs. Trooly Departs

Renita Has Left the Continent

Wednesday was her last day living in the US for this new citizen. Here are the pics to prove it.

Wednesday morning I find her snoozing happily at 5:04 am-- the alarm was set for 5:00pm. Wonder what Freud would say about that.

You can tell by mouth that she's a woman on a mission. By 5:30am is organizing the car.

Driving through that Toddin' Town. Passin' the Loop and the "Willis Tower" (formerly the Sears Tower, ya know).

At ORD (O'Hare airport for the non-travelers) Ready to go!

Yers Trooly makes a scene, begging her to say. Embarrassing.

On the plane. Maybe she's sad too? No, just cold and tired.

Yers Trooly, whimpering as he makes that long drive back to Grand Rapids...

The first image from Ghana-- taken Thursday by Renita. The place where Mrs. Trooly is staying with new friends.

There she is-- taken just a few minutes ago in Accra, Ghana! Stay tuned for more, including-- Images of our new house?!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Four Weeks and Counting (One for Her)


Last week for us was one of those weeks everybody has from time to time, but nobody wants. The day before we were supposed to leave for Detroit (for Renita to take the Oath and then try to get a quick passport at the same time), we had to move. Moving is something that has become a normal part of our lives, but this is our fourth in eight months, and to have to move the day before this important task in Detroit is not normal. it made the tension extra high around the Reed household.

But we pack light. While here, we stayed in furnished places so we don't need couches and refrigerators, and were able to stuff everything we own in 12 large suitecases and the all important carry-on bags. So we can do the whole move thing in a few hours. While I moved and lugged, Renita packed and cleaned. All of this with images of Detroit and Oaths and passports dancing in our heads. If something went wrong in Detroit, all of our plans would need to be re-evaluated.

Anyway, Renita and I moved ourselves and, with our new place looking like a luggage lounge, that same day headed off to Tiger Town. We needed to "Motel 6 it" because our schedule for Oath Takers commanded that we be at the Federal Courthouse by 8:30am. We got there promptly on time, and waited until the 9:00am, when the federal judge would make his appearance to swear us in. The was a nice crowd in the large well-lit hall; we were told 84 had come for the ceremony and most of them were not alone.
The judge was an hour late. As an American, I thought it exceedingly rude that the magistrate charged with welcoming these people to the US for the first time as fellow Americans couldn't bring himself to showing up, and apparently would not allow a substitute judge take over for him. When he arrived at 10:00am, he merely said "Sorry I'm a little late..." then moved on.

The ceremony itself was brief-- less than an hour-- and just like that, Renita was a citizen of the U.S.. It was sorta anti-climactic. Afterwords, we rushed out into the bright sunshine and discovered that just across the street we could get her passports processed immediately! We had been told we might not get in-- we were actually scheduled for Friday and we were apparently "lucky" to get in even then. But when we got through the security barriers and checkpoints, we found the processing center virtually empty! Chortle! We were thrilled, and in no time at all, Renita had all she needed to get her coveted US passport Fed-Exed to her by Monday-- yesterday. And yesterday, it came.So immediately, Renita applied for her Ghana visa and next week, she leaves three weeks ahead of the rest of us.
I've been in limbo, in this in-between state for longer than I've ever been before, and it has been the most challenging aspect of my life. I left the BSW work at Mother Patern College around June of last year, and since then have been sort of puttering my way through life. Sure, I'm learning the ropes as CRWRC West African Justice Coordinator. But I need to be there, and I'm here. Now, nobody loves to putter more than I do, but after a while, puttering loses its magic even for me and I want to move on to other things. Kind of an inverse relationship thing.

Next Wednesday, Renita leaves the world of In-Between, and lands on the Other Side on the 23rd at 8:25am. Noah, Hannah and I follow August 11. The next two or three blogs will be focused on her adventure, so stay tuned.

Monday, July 6, 2009

ReedNews Update, July Edition

A Pledge, a Passport and a Plan

Now things are moving along with a sense of impending airline travel. As you may recall-- because we have said it a hundred times-- The Reeds have been waiting for Renita's interview with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly Immigration and Naturalization Service) to be approved for citizenship. Last week, Renita and I traveled east along Interstate 96 to the brand new USCIS offices in Detroit. After a mere hour of waiting, her half-hour interview produced a piece of paper with the anticlimactic checkmark granting her permission to becomes a US citizen. Hallelujah! The people at USCIS were professional, courteous, and helpful. We wanted to stay and chat. We invited them to Ghana. I'll tell ya, The Michigan Department of Motor Vehicles should send its staff there for lessons.

This week, we will head back to the once-upon-a-time "Motor City" so Renita can take the official oath of citizenship, pledging alliance to the US of A. Then, thanks to the new facility in the ex-Car Town, she'll be able to get her passport-- the very same day. The procedure is usually a couple weeks by mail, although in days gone by one could have opted to go to the regional office in Chicago for expedited service. With this new office not far from the home of what used to be General Motors, we can do the passport deed in less than half the time of going to Chicago.

So, what's the plan now? When do the Reeds head off to Ghana? Well, God willing, we'll do this in two parts. Renita will leave first, after she gets her passport and after she gets her tickets and after she gets her visa to Ghana. She is booked to leave July 22. Once she arrives in Accra, she'll do a bit of house hunting with some friends we know there, then within a couple days she'll head off for a 8 day junket back to Liberia and then to Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). The purpose of these trips will be to connect with the Partners Worldwide friends at LEAD in Liberia and Dea Lieu's operation in Cote d'Ivoire (see May 27 post). While in Liberia, she'll also visit our West African friends and family in Thinker's Village/Foster Town. Then, sometime around the first week of August, she'll head back to Accra and continue to prepare for the Reed reunion there.

Hannah, Noah and I will remain in Grand Rapids until Hannah is finished with her job at Camp Tall Turf. This will give the kids just a little more time with pals here before they start school in Accra on August 17. As the plan goes, we will board a Lufthansa flight from Chicago to its Frankfort, Germany hub, then to Accra from there. We are already booked to fly August 11.

Renita and I have been waiting about four months longer than we thought we'd have to for this to happen, and during that time so many people-- many of you-- have been wonderful and generous and so supportive. As we enter into this new period, we have those by now very familiar mixed feelings. We will be saying goodbye, farewell, seeya later to everyone here. We will be saying hello, good to meet ya, thanks for the welcome, to a completely new West African place. We are all a bit anxious, some of us eager and excited, all of us sad-- some more than others, as we enter this transition we've been anticipating specifically for almost a year, and in a general way for much longer. We're so glad you are with us, at least via the internet and telephones, and happy we'll be able to stay connected. Don't think we could make it without you.

Renita at the swearing-in ceremony. Actually, this hasn't happened yet, I just put her head on some poor woman who was in a picture I found online. But I imagine it will look something like this.

Renita this morning with her new passport. Yes, this is fake too, because she won't get it until we go back to Detroit later this week. The things she endures for Yers.