An experience of a lifetime
This post was written by Emily Hametner, an Orphan Relief and Rescue advocate who has spent the last two and a half months in Liberia. In just a few days, she'll leave the field to go back to the States. It's sad to see her go, but we are so thankful for all the hard work she did while she was here!
As Jessica and I begin to wrap things up here before heading back to the States, we've realized our need for one more true Liberian experience. Since we first met the girls in our small group, we had heard about their love for baking cakes. We also heard it’s an all-day event. See, baking a cake here is nothing like America; you do not open a box, pull out your Kitchen Aid and turn on the oven. Here, baking is truly a labor of love.
First, (and this is the easy part), we were sent out to gather all the ingredients for a coconut cake. When we got to the orphanage we displayed all our treasures before the girls and waited for their lead. I was curious to see how the girls would handle the coconuts. Naomi suddenly vanished and came back a few minutes later with a large rock. The rock had one sharp edge; I then realized she would use this to crack the shell. I thought it would take forever, but she had all four shelled and ready for shredding in no time. Kumbah sat ready with a homemade grater made of sheet metal with holes poked through the backside, wrapped around a wooden box. Needless to say, the grating took quite a while—almost two hours, in fact! Kumbah did most of the work herself; I got in there a couple minutes somewhere in the middle to give her poor arm a break. While this was going on, Naomi, Ruth, and Mercy took turns mixing the butter and sugar in a large plastic bowl. However, they didn’t use a whisk or a spoon or any other kitchen utensil. Instead, they used the bottom of a glass Coke bottle to stir! They stirred vigorously for almost an hour, making sure the sugar and butter were completely smooth. Luckily for their arms, adding the eggs and flour consumed much less time. In the end, the mixture itself took two and a half hours to prepare.
When it came time for baking, I was once again surprised when Kumbah brought in two small coal stoves and a large metal pot with a flat lid. We watched with curious eyes as she lit the fire and fanned the coals. Once she felt they were acceptable, she placed the large pot on the coals, placed the cake pan inside, put the lid on and covered the lid with hot coals warming in the other small stove! The baking itself took much less time than Jessica and I had anticipated. I think it must have been no more than 30-40 minutes before the aroma of coconut began to fill the space. As we waited patiently for it to cool enough to eat, we all took turns bending over to take a deep breath of the sweet smell. When the time came, Jessica was given the honor of cutting the cake into instructed size. It was fun to watch all the small children file in to receive their small piece of the cake, which they devoured instantly. Two hours of preparation, and after two minutes it was gone--but the experience will last a lifetime.