The two gigabytes capacity of the recorder of David S. Menjor, reporter at the Daily Observer, could barely contain all that 85 year-old, Mrs. Burdie Urey Weeks, had to say as she lamented on the poor state of the nation and reflected on the days known as the ‘old good days.’
Mrs. Urey-Weeks, who is visiting from the United States of America, said in a recent interview with the Daily Observer that it is too frustrating a moment for any Liberian who saw and lived the years of the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s and so forth to see that the country is yet to get on par with its counterparts in the sub-region in terms of development.
“Monrovia and its environs are too dirty. There are still zinc shacks and huts in the heart of the city and the streets are uncontrollably littered everyday as though there is no city governance system,” she lamented.
She noted that this is not how Monrovia, and in fact, the entire country should be by now.
“During President Tubman’s days we were very careful about how and where to dispose dirt. No one dared throw dirt in the street as he or she wished to then. No, there was respect for law and order,” she said, adding “I am so worried about the surroundings. People get sick from mosquito bites and it costs so much money to deal with health matters.”
The octogenarian said she feels sad every day that other African countries are developing much faster than Liberia.
“Our country helped to make some of them to gain independence, but here we are today begging for even the least of things from other countries. I remember those days when my husband worked at the State Department (now Foreign Affairs Ministry); they used to go to other African countries to do help them plan about how to gain independence from their colonial masters,” she said.
Mrs. Burdie Urey Weeks, whose 85th birthday was celebrated by her friends and relatives in Monrovia on January 7 when she returned home on a visit, said she is also saddened by what she called ‘the absence of discipline in the country’s youthful population.
“Children in this country nowadays do not care about their education. They don’t even respect their elders. Most of them are seen walking around the streets when it is time they should be in school. I like to see them go to school and learn,” she stated.
She added that children should be able to do something with what they have learnt.
“They should go to the libraries and read. They should be able to do something in the communities, in the churches and in their families. Let them be respectful to their parents, government and community leaders,” she admonished.
Weeks, the third of thirteen children born unto the union of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Douglas Urey of Careysburg, was born on January 7, 1934.
About her work experience in the country before the 1990 civil war which prevented her from returning home while in Greece, Mrs. Urey-Weeks said she is a preserver of history and for some years before the war, she served as an Assistant Director at the National Museum and later became director (proper) of the government agency.
“The Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) sent me to Athens, Greece for a conference intended for me to gain some skills in setting up an exhibition but I could not come back because of the civil war that erupted in 1990.
“However, because I still love to preserve history, my age is not stopping me from keeping safe and in touch with those important things from which other people can learn about their country. These artifacts tell us about who we are and what we do.” She added, “I am happy that the building hosting our National Museum has been renovated.”
“God is the One who has me alive up to this time and I am very grateful. It is He who has given us the will power and the intellect to do those things that keep us safe and healthy.
“I love to exercise but for now, that my age cannot allow me to do tough kinds of exercises. I walk at least an hour’s distance to and from almost every day and I feel so pleased traveling to the nearby markets each time to buy my food and cook all by myself,” Weeks said cheerfully.
When she was young, she recalled, she loved climbing trees and dancing has always been part of her life too, and this has always kept her happy.
“I am afraid of falling now and so I don’t venture around climbing anything tall or high. Nowadays I politely ask people to help me by holding my hand where necessary so I may climb some stairs,” she said.
She added that exercise is good for the body because it keeps one always healthy and strong.
Mrs. Burdey Urey Weeks said she loves flowers and being with children is an inspiration, which she prays will never go away from her.
“I love being with children so much and every day I appeal to them to be respectful to people,” she said.
Mrs. Urey-Weeks said she loves to eat early in the morning but avoids eating fats and too much oily foods.
“I don’t eat too heavily at one meal. I don’t like to eat after 5 pm. That causes indigestion. I like fufu and dumboy, pepper and lime.
“I don’t easily accept some medical results, such as a doctor telling me that I have diabetes or pressure. I always condemn them and advise any doctor not to put such records on my medical chart,” she said.
She added: “I am too confident that my body is ok and so grateful to God that I have never been to hospital and got admitted for any major sickness. I don’t take any medication other than vitamins. I take malaria tablets once a week.”
She said she had a cataract but it was removed in the U.S. and that she can see clearly and drive, even now.
“I can read without glasses. My memory is still fresh.”
Marriage and Family
The octogenarian said she got married to Mr. Thomas A. Weeks in 1957 when she was a young girl and she got three children out of the marriage.
“My husband had three children before we met and so we had six children whom I was compelled to look after through tough times when my husband died in 1961 after a period of protracted illness,” Weeks said.
Despite the challenges over the years, she said all of her six children are professional people after receiving education from universities and other professional schools.
“I am so thankful to God that my family is united. My sisters, brothers, nephews, nieces, as well as our children, grand and great grand- children respect our family values.
Respect for Law and Order
Weeks admonished that people in authority should be honest and straight forward.
“You can be straightforward without being abusive. You can be firm and have some rules, and punish those who break the rules,” she said.
Accord to her, in her youthful days, people had respect for women and girls. Women and children had a certain time to be out and another to be at home.
“You couldn’t just get up at any time of your choice and go out or come home. There were restrictions from our parents and guardians. Our people took care of us and they made sure we did our homework. We helped our parents and guardians with the house work and paid keen attention to our lessons,” she explained.
The former grade school teacher and retired registered nurse (RN) said the police in Liberia need to do more when it comes to traffic control.
Weeks said there are too many lapses in the traffic control section of the Liberia owing to what she referred to as lack of proper coordination.
“Everything about the traffic is confusing. No more functional street lights and police in control of the traffic regulation make too many mistakes. They confuse the traffic by giving orders and directions in a hap-hazard way.
Cars sometimes nearly run into one another only because the attention of a police officer expected to be on the smooth running of the traffic is directed towards a single taxi for, in most cases, personal benefit,” she said.
She said people who agree to serve the public in whatever capacity should learn to forget about themselves and focus on doing what will impact the general welfare of the population.
She said in many areas, there are no signs to tell people what to or not to do.
“There is need for order. You who are assigned to do a job, please do your job and do it well,” she admonished, adding “Don’t be harsh and cruel but ensure that laws respected.”
She said Mr. Kenneth Y. Best is like one of her little brothers for whom she has so much respect.
“Kenneth and I worked at Information Ministry before. He has always been and continues to be a good friend. He has always stood for me as his elder sister whenever someone infringed on my rights,” Weeks said.