There she blows, a hump like a snowhill!...

Trip Start Mar 16, 2009
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Trip End Apr 07, 2009


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Flag of Sierra Leone  ,
Friday, March 27, 2009

They call him Ishmael, and he is my driver. He took over for Sulu once we got into "the bush." He told me he got an award for his driving last year. Well...I'm still alive, so I guess I believe him. I wrote to you last time about the rough roads we had as we moved into the up-country, at least we had roads then. Moving east of Koidu, is moving into what is known as "the bush." Have you ever walked part of the Superior Hiking Trail? Well then, I've just one-upped you-I've driven it (and not the fun, flat parts). Or at least I have now done the necessary pre-requisite for driving it. And when I say "drive it," I mean have Ishmael drive it, and I'll take the trophied seat belt bruise sash (you don't even have to take it off in the shower!). the jostling flattened my Coke within 2 miles!



[to those of you confused and/or a bit intrigued by all the mention of Fanta and Coke, by a guy who tends not to drink the stuff stateside, it's just that I tend to believe that it's the best anti-parasitic ever. You try living in Red #5. plus, I believe (within reason) that if someone is kind enough to offer you something, you should take it (don't ask me why I've never been abducted). For god's sake, I had liver and onions for dinner tonight. I think that's tough enough for a person that DOES eat red meat.]



For those of you who haven't heard of the term the "oh, sh*t bar." It's the handle in cars, but more frequently vans and trucks, to not only help passengers into their seats, but also to help them in those "Oh, sh*t" moments. It gives the passenger the opportunity to "white-knuckle" something. The beast of a vehicle we drove, appropriately, had 2. one in the usual place above the passenger side window, the second was on the dash above the glove compartment. I used both, sometimes the side one, sometimes the front one, sometimes both simultaneously. sometimes the glove compartment one may have been better suited for my foot. my pilates instructor would have been most impressed at my ability to "recruit my core" today. i'm going to have the sweetest 6-pack of abs if i continue to train like this for the Superior Trail Grand Prix (either that or a milkshake for innards).



[break]



Ishmael and i and another local staffer named Tomba spent the day going from village to village (i'm sorry if i make that sound like an easy process). the lack of a sufficient road has really isolated many of these communities from the rest of the world. lots to take in on both sides. i was informed by a couple communities that i was the first white person some of them had ever seen. instead of following the advice of my buddy mike, of what to do if found in such a situation: "...tell them you are sent from the heavens to destroy them and their people. After they express their surprise, you can tell them that you are just kidding, and you will all have a good laugh...," i decided to take the more subtle approach and just apologize to them that i was their first and that it wasn't Angelina Jolie or Bono. i felt a bit like a combo between the Pied Piper and Rocky, with the tail of children that i tended to pick up, with their chorus of "poomway" (whiteboy), interspersed with excerpts of English 101. Friends hearing this would come ripping out of their houses. but, sometimes not even the hype can prepare you for the real thing, because a few of these kids who just a moment before burst out of their houses with eager anticipation, caught a glimpse of me, stopped dead in their tracks, and started to bawl (i've had blind dates like that--not real good for the ego). but, for the rest, i swear, if i didn't say, "Bye," (followed by their chorus of byes) they would have followed me right into the truck.


[in the time it's taken me to finish this entry, i've traveled to the bush of the southern lowlands of Bonthe, and found much of the same to be true as the eastern highlands of Kono, i describe here.]

The communities were very hospitable and very eager to describe their daily lives, that included some of the daily struggles they face. one community that i visited had no water well, and their section of the river was close enough to the ocean to exclude it as a drinking source. so, they use a small 15' diameter natural pool to get their drinking water, which might not have been so bad if not for their lack of latrines. the pool is between the section of woods designated as toilet and the river. you might see where this is headed. the pool isn't crystaline (or Crystal Light, for that matter). but, it's what they have, and the elders have a hard time believing that water can do anything, but give life. another community didn't yet have a government funded primary school, so created what they could from mud, sticks and volunteers. you think our teachers are over-worked and underpaid (i do)?! what about having only 2 teachers for 4 different "grades," each teacher in charge of 2 classes, both classes happening at the same time, all 4 classes under a thatched structure approximately 10'x30'?! you couldn't pay me to do that. they don't pay these gentlemen. they're volunteers. i smell sitcom, NBC(if only it was true only on TV)!

but, truly, i saw it again and again and tried to capture at least a glimpse of it through the lens of my camera--the word "community," at least in my eyes, reclaiming it's true definition. people fueling their lives through the resource of people, the resource of neighbors, rather than through the resource of things. and not fueling to survive, but, even with their lack of modern conveniences, fueling to thrive. i think i learned a bit more not to let the convenience of life lull me into an isolation from the resource of people. let me now step off this soapbox, because i know for most, i'm preaching to the choir. bottom line: roads bad, people good.

and sharon, i still haven't been able to wrangle you up a baby giraffe, but a community did give me a chicken and 40 bananas. i'm still trying to iron out the logistics of sneaking them them through customs and airport security (not to mention the stream of 14 children that followed me from Bonthe).
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