Friday, August 31, 2007

the final countdown...

oh here we go. now, when i ask myself how much time i have to get all my ducks in a row, the frightening reply is "less than a week." LESS THAN A WEEK. Lord, please help me.

the packing process began nearly 2 weeks ago, which is incredibly out of character for me, but has proven to be a good idea. i can take two 70 pound bags to london, but those same bags can only weigh 55 pounds when they leave london for freetown. why? i'm not really sure, but it would cost about $15 for each addition 2 pounds, so i'm not so worried about the 'why' as i am the actual weight of the bags. oh! and my carry-on can weigh no more than 17 pounds... yes, they will put it on a scale. i have plenty of space for everything, but not enough pounds to spare. turns out that contact solution, shampoo, and books (DUH, STEPH) weigh a lot more than you would guess. or i should say, more than I would guess. so i spend hours each day moving things back and forth from one bag to the next, hoping they will weigh less in my suitcase than they do in my backpack... i know, it doesn't sound like it makes sense, but there is a method to my madness.

so we now have piles all over my room. there are 'necessary' items, 'comfort' items, and items that fall into both categories (this really only means that i find them so comforting that they become necessary, i.e. my press-pot and DVDs). so the lines that form these categories are very blurry. but every single ounce matters in this quest. it's making me crazy. CRAZY.

i started my malaria medicine yesterday. i forgot how much i hate that stuff. i'm on lariam which is known to give people nightmares, hallucinations, and anxiety. this morning i realized (2 years after the incident) that my only brush with REALLY intense anxiety was the day i took my second dose of larium. which just happened to be the day i left for freetown for 4 months. that was a fun day. i am actually kinda relieved to think that the medication contributed to the chaos of that day because i've kinda beat myself up about that for 2 years now. so, we're just hoping and praying that nothing similar occurs this time. i was fine for the rest of the 4 months that i took the medicine. also i never did experience the joy of real hallucinations last time, but i came close. i regularly saw little flashes of light in my peripheral vision. first time it happened i thought, "ooh fireflies!" and then freaked out when they really weren't there. but then i got used to it. a UN pharmacist told me it was the lariam and it was causing random neurons to fire or something like that. but i will endure this if it lessens the chance of malaria attacking my brain and killing me. dad said something along the lines of 'so you can let malaria mess with your brain, or you can take medicine to do it for you?' yes, dad. that is exactly right. i only have a one month supply of the stuff and will likely switch to another drug once i'm in freetown. it is a drug that a well-educated local doctor recommends for long-term use. i don't think it would be smart to take the nightmare-hallucination-anxiety causing medicine for 3 years...

okay, i must return to the mess that is my room and continue shoving things into a suitcase that already weighs too much. 55 pounds per bag... and my suitcase alone weighs 10. it's a setup for failure.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

seeing yellow

today I’m grateful for a generous neighbor who doesn’t block their wireless connection, for a generous cousin/sister who gifted me her laptop, and for a summer teeming with memories, created and revisited. i’m living the ‘baking chocolate’ kind of life – no sugar or milk to soften the taste – just the potent stuff, and a lot of it.

the goodbyes-at-hand began last weekend in kentucky – the home of my adulthood. my most formative post-High School experiences and friendships are connected to the Bluegrass in varying degrees of separation. i spent the weekend with friends, old and relatively new, who celebrated the upcoming adventure and sent me off with purpose. i am excited to go on their behalf, but as i drove north on 75 and crossed The Bridge, the sadness was very real – bitter in my mouth and hot around my ears. the end of an era, i am certain.

tyler left for college yesterday. we will see him again in only 3 days, but Labor Day weekend will surely hold agendas, and we have much more fun without those. for a couple of weeks in may all 3 McGuire kids were at home and jobless. of course, the parents were proud. while I was repeatedly frustrated by a lack of substitute teaching calls, i was secretly pleased by the opportunity to sit around the house with the boys – rambling on about faith, music, and how 'deep down you know' you really are Larry David. it seems that the little brothers grew up in the years I was away, so recent months gave me the joy of being reintroduced. next week I will begin this cycle again. we will keep up on the Big Things of life, Blood is a thick bond. but I will miss these days filled with the little things – the daily trifles and confessions and questions – that have made us into friends.

now i sit by the window in the yellow kitchen mom always wanted. my morning, in its entirety, has been spent in this chair, in this room. it is home; the color, the light, the table worn-in (perhaps out) by meals, laughter, apologies, family. a few weeks ago i found a letter that i sent from Freetown in 2005. i easily recall what prompted it. i woke up early on a saturday; i think it was october. i had yet to open my eyes and was momentarily convinced that i was at my parents’ house. i wished for mom’s french toast in the yellow kitchen, and College Game Day with dad. then i opened my eyes and began what was to be a melancholic, aching sort of day.

it is a tormenting privilege, knowing places and people to long for.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

too tight!

last night i briefly told some friends about a trip that we took during my servant team. it was near the half-way point of our time in freetown, and we were traveling to tiwai island which is this really incredible locally-run wildlife sanctuary that is near themiddleofnowhere, sierra leone. i mentioned it in a post from june. anyway, tiwai itself was really amazing, but getting there was the real adventure. i know that this is just how they roll in most of the world, but i still laugh out loud that so many people can be crammed into a moving vehicle at one time... i'm guessing that the bus had seating for close to 30... and i'm guessing that there were at least 60 on board. most in our group were sitting on wooden boxes in the isle, sitting upright without anything to lean back on except a stranger's sharp knees, big backpacks on our laps, unpaved roads... best ab work-out ever! it was certainly miserable at times, but i will never ever forget when hillary and i decided to start counting the people in the front seat. i think that the driver had the only actual seat, but there was a fold-down bench too. okay, 9 (NINE!) people were in the front. and they were all having fun! someone was sitting on the dash like it was a bar stool. and of course, there were people standing on the steps, that makes sense. but there was actually a man sitting on the driver's left! i think we first counted 6 people, then we kept seeing more... there may have been some we didn't even see. but the next time i go to tiwai, i'm totally sitting/standing with those guys. it was like i had to sit for 8 hours in the most uncomfortable position imaginable, while i was watching a party in the front of the bus. torture.

so today i was thinking about one of my favorite days with the kids in kroo bay. leslie-the-genius decided that we could spend one of our tutoring days helping the kids make kites. it was really perfect because it obviously required some math and physics skills, but - seeing that leslie and i had no clue how to make a kite - it also gave the kids a chance to teach and learn from each other. it was a beautiful thing to watch, and it was great to see the kids interact with their neighbors and see everyone laugh and play and try to knock the other kites out of the sky. i tried to take pictures, but the kites were seriously so far up that my camera couldn't see them.

in closing, 3 things. first, how white do i look in that picture?!?! second, results of the election are still being calculated - no news. and third, the blog title is dedicated to the landreths who pioneered the WMF effort of piling into freetown public transport. and to brent who retells the story so well.

Friday, August 10, 2007

election day

for better info on this subject, check faye's blog. she's much more informed than i am, but i wanted to at least mention that tomorrow is election day in sierra leone. this will be the second election since the war ended, and the first without a UN peacekeeping force. this is a huge milestone for some of our friends on the other side of the atlantic! pray that it goes smoothly and honestly, and that the new president will respect and honor the people of sierra leone. this doesn't seem like much to ask, but obviously the world would operate differently if things were that simple. just remember west africa if you are the praying type.

i'm gonna steal something else from faye's blog (she's on a roll, folks). click here to see a BBC photo essay about Kroo Bay. these photos are pretty graphic in terms of sanitation issues and living conditions. some even caught me off guard, and i spent a lot of time in this neighborhood. the Bay is really a big 'why' when people ask what is drawing me back to freetown. some really precious and important people in my life live there, and i don't want the world to forget about them. so look at the photos, and be offended that anyone would have to live this way. and maybe, if you can, think of something creative we can do about it.

the lions and palm trees are the sierra leone coat of arms. "unity. freedom. justice" yes, please.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

booked and confirmed

september 6 is the big day! after stops in new york and london, i will eventually hit the ground in freetown on the evening of september 7. i can't believe it's official... finally.

i spent all day working on the columbus-london part of my itinerary, and i am not exagerating when i say AAALLLLLLLL day. turns out that it is substantially less expensive to buy a round-trip ticket than it is to buy a one-way. now, i can't quite make sense of this in financial terms, but that's the way it is. which is pretty close to the explanation i recieved from a NOT helpful delta employee. "because that's the way the fares are set up." okay. thanks? and then she told me that i would owe them $200 if i bought a round trip and then cancelled the return portion. i found this fascinating because i will make it possible for them to sell the same seat to 2 people... later i called back and was able to talk to a helpful delta employee who explained that they will charge me $200 if i go to a ticketing counter and try to "cancel" the return once i am in london. however, if i just fail to show up for the return flight, which is referred to as "forfeiting", then i'm fine. take note of the language. delta charges $200 if you use the wrong word. but even if i do owe them $200 to NOT use the return flight, it will still be cheaper than buying a one-way ticket to london. aahhh, capitalism. it really does work FOR the people, doesn't it?

but after all that, i have a ticket. and i'm thrilled.