Friday, September 28, 2007

it was a day much like today

This week has flown by! I’m actually on some sort of schedule now, so that makes things a bit more manageable.

I didn’t mention in my last post how fun my trip to the airport was on Friday… It is really difficult to know how long it will take you to get to and from the airport, and like I mentioned, the ferry schedule is completely unpredictable so you really just have to use the hurry-up-and-wait approach. If there is an opportunity to move in the right direction, you take it. You can’t count on having another opportunity. So, we arrived at the airport with 5 hours to spare… but that was nothing… chris and erin arrived without a hitch. With all of their bags, bright-eyed and ready to go. Since they felt good, we decided to take the ferry across the bay instead of paying the big bucks to take the hovercraft.

Let’s just say that the ferry thing didn’t work out. I was promised by the guys selling the bus tickets that the ferry would not leave the dock without our bus. Promised. Not a flippant, ‘yeah sure’ kind of promise, but a long drawn-out nagging-white-woman ‘you better swear to me with every fiber of your being’ kind of promise. Well, I learned my lesson. When a guy has the chance to sell 4 bus tickets at once, he’ll tell you whatever you want to hear. Honestly, I can’t say I blame him either. So, we didn’t make the ferry, and I was not happy about that, but it gets funnier. The ferry that didn’t wait on us got stuck in the mud about 30 yards from the dock. For 5 hours. So… once the tide rose, and the ferry finally moved, it had to cross over to freetown, then load up again and come back. So we boarded the ferry around 2:30 am and were dropped at the house at 5. I took a shower and fell asleep listening to the Islamic call to prayer. Not my favorite Freetown experience to date, but we all survived. And I have made the decision that I will never again attempt to welcome someone to freetown with the ferry. It’s worth the $35 extra per person to not have that happen again. Ugh.

Other than that little hang-up, things are going well. I started Krio lessons this week. And I started tutoring my favorite little people in kroo bay. I love them. They make me completely crazy and I love them. I think they will all grow up into really incredible big people. You know how you just get that sense about some kids? I get that sense with all of them. They have all had it rough in their short number of years. Really rough, in ways that I can’t even imagine. And they sure do have their issues and struggles and brokenness. But they are just so beautiful inside and out. Every one of them. I just love them. Love love love.

Patty griffin continues to provide the soundtrack to my life right now, and the song of this week was ‘goodbye’. Parts of it could not possibly be more fitting. 2 years ago this week, I was living in freetown and called home to hear that my grandpa (who had been dealing with cancer for the previous 9 months) wouldn’t likely make it through the night. Even now, remembering those days is so difficult. I have never felt so far from home. I wrote about it on this blog, so you can check that out in my archive if you feel so inclined. (September 2005) Anyway, I want to leave you with a few lines from the song, and just say that I still miss my grandpa to this day, but it is a blessing to have known someone like him, and even more of a blessing to have his blood in my veins. How could you not miss someone like him?!?! I am so grateful to come from the family I am from – a long line of really amazing people.

Occurred to me the other day that you’ve been gone now a couple years.
Well I guess it takes a while for someone to really disappear.
I remember where it was when the word came about you;
It was a day much like today, the sky was bright and white and blue.

And I wonder where you are, and if the pain ends when you die.
And I wonder if there was some better way to say goodbye.

Today my heart is big and sore. It’s trying to push right through my skin.
I won’t see you anymore. I guess that’s finally sinkin’ in…

Sunday, September 23, 2007

my future home-sweet-home

i may or may not have mentioned this before i left...

right now we live a few miles away from downtown, but we have a contract on an apartment in town that is not yet finished. it was supposed to be finished a couple of months ago, but who knows when we'll actually live there. maybe within a week... likely not.

anyway, faye wrote a funny blog about our recent excursion to check in on the progress of the place. you can read it here and look at the pictures and envy the amazing view we will have from our roof. eventually... maybe. i hope soon.

the quote of that day came from the man faye calls "C." he wasn't even in the same room as a most of the commotion at the time, but he shouted in exasperation, "senegalese!!! you talk too much!" for some reason that made me laugh until i choked. aaaah, west africa, i love you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

to serve the world proud

earlier this week (maybe it was last week???) cami asked me who was my favorite person in the Bible. obviously, you cannot answer this question, "Jesus!" - that is just lazy. unlike most "favorites" in my life - always changing depending on circumstance and realizations - my favorite person in the Bible has remained the same for a number of years. mary. so cami and i talked for a good long while about the faith of mary, her instinct to ask questions, her willingness to ignore conventions, her joy in the face of impending hard times... then i played the patty griffin song for cami (it is so fun to introduce people to my friend patty) and we both cried and i'm so glad that she asked me that question... it's provided some focus over the last few days.

on monday i started sitting in on the book discussions and business meetings with the sierra leonean interns. they are a really neat group of people, and by the end of the year at least a few of them will be staff members. sorta. almost. we don't have a sierra leonean board yet, so actual staff positions might be a little way off... the point is, these are very great people and i'm excited about the things we will learn from and with each other. they are doing a lot of stuff, but the main responsibility is that they act as sort of small group leaders / case managers for the lighthouse program. i'm excited to see how my brief (but full) experience as a case manager might help streamline some of their goals, scheduling, policies, paperwork. it isn't really consistent with the sierra leonean way of doing things, and if you know me you know how rediculously culturally sensitive i can be, but i think some consistency of expectations on both sides would be really great for the young adults in the program as well as the staff. we shall see...

we took a break during that meeting and george (intern) was listening to the radio because they were expected to announce the election results. when they announced that the APC won you could hear a roar of excitement coming from all over our part of town. and it went on and on and on... for hours. faye went into town later and said that there were people marching and celebrating all over and then they actually swore in the new president, ernest bai koroma, that very evening. i didn't hear the ceremony myself, but apparently the ex-president and ex-vice-president (who was the opponent in this election) both gave speaches and spoke highly of ernest, saying that this was the president for ALL of sierra leone and that there was no reason to be divided any longer. it was all so HOPEFUL. i heard someone last night say that the sierra leoneans in her office seem gaurded. but almost every sierra leonean i know is PUMPED. freetown can be a really rough place. the poor are desperate. but they are the ones who elected this president. that is exciting if you ask me. there is a headline on the BBC website today that says "violence spreads in sierra leone" but i have seen or heard of nothing in freetown. it sounds like people are acting out against the losing SLPP party in areas of the country which are still controlled by rebels. pray that this will end, and that the peace and hope i see in the capital city will not fade any time soon. (read more on faye's blog about the election)

i was sick again this week, which is why i didn't get to go dance in the rain and celebrate the new government. i self-diagnosed strep throat, started some heavy doses of penicillin, and it cleared up quite quickly and only cost me $0.33 and an afternoon of sleep. i love the lack of pharmaceutical regulations sometimes...

tomorrow i am going on an adventure! i am going to the airport to get erin and chris harrell. erin was on my servant team in 2005, and she and her husband will be in freetown as WMF interns for the next 5 weeks, discerning if they might come back as staff in the near future. exciting times! it will be good to talk with erin about all that has changed in the last 2 years. and it will be so fun to see freetown for the first time through chris' eyes. i can't wait to see them both! so, 'what's the adventure?' you may ask... well, getting to and from the airport, of course! they are only running one ferry right now, so the schedule is unpredictable. if it is late, we may have to take a pom-pom boat which is a long, skinny, dug-out canoe. there are just a lot of ways to get across the bay, so it could go a lot of different ways... none of this is any problem. the thing that could get interesting is that i will have to talk price ALL DAY. all day. which is kind of like a sport because it wears me out, but is really fun when you actually get a fair price. it's a small kind of victory. my competitive spirit loves it. my friend alimamy is going with me because he is fun, speaks krio and english, and he can carry heavy things.

okay, that's enough for today. this was supposed to be my day off, but i did work-related stuff all morning (both of my parents are at fault for modeling this kind of behavior my whole life). so i'm letting myself spend as much time as i want on the internet tonight. because i'm worth it. and now i will go home where we will have power in 20 minutes. i will charge my ipod, eat another peanut butter and banana sandwich, and spend the evening with my dear friend patty griffin.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

the pigeon in the airport

i made it. hopefully you had already guessed that by now... what you may not have guessed is that i made it with all of my luggage and ON TIME. i met cami at the airport in london and she assumed most/all of my books so i could meet the weight limit, and it was smooth sailing from there. we rode the ferry from the airport to freetown, which isn't the most exciting way to go (when helicopters and hovercrafts are the other options) but it was the perfect way to re-enter this crazy city - approaching slowly, moving with the waves of water and people, wondering at the sunset and praying it doesn't rain just yet.

i've had a cold this week which is likely due to a huge deficit in my sleep account before leaving, and also due to the climate change. i spent an entire day in bed this week, but i'm feeling much better.

the reunions have been sweet, and i'm VERY MUCH looking forward to a routine. oh, how i long for a system of doing things. i'm so lost and confused by even the simple things right now... i have to ask questions just to dish a plate of rice properly. and speaking of questions, the krio is coming back very slowly... but it is coming back.

during my layover at JFK airport, i was chillin' out by a starbucks (my last for a while) and a pigeon walked quite-confidently past me toward the boarding line at gate 25. he seemed to know what he was doing, but he certainly looked out of place and must have been a bit intimidated. i laughed, and made eye contact with someone else who thought it was funny. and a lot of people noticed, but no one bothered him. i have thought about him everyday. at first i thought that he must be lost, but maybe not. he walked with such purpose, like he was exactly where he wanted to be. and who am i to say that a bird can't be interested in airports and airplanes? i mean, maybe they swallow up other birds, but this pigeon seemed certain that he was going to be just fine.

i realized today; i am that pigeon in the airport.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


so, we've come to the point where i can no longer sleep. and i'm still 5 days away from freetown... this could get interesting. i've already developed "finals voice" - the name i have for the raspy tone that i acquire as the result of an extended lack of sleep. as you may have guessed, this began in college as a result of my relentless procrastinating...

the point is that i have been awake since 3 AM, and i've managed to accomplish a few things, but not many because my mind keeps running ahead of me. i think this is working to my advantage in some ways. let me explain. you may or may not know this about me; i am a perfectionist. and a procrastinating one at that, so i'm sure you can imagine how fun that is... anyway, i've been wracking my brain for weeks now about how to pack those stupid bags that i mentioned in my last post, but this morning i was just thinking that it really doesn't matter. i mean, it matters. but i will inevitably make a few packing mistakes - no matter how much i plan and rethink, i will chose to take something i will never use, and i will forget to pack something that i know i will need. that sucks a little. but... on thursday morning, i will be on my way with my imperfectly packed bags, and on friday i'll be in freetown. ON FRIDAY I'LL BE IN FREETOWN!

so that's what i realized this morning. the goodbyes have been tough so far, and the remaining ones will be the toughest yet. but i'm so much more excited than i am sad. in the coming week the following things will happen; i will speak krio (poorly, but out of necessity), i will watch the sunset on the atlantic, i will eat fula bread, i will ride/sweat in a poda-poda (see photo) and i will listen to the apprentice on said poda-poda yell "abadeenabadeenabadeenabadeen" without ever coming up for air, i will be called "wayt gyal" repeatedly (which will cease to be amusing very quickly, but i still look forward to the first one), and i will see saidu, remie, joseph, noah, david, haja, kwame, kadi, and so many other friends who i have missed over the last 2 years. that last one sends me straight out of giddy and into tears. i really am so excited.

i will try not to have a lot of goals or expectations for my first week - that just seems like another set-up for failure, like the 55 pound suitcases. however, i think it would be a really good omen to see the 'neatness' poda-poda in my first week. some of you know what i mean, the others will hopefully see a photo someday soon. so that's my number one goal. number 2 will be to catch up on some sleep.