Tuesday, January 22, 2008

things i should and shouldn't tell you

the boss of one of my friends here is a lebanese Christian who thinks that all american missionaries work for the CIA. that's right. i am the jason bourne of freetown. anyway, shortly after he made this accusation i signed in on facebook and most of the adverts on my page were in arabic and i had invitations to join some lebanese political groups. so i was like, "oh yeah? who's the spy now?!?" and sometimes i jokingly call my lebanese friends "terrorists." just in jest. it's light-hearted fun. well, 2 minutes ago when i checked my blog, the page was in arabic. yeah. saw the 2 boxes where you are supposed to put your sign-in name and your password. but i, of course, put them in the wrong places because, well, arabic goes left to right. so i tried again, and then once i signed in i saw english... anyway, it looks like my cover is blown and now they're just messing with my head.

okay so, here are some stories that i swore i would never tell my mom, but now that they are in the distant past, i think they're are slightly amusing. sorry mom.

a few months ago was supposed to go out to one of the refugee camps with florence and erin. the day kinda boxed up and we left a bit later than we planned to, and i hadn't had time to eat all morning. we had to take one kind of transport to get to another kind of transport and florence kept telling me i needed to eat something, but i'm stubborn and i kept saying i would just get a plate of rice once we got to the camp since we were already late. this was right when it was getting really hot after the rains ended, and the sun was in full force. we ended up sitting in traffic for over an hour without moving a mile, and by then it was too late to go to the camp since we wouldn't get back until late and the east end of the city isn't somewhere you really want to be late at night. so we got down from the bus and started walking back toward town. i needed to stop at a friend's shop to pick something up, so the girls came with me. as soon as we reached, i started to feel sick. i told erin i needed some water and i sat down. then my friend looks at me and says "oh no. what's wrong with you? you're yellow!" so i ask to go to the bathroom. he shows me to the back of the store. i enter the bathroom, the room starts to spin, i think i'm going to die, i leave the bathroom because i don't want to die alone, i fall down in the hallway, lay there for a minute while everyone runs to see what happened, i gain enough strength to run back to the bathroom and throw up, then i started to feel better. they force-fed me 2 candy bars and 2 liters of water before they let me go home. so... the moral of this story is, you are never too busy to eat when it is 95 degrees and insanely humid. i learned my lesson. please don't lecture me.

the next story is a bit more disturbing. i'll spare the frightening details, and beef up the more entertaining ones... i think this happened in october... me and faye and our friends nicole and samir were walking on the beach one friday after work. we got caught up talking to some other friends and it started to get dark before we got back to samir's jeep. well, being the very smart girls that we are, nicole and i started to lag behind faye and samir (who is tall and manly and the kind of guy you want to keep up with if you are at lumley beach when it is getting dark). nicole pulls out her camera because we wanted to laugh at a picture she took earlier of samir (tall and manly) imitating the way faye walks (bouncy and girly). so yeah, 2 girls, lumley beach at dusk, nice digital camera. before we knew it, a guy runs up behind us and tries to take the camera out of nicole's hand. she refuses to let go (she's a very petite little thing too) and ends up getting thrown on the ground by the guy (who honestly wasn't much bigger than she was). anyway, being bigger than both of them, i started shoving the guy as hard as i possibly can. this doesn't sound funny, but it was a little bit because i had my rainbow sandals in my hands and i have a feeling those might cause a sting if you were hit in the face with them, which he was. so there's nicole laying between us in the fetal position with her camera, this little (yet strong) man bent down trying to get the camera with one hand and blocking blows from me and my sandals with the other hand. it was really pretty scary, but he didn't get the camera (even after another guy showed up to help) and i'm pretty sure they had friends watching who will never let them forget that they couldn't get a camera away from those 2 american girls. faye and samir did run back to help us too. i'm actually pretty sure that those guys would have gotten the camera had it not been for faye and samir. i think nicole and i managed for those first 30 seconds on just instinct alone, but once we realized what happened, we were crazy. she was really upset (who wouldn't be?) and i was just mad. so yeah, another lesson learned. and don't worry, i'm too paranoid now to let anything similar happen again. i'm pretty sure i shouldn't have told you this story...

people have asked about a mailing address and a phone number. mail is a funny thing here, and i'm still waiting on a few letters that i know were mailed 4 months ago. but faye did receive some Christmas packages - she received them after Christmas, but she received them. so, it's a gamble, but here is my address:

PO Box 545
Freetown, Sierra Leone

and i use the phone company that does the best job of receiving international calls, but they're not perfect. you might have to try a couple of times to get through. if you are calling from the US, my mobile number is:


oh! and my birthday was nice and i spent it at the beach. this is the first birthday i remember not needing a winter coat... but it was nice. and not as painful as i expected. :) i'm dramatic, i know.

love love love you all.

Friday, January 11, 2008

i'm on a roll

that's right folks, only one week later and you're hearing from me again.

i don't know what's gotten into me! maybe it's the fact that we have electricity and i'm able to write from the comfort of my own kitchen table. maybe it's the fact that we have electricity and i'm able to sleep to the soothing whir and breeze from my very own FAN. maybe it's the fact that we have electricity and i'm able to start my day with a glass of COLD water from our fridge that makes things COLD. my friends, life is good.

i recieved quite a few responses to my last post which made me realize something... i live in africa. my life is interesting. funny things happen to me every single day and after only 4 months, they seem normal. i actually went back and read that post after reading the responses and i laughed at it myself. i do have some unique stories to share. so i'm honestly going to try to be better. i think that i've been waiting around for some big earth-shaking insight that the world must know, but really, we all just want to laugh at the white girl in africa. that's what all of my neighbors want, so why should i think you're any different? :)

so, for your reading pleasure, here are a couple of notes from my time tutoring in the afternoons... both of these stories involve snack time, so it would appear that they just come here and eat, but i promise that we learn every once in a while too.

a few weeks ago the 3 regulars were sitting at the table eating egg sandwiches, and they were making a MESS as usual. they don't eat at a table in their house, so even when one is available they don't use it. so little saidu is sitting with his legs up on the arm of the chair, his plate on his lap, food flying in every direction... he stood up, and there were crumbs ALL OVER his chair. and this is when i made my first real language error. i've made mistakes, sure. but i've never made an offensive mistake. so to make that kind of mistake in front of children... ouch. it's really not fair, because the polite way of referring to a person's back side in english, is to call it just that - their "back side." what i didn't know is this - that is pretty much the MOST offensive way to refer to it in Krio. does that seem fair to you? so i made some comment about food and his backside and saidu and mari start laughing. mari was in tears. saidu just staring at me laughing with his eyes WIDE like i had absolutely made his day. and then there's remie... "auntie steph, you done cuss." so serious and sober. while the others are crying. he told them that they should correct me first, then laugh. which i enjoyed. anyway, completely embarrassing. i apologized to remie, then saidu yells "i'm the one you cussed!" so they laughed again. moral of the story, be careful with krio. i've said it before and i'll say it again; it's just close enough to english to really get you into trouble.

last week the kids didn't have school but i told the boys to come at 3 when i finished my krio lesson. at 3:30 on friday i called noah to ask where they were so he sent them and they reached my house at 4. (i thought i had a fluid sense of time...) we only had an hour before i had to be somewhere else, so i decided i would just give them some ginger cookies and tea - no sandwich. well, then they told me that they hadn't eaten that day, which i didn't really believe, but i sent remie to buy some bananas anyway just in case they really were hungry. long story short, cami overhears them tell me that they hadn't eaten, she sees noah that afternoon and asks him if it's true. of course, it isn't. we decide that as punishment for lying, they won't get a snack at my house this week. so i saw saidu the next day and asked, "my friend, what happened yesterday?" he responds, in a very quiet voice with his eyes to the ground, "something very wrong." it has never been so easy to forgive someone. :)

and hillary, you won't believe this, but i haven't fallen down or tripped in a really long time! my reflexes and night vision are greatly improving. however, last week i was walking to the youth center and all of these people were saying to me "osh ya" and "take time white girl" and i started to realize that they must have thought i was someone else who HAD fallen on that corner... i never figured it out, but even when i stay upright, i get credit for falling. forced humility.

i turn 27 next week. gross. i'll try to have fun anyway, and i'll let you know what i do to dull the pain of reaching my LATE 20'S...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

a couple of months later...

well, well, well. here i am again. i don te.

it would appear that i have vanished from the face of the earth, but the truth is that i really haven't had a lot of spare time for that whole communication thing. or maybe a more true statement would be that i haven't had the time to process my life so i haven't really known what to say. the last 2 months have been quite eventful - in work, in play, in learning, in every other area... there has been plenty to write about, but no space in which to write. i know that's my own fault, so please forgive me. i will try to be better in 2008. :)

faye reprimanded me the other day about my 2 month absence from the blog-world. she brought it up right after we were invited to the beach this past sunday where one of our favorite uncles would be slaughtering and roasting a goat... faye's suggestion was that i video the killing of said goat, and then post it on this blog to "draw back the audience." good idea, but that would require that i witness the slaughter myself, and i really wasn't up for that. she was a cute goat. black and white, with kind eyes. they drove her to the beach that morning in the back of my friend's jeep. they said she was quiet and well-mannered on the drive. i said it was nice that they were able to spend some time getting to know her before they cut her throat... almost enough to make me a vegetarian, but no. don't worry dad, i'm still a country girl. and i still love me some red meat.

Christmas was eventful and busy and fun and kinda strange this year. i have spent the holiday away from home before, but i was traveling and distracted and excited about the change of scenery. but this year wasn't like that. i told a few people that i think part of the difficulty was that the excitement of living here was starting to wear off at the exact wrong time... i still want to be here, don't get me wrong. but after 4 months, it's not all new and different and exotic anymore. it's like, i live here. this is it. so hitting that phase during holiday time wasn't fun. because i really just wanted to be with my family in my culture where i knew and understood all of the traditions and got to eat all of my favorite food and hear bing crosby and wear sweaters. it's the little things, it really is...

it was good though. our Christmas parties for the kroo bay kids and the lighthouse program went really well. it was fun to celebrate with the kids, and i was told by numerous people (who could easily see how homesick i was) that they would be glad to stand in as family for me. so, i missed the moselys and mcGuires immensly, but was so so so humbled by the willingness of others to welcome me into their own lives and homes and families. wow.

new year's was an event worth writing home about. one of my friends here is a lebanese guy who used to make a living playing "one man shows" in beirut. basically he gets set up on two very complicated keyboards at once and sings and plays hours and hours worth of arabic music. so he was hired to do a show at a resturant on the water for new year's eve. most of you are probably aware that the lebanese know how to work. they have a reputation across the globe as good business people. what you may not know is that the lebanese also know how to have fun. i had no clue what they were capable of in this area! anyway, it was a cultural experience that i certainly enjoyed. food, music, food, dancing, food. happy new year.

and, of course, i spent a lot of time at the beach over the holidays. so that sure helped with that whole homesick thing... :) but now it's back to reality. busy busy.

OH! this information won't be super exciting for you since you didn't know the situation beforehand, but... we have electricity at our house now! that's right, we haven't had electricity since we moved in. we would occasionally borrow a generator so we could turn the lights on and charge things, but then we figured out that the house wasn't grounded (after cami's fan caught on fire and her computer battery was fried) so we haven't been able to plug anything in at our house for the last 2 months. anytime i've needed to charge anything i've had to haul it to a friend's house. but now the electricty situation is being sorted out, so we are all happy. i slept with a fan on ALL night last night. it was the best thing ever. i'm worried that i'm going to revert back to my old over-sleeping self now. this seems like an appropriate time to tell you that we also don't have running water. :) we buy water in 5 gallon rubber containers, and take bucket showers. hopefully that will get sorted out soon as well. i'll keep you posted.