Tuesday, November 30, 2010


We leave Sierra Leone tomorrow, and my mind is so scattered. I am excited for family and cheese and bread. I am ready for cold weather (maybe...) and fireplaces and cuddles. But, there is a part of me that doesn't want to leave. Part of me loves greeting my neighbors every morning and grabbing a snack from a stall on the side of the road. Going to the beach every weekend and escaping the craziness of Freetown.

I have so much more to share about Sierra Leone, so don't expect the posts to stop any time soon.

And to our family and friends, I can't wait to see you! Off to London and Paris for a few days, then home sweet home!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kailahun field visit

They said, "Send your family greetings from the field agents out in the far east of Sierra Leone!"

We spent a week in Kailahun District, way out on the eastern border of the country, attending malaria trainings for mothers. This is where the war began in the early nineties and where the rebels made their base. It has been called the "forgotten district," and burnt out houses remind you that the war wasn't so long ago. Fewer than 10 years have passed.

Getting there and away was quite the adventure- one 77 mile section took 5 hours by car. There was a spot where a couple of men were building a small bridge over a creek, and the interim bridge was a few palm trees in a row. Not exactly 4x4 worthy. As might be expected, we got stuck for two hours and nearly missed a training.

While we waited, a women walked by with a child strapped to her back. When one of the men asked how she was, she said the baby was having convulsions. She was walking to town to try to get treatment and still had miles to go. Luckily, a man with a motorcycle was helping with our car, and my coworker convinced him to take her. I watched as she unstrapped the small child and climbed onto the bike. The girl was maybe 3 years old, her hair in braids and her body limp. It was probably malaria, and she would die if she didn't get treatment soon. What do you do when your child is sick and treatment is miles away? When you don't even have money to pay for the medicine when you finally get there?

To us in the States, mosquitoes are an annoyance. They give us red marks and they make us itch, but they don't kill us. The New York Times says that mosquitoes kill more people worldwide than any other creature (though it is actually the parasite the mosquito carries, not the mosquito itself). How, with all of our knowledge and technological capacity, are people in our world still dying from mosquito bites?

Monday, November 22, 2010


His mother leads a support group for mothers in her community. She is teaching other mothers the importance of breastfeeding, how to provide adequate nutrition for their children, and how to protect their families from diseases like malaria.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sao and Jina

One of our guards, Lahai, has twin boys. In Sierra Leone, the older twin is called "Sao" and the younger is "Jina." Sao and Jina hang out in our compound on most days, giggling and babbling outside our window. The second I step outside, they freeze and stare. I have been trying for months to get them to love me- bribing them with treats, picking them up and throwing them in the air, hugging them close, teaching them to give high fives. I have explained to Sao on many occasions that I, too, am a Sao, and therefore we have a special connection. Our first breakthrough was when I was holding Sao and he kept trying to hide from my face by burying his face is my chest. I pretended he just wanted to snuggle.

I have 2 more weeks to get them to smile. I am not giving up.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy, happy, happy

(Dinner on the beach at Franco's.)

(Dave, Angie and Dave's mustache.)

(Freya and the birthday girl.)

(Wayne's Special. Delightful.)

(Isla and Wes from Canada.)

It was hard for me to believe it was my birthday last week, since I had never experienced a November 6 that was 85 degrees with 95% humidity. But, I was decided to believe it when I heard I might get cake.

And did I ever! Our friend Isla made me the most delicious German chocolate cake, my all-time favorite. The next day, a group of us went to River Number 2 and enjoyed a day of beach lounging and river floating. For dinner we went to Franco’s, a restaurant on the beach owned by an Italian-Sierra Leonean couple. It was a quite a fancy place before it was ransacked during the war, and you can see remnants like street lamps and dark wood railings. I had the Wayne’s Special, a cheesy pasta dish with fresh lobster that was a dream for this cheese-loving girl. (We have gotten used to Laughing Cow, the processed “cheese” triangles that are everywhere around here, but…it still sucks.)

David’s birthday was this past weekend, and he wanted to keep it low key since we had just gotten back from a week upcountry. We watched a movie at a friend’s house and ate pizza, sushi, brownies and champagne. Didn’t think you could sushi around here, did you? Well, Freetown is full of surprises. Actually, the roll we ordered was called “Gary’s Spicy Roll,” which is awesome because my twin’s name is Gary. Coincidence?!

On my birthday, I told pretty much everyone I talked to that it was my special day- my neighbors, the storekeeper down the road, our guards, the boys selling us things on the beach (birthday prices!). People were very kind about it: “Eh! I wish you many, many more!” David, on the other hand, didn’t want anybody knowing about his. That didn’t stop me from bringing it up, of course. I told our guard Michael that it was David’s birthday but he didn’t like people making a big deal about it. When Michael saw David he took his hand, looked him in the eye and said, “Happy, happy, happy.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Give me a minute

David and I are upcountry for the week, participating in a training on malaria prevention for leaders of mothers groups. I won't be able to blog for a few days- we'll be too busy not showering, getting laughed at by little kids, and eating cassava leaf.

P.S. There are over 100 bugs in our room right now (David's estimate).

Friday, November 5, 2010


(Beautiful soft blankets from "country cloth" made in the provinces.)

(A boy fills his bucket from a tap on Murray Town Road.)

(Selling French bread on the street. I request the ones on the inside...haha.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"This girl...."

Most days I walk home from work. Not only is this quicker than taking the taxis or poda podas (traffic!), it is almost always an adventure. Some days I walk in relative peace, ignoring the occasional "WHITE!" yelled out the window of a speeding poda poda or the men trying to get my attention by hissing and waving their arms.

Other days, someone (usually a male 20-30 years old) will "escort" me on my walk.

"Hello, white girl, hello. How are you?"
"What is your name?"
This is when I start to get weird. I don't like just anyone knowing my name, so sometimes I lie. I'll say Lizzy or Limsy or Lina, the 3 names people usually call me anyway. It is strange and probably wrong of me, but it makes me feel strong.
"Lizzy. What is your surname?"
"Wang." Kind of like Lange, but not. It just came to me. I know, I'm weird!
"Wain. Spelled W-A-I-N, not so? Do you know Lil Wayne? Like him, yes?"
"Yes." (trying not to laugh)
"You never asked my name."
"Because you are only talking to me because I am white, and I have people coming up to me everyday just because I am white." Just being honest.
"No no no, that is not the reason. I have taken a particular interest in you."
"Why? It is because I am white, isn't it?"
"Eh bo! This girl...No, not because you are white. You are special. I have taken a particular interest in you."
"You don't know me at all. All you know is that I am white."
Then he says something that reminds me that I can not go anywhere here without being noticed.
"I see you most days, but I don't talk to you because you are walking fast and look busy."
"So, shall we take lunch together tomorrow?"
"Why not?"
"Because I don't know you at all."
"But we can get to know each other. Is your family in the US?"
"Yes, but my husband is with me."
"Is he black or white?"
"Is he in the US or in Sierra Leone?" (READ: "Will he find out if we get together?")
"Sierra Leone."
"Ah, you are married. Have you given birth?"
"You are a young girl. But you promised your husband you would give birth sometime?"
"I'll have a child if I want to have a child."
"Eh! Oh, this girl..." (shakes head and laughs)
"So, you live in Lumley?"
I lie again. "Yes."
"Okay okay. So can I call you sometime?"
"No. My phone is just for work." Another lie.
"Okay, I can give you my number and you will call it."
"I won't call it."
"Why won't you call it?"
"Because I don't know you. Sorry."
"Eh bo! This girl...."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween in Freetown

(Marathon runner)
(A present. The paper had the word "Yippee" written all over it, which seemed pretty sarcastic without the necessary exclamation points. "Yippee." Wah wah.)

When I walked out of the house, I asked our guard Michael what he thought of my dress. He said it was very fine, and didn't seem to notice anything strange. I asked if he had heard of Halloween, and then I tried to explain the concept. "It's a holiday where people dress up like things they aren't and eat candy. I am a present." Of course. Makes perfect sense.

It was a bit of an adventure getting to our friend's Halloween party. Obviously, we didn't see anyone else dressed up until we got there. After a journey involving walking, a poda poda and a taxi, we realized David was probably the most noticeably ridiculous, since shiny dresses are not as unusual as huge white bearded men wearing shorts and tank tops (though my dress made quite the noise whenever I moved). My favorite costumes of the night? Our hosts Wes and Isla had matching local primary school uniforms made in their size (picture bright pink and maroon with checkered trim, matching maroon felt hat, tall white socks, etc.).

Want to see something scary?

Now want to see something truly frightening?

AHHHHHH!!!!!!! Spooky!!!