Wednesday, August 30, 2006

...Wow, it's Wednesday? Where has the week gone...

The last few days have passed in a flurry of activity and frustration. I have been busy with teacher training days at the school, trying to figure out a new curriculum and too much new subject content to learn! Somewhere in there I found time to attend a bible study for ex-pats in Freetown. It was held at the house that I'll be moving into 'sometime' this week (I was supposed to move tonight, but there seems to be some issue with a broken car key and lack of a vehicle...) and I quite enjoyed myself! It was a great time to meet some new people (about 17 new faces) and network among ex-pats. So far, I was able to get myself invited to dinner on Friday and hear about some plans for Saturday night. Looks like I'm going to have a social life of some sort here as well! (granted I can find the time...)

I meant to post some photos today, except I left the disk at home somewhere, or maybe even at the new apartment. This state of limbo is somewhat unsettling for me, and I just wish I could hunker down in a place and call it my own. I tend to get very disorganized when I don't have a good home base and that's just disasterous for a new teacher!!

Yesterday my greatest adventure (among many, but I just don't have time to tell them all) was taking a taxi (or taxis, rather) to the wrong side of town all by myself. There's no official transport system here, just taxis (cars) and poda podas (vans) that you can flag down on the side of the street to get you from point 'a' to point 'b'. The catch is that you need to know the name of point 'b', something I'm struggling with at the moment, since nothing really has any road signs and even if they do, they're either ignored or anyway...I was trying to flag down a taxi in the rain...with no umbrella...standing beside a huge burly army officer and another man. Eventually the man offerend me the use of his umbrella (nice enough, I suppose) and then told me he'd help me to get a cab (....*sigh* fine. Clearly I was doing a dismal job on my own). Hence why I ended up on the wrong side of town....however, do not dispair. The man was actually quite above board - he's a pastor at a church in Wilberforce and didn't seem to want anything at all from me other than to give me his business card. Fair enough. I told him I was a Christian and that I was still look for a church to attend, he wasn't over pushy, but I'm sure he would have loved me to go to his! He put me in a the right cab to get to Tengbeh Town which is where I currently live. I got there...a little wet, but no worse for wear. I think maybe he was an angel. Could be. Who knows? However, I made sure to figure out the names of all of the taxi junctions I need at the moment when I had a chance to last night...just to make sure I'm not in need of another angel anytime soon....

Don't freak out. I'm fine.

Monday, August 28, 2006

...Sunday in Salone...

On Sunday I was able to reconnect with my friend Adama and her family. I met Adama when I first came to Freetown in 2005 and we seemed to 'click' fairly well (cultural and language barriers aside). She is a qualified nurse and practices in the city. It was fantastic to see her and to finally talk with someone (closer t0) my age and a woman! I have a photo I will try to post tomorrow. The internet connection is slow today (it's a satelite connection and tends to be sluggish if it's cloudy out...go figure). It was also good to see Alfred, Adama's nephew who is my age but completing his final year of secondary school now because his schooling was interupted because of the war. Overall, a fantastic day, although it felt a little bit surreal to be back in the city at the same apartment I'd visited a year and a half ago.

They're repainting the school at the moment and the fumes are making me feel ill. I'm hoping to post again soon!

Apparently, I can receive text messages on my phone from as far away as New Zealand (thanks, Jen!...*hint*hint*).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006 part of the mobile revolution...

OK, people, I now have a mobile (also known as "cell") phone! They're the best way that people communicate with each other here in Freetown (and incidentally, I just read an article about how cell phones and text messages are being used to keep elections in Africa above board, with less need for recounts and botched ballots...) If you go to this very helpful website: and submit the appropriate information, you may be able to reach me! My new number is: 033 854829. (I know what you're thinking, "Emily, don't put the number on your blog," but it's the easiest way. Also, if the crazies want to come and track me down here in Freetown - good luck to that! - I'll deal with it when it happens.) I believe that the time difference in Ontario is about 4 hours...but you can even get that info on the page! Nifty!

Today I'm at the school and working on getting my classroom in order. For those of you who I went to teacher's college with (0r who went to teacher's college at all) remember those machines that the elementary teachers got to use that cut out words, shapes and all sorts of fun stuff?? Yeah, well, I wish I had one of those! I'm cutting out letters and such freehand for my bulletin boards. One will say "Literature" and the other "Social Studies." It's-a-gonna-be-beautiful! So what am I teaching exactly? I have been told that I will be teaching grades 4-8 social studies (history, geography, world issues) and grades 6-8 Literature. Literature simply means reading and comprehension. There are other teachers and other classes for writing, spelling, and language arts. (What a relief!)

To make you other teachers back home jealous, I have 17 students. Total. Grades 4-8...let the good times roll...

"Teacher Days" officially begin next week (August 28th) and school opens on Sept. 4th. I'm thinking of opening with a unit on diversity...and then a unit on peace to coincide with the International Day of Peace on September 21st. (for more on that, go to I'll let you know what happens!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

...from there to here...

Just a quick note to let you know that I arrived safe and sound in Freetown. It's been a fairly busy couple of days, meeting my principal, moving to a new apartment, shopping for groceries, meeting my new potential housemates (because I have to move apartments again in a few weeks), riding in a cab by myself for the first time alone, cleaning the new apartment (lots of spiders, lots of spider eggs...) and just generally trying to get a handle on life here.

My flights were fairly uneventful - a pleasant surprise seeing as how Heathrow could have been a nightmare, and my luggage could have easily been 'misplaced' en route. I arrived in Freetown around 11:30pm local time and was asleep soon thereafter (having first put up my mosquito net, of course!)

I will do my best to update again soon. I'm not sure when I'll be able to load pictures, but I'll work on it! If you have written me an email, I'll be getting back to you as soon as I can, but internet access is limited.

In other news: it's raining. Hooray for rainy season.

Monday, August 14, 2006 experiement born of necessity...

"Frome anyone."
At least that's what Canada Post claims. I'm going to test how accurate that statement truly is. Yesterday I mailed off some excess baggage to the school address I posted in my last blog. I just couldn't get the things I mailed to fit into my baggage amid the weight restrictions, and I figured it wouldn't be a huge loss if they went 'missing.' I'm viewing it as a small sacrifice for the advancement of science. (The experiment in this case being whether or not Canada Post can really deliver on it's above claim). Being that it is a true experiment, I tried to cover all of the variables that I could - I sent one package by air mail and the other by ground service, I packaged them in bubble wrap, and I clearly labeled the packing slip. It cost me $27.55 to ship 0.632 kgs. (1.4pds) by air. It cost an additional $12.10 to ship 0.51 kgs. (1.12 pds.) of "shtuff" by ground.

Is the investment worth it? Will the packages ever arrive? What was in the packages? How long did it really take?

Stay tuned for the answers to these and other gripping questions soon.

Friday, August 11, 2006

...send a little love my way...

photo courtesy of

A few of you have been asking about a mailing address while I am in Sierra Leone. I've been able to get the address of the school I will be teaching at, so this may be the best bet. The address is:
American International School of Freetown
Hillcot Brow
24 Hill Station
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Snail mail in Freetown is, at the best of times, sketchy. I would love to get letters and small(ish) packages from home though! From my experience, it takes at least 6 weeks for a letter to travel from Canada to Sierra Leone if you mail it by 'air,' and a minimum of three months (and could be longer!) if you send it by 'ground.' It's best not to send anything particularly valuable in the mail in case it goes 'missing,' but all attempts will be greatly appreciated.

That's all for now, I'll keep you posted (pun intended).