Thursday, November 30, 2006

...the road less traveled...

I would like to inform you, that this is the hill that I hike at least twice a day, every day. It makes me sweaty, but keeps me fit. LandRovers have trouble making it down this hill. I generally walk it with two textbooks strapped to my back in my knapsack. The extra resistance the textbooks create are giving me perfectly sculpted calf muscles (maybe). There's always a silver lining. (my sister told me that once - 'always look for the positive in things. Like when you miss the bus, consider the fact that now you're getting good exercise from the walk.' Thanks, Tash.) I'm sure it's doing wonders for my butt too. Sweet.
And now for something completely different.
There's an abandoned compound at the top of the hill that I climb every day. I took some photos of the front gate, because I liked the bullet holes. That's what they are. The house used to be owned by a Lebanese family during the war. They left when it was attacked and riddled with bullets. It's a bit sobering to consider the reality of it...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

...two posts in one day!...

Here are some sizeable pictures I thought you'd enjoy chuckling over...

This man named George is very, very, very tall. So tall I had to take a picture. He's not even standing up straight (but notice how I am most definitely am...) Anyway, huzzah for being short...

...And I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain...

I promised Hanneke I'd put that similie as my blog title just for her, not because I'm feeling particularly parched, but because it was one of the lines from an especially cheesy mix of songs we listened to ad nauseum on Sunday afternoon. Ah...the memories.

On Monday Hanneke took off to her homeland of the Netherlands. No, not Never-Neverland. Not the Nether-regions. The Netherlands - Holland, specifically, but she used to glare at me when I said that. I don't know why.

Here are some photos from our farewell dinner and from our good-byes at the Helipad here in Freetown.

This is Lucy, Hanneke, and Sean-The-IMATT-guy at dinner on Saturday night.

Raymond is on the left (no, he hasn't got something wrong with his face, I think he was just trying to blow a kiss to the camera. Ha! See what happens when you don't hold still when I tell you to??) and Elias is on the right. Luci and Elias were married in Lebanon this past summer.

This is the rag-tag group that saw Hanneke off on Monday night. It wasn't too bad of a wait, considering we had to pause to let Prince Charles dominate Sierra Leonean airspace for half an hour at 6pm...

These are the women I live(d) with.... Janet on the left, Hanneke at the top and Heleen on the right.

Good-bye Hanneke, we're missing you already.

PS: How do I get to Bintumani? (just kidding...sort of...)

Monday, November 27, 2006

...The last weekend...

A week ago Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending an African Music night presented at the British Coucil by the Ballanta Academy performers. The photos have been a long time coming...but the night was fabulous! The dancers had more energy than I will ever have and I was dutifully impressed.

This guy on stilts nearly took my eye out when he fell in front of us. We were sitting in the front row - maybe not such a good idea next time...seriously though, WHOA! The athleticism is impressive.
This is a traditional Sierra Leonean 'devil.' Lots of raffia and shaking. This devil had a bit of an attitude.

There was also dancing by everyone later in the evening. Below are Kate (a Brit) and Justin (fellow teacher) dancing it up. Good times....
Talking about dancing....

This weekend I was invited to a party thrown by a man named Kevin who works at the British High Commission (gotta love those Brits...) It was a complete blast! His apartment complex is gorgeous - incidentally, it is built by the same man who I told you about in a previous blog (September 18th) so yes, very decadent. There was a pool and much swimming took place, as did much dancing. Definitely my kind of night. Needless to say now, however, I'm pooped!

Sunday was Hanneke's last day with us (*sniff*) and we went to River No. 2 for the day. We spent the afternoon swimming (yes, more swimming. It is a good thing I love swimming! Thanks for forcing me to take those lessons when I was young, Mum and Dad...although, I'm still bitter about the lack of gymnastics lessons...but that's another story). We stayed a Nassip's place at River No. 2 and had lunch there (yes, more Barracuda). All in all, a wonderful way to spend a Sunday.

Today, Hanneke leaves. After class I'm hoping to make it to the helipad to see her off. I'm sure it will be quite emotional. I'm working on bringing back the "Ice Queen" of old so I'm hoping I can hold it all together...Oh, I made a new friend over the weekend as well (big weekend, I tell ya!). Her name is Meghan and she's from Georgia (seems to be the popular US State to be from here in Salone) and works for Peace Child. We clicked right from the start, we're very similar (so, think funny, charming, attractive, outgoing, and modest) and have made plans for next weekend. Now if only I could get this week of work out of the way....

In other news....Prince Charles blesses Sierra Leone with his presence today (Monday). There's a big to-do at the golf club (yeah, that's right, apparently you can play golf in a former war-zone. But why?) The city has been trying to clean itself up (operative word being 'trying') and have done a bit of garbage removal and painting...Thanks, Chuck.

Friday, November 24, 2006

...Living in a Fishbowl...

" Once upon a time, everything was simple. There was an established order that all creation respected. The sun shone in summer, and in winter the snow fell softly and covered everything. You got up in the morning, you spent the day studying, praying, working, eating, and in the evening you went to bed. Once upon a time.... "
~ Elie Wiesel, The Judges.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about the fact that living as an ex-patriot can mean living in a not-so-giant fish bowl where everyone one is aware of what you're doing, who you're doing it with, and why. For those of you who have never experienced this phenomenon, I can most closely compare it to the experience of spending of spending a summer at a residential camp. Everyone always knows everyone else's business, and everyone has an opinion about it. I try, as much as I can, to avoid the fishbowl-phenomenon. Sometimes it's a bit tricky. It's nice to spend time with people who understand your sense of humour, who won't ask you for your phone number after they say hello, or ask you to marry them after they find out your name. At the same time, the ex-pat community is very small and can be stifling. How to balance these two worlds is a challenge.

I think it's important to try to engage as much as possible with the Sierra Leonean community, hence why I value my Sierra Leonean friends, and why I wish to learn Krio. Living in a fish bowl is just one of the realities of working overseas. There's no way to completely escape it, but there are ways to learn how to work within it and make it work for you. At least, that's what I hope. I like to think that I live in a number of different fish bowls. I'm the fish that's always moved around from bowl to bowl...maybe I'm in one bowl because they're cleaning another, maybe I don't get along with the fishes in the other bowl, maybe I have a contagious fungus...don't you hate it when analogies go just a bit too far? Anyway, I hope to try to spend time in as many different fish bowls as I can while I'm here. I think that's part of the experience, and I intend to make the best of it.

All I know for certain is that swimming in other bowls can get pretty complicated.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

...A short week because it's American Thanksgiving and we don't have school on Thursday and Friday!...

Well, the weekend flew by in a blur of activity - Friday night was a b-day dinner for my fellow teacher Justin and then we went out dancing. Very fun. Hilarity ensued. Sadly, no pictures.

Saturday was a more quiet day at home - I spent it making some crafty Christmas cards. I was supposed to go to a "Canadian" party with people from the Special Court not too far from my house, but that plan didn't work out. I'm still a little bitter. Incidentally, if you want to email me with your address at home, I'll do my best to mail out something to you over the holidays! Saturday night was a party at the IMATT (International Military Advisory and Training Team) compound...I'm not going to lie, hanging out with a bunch of British soldiers is not exactly my idea of a good time...but I endured. Actually, I had some good conversations and enjoyed myself a good bit.

Sunday morning I went to a service run by the people from Mercy Ships International. It was small and informal but completely lacked any music whatsoever - definitely a negative aspect - but it was nice to talk and bounce around some ideas. Sunday afternoon I napped and then we went and sat on the beach at Lumley. Hanneke and I grabbed dinner at a restaurant called "Angel's Delight" and then caught a taxi home. This particular taxi had a stuffed Koala doll dressed in a clown suit hanging from its interior light. I almost felt like I was reliving my childhood (I had an impressive Koala bear collection back in the day...jealous, aren't you?) The stuffed Koala pales in comparison to the giant pink (possibly once red, which I believe would make it "Po?") Teletubby jammed out of the sunroof of a Mercedes I saw while walking along the beach road. Honestly, I need to carry my camera around with me more.

We haven't had light at the house for almost two weeks and now we've also run out of water. This makes both showering and downloading pictures difficult. Hence the lack of pictures for this post, and the smell (which you, thankfully, need not experience). Ok, I don't actually smell. But I could.

And you would never know.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

...A Saturday at Tolkeh Beach...

Sierra Leone is naturally breathtaking. This weekend I had the opportunity to go to visit Tolkeh Beach and some of the small islands around Sierra Leone. The country is breathtaking and it makes me mourn for what could be here. If only there were infrastructure, if only there was no conflict, if only...where to even begin?

This quote from The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver helps to articulate some of my thoughts. I took this picture on Saturday, as we were preparing the boat to take off on our trip.

Of course, if the Portuguese had never 'discovered' Sierra Leone, perhaps I wouldn't be there today...history is such an interesting thing.

We travelled by speedboat (unquestionably more favourable that travel by land) to Tolkeh and its neighbouring island sanctuaries. I sat in a salt water pool for a couple of hours, alternately lathering myself in sunscreen and drinking pineapple juice. It was quite decadent. At lunch we at lobster, barracuda, and snapper (oh my!). Here's a picture of our lunch before it ended up in our stomachs.

Sometimes it feels like I've stepped back in time when I look at the remnants of colonial architecture that pervades the modernity of Freetown. If I close my eyes, or if I stare very hard into the overgrowth, I can almost picture what once was, what could have been, and the lives of those who, in times gone by, stood where I stand.

We drove home at sunset. Across the ocean, towards the horizon, and into the setting sun. Sometimes, I can't believe this is my life. It's too beautiful.

Friday, November 10, 2006 diva...

Last Saturday I went to the "Big Market" to buy some "garra" (batik and tie-dye) cloth so that I could have some clothes made by a tailor here. I though y'all would like to see the sketches I made. Ok, maybe I'm just really proud of the sketches and am seeking laud and admiration. Whichever. Anyhow, the sketches are below. I have to go to the tailor on Saturday for a fitting to see what still needs to be altered. I'm planning on taking some photos of the actual clothing when I get it. I'm hoping it somewhat resembles what I asked's always a gamble.

Fingers crossed!

I'm particularly excited about some pink and red (together, it's marvelous!) striped tie dye fabric I'm going to use to make pants and a halter top. I want to wear the fabulous hot pink pants when I teach my after-school drama class on Mondays (they begin next week). It's a toss I more excited about the pants or the drama class...hmmm....oh yes, the blue-burgundy top will also be snazzy. They do not need to be worn together. I prefer not to send others into sensory overload.

Now, this outfit is's a whole dress ensemble, but uses four very different prints that exist on a very complext batik print. If it turns out I'm hoping it will look pretty sweet!

Finally, I'm also excited about this green tunic-shirt. I've asked the tailor to "plant" it around the neckline, sleeves and bottom hem. "Planting" is that great embroidery you see on peasant-shirts and the like. Sometimes it can be really good, sometimes it can be disasterously awful. I'm hoping for the former. (Toes also crossed on this one).

And the answer is yes, I do plan to always stand with my hip sticking out. I do a good enough job of it already.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

...May Baby...

So my friend Brittany-Ann put list of attributes for all of the months of the year on her blog ( and I thought that what they said about MAY was fairly accurate.

Does this sound like me?

May - Stubborn and hard-hearted (yes...). Strong-willed and highly motivated (but of course...). Sharp thoughts. Easily angered (Grrr!!). Attracts others and loves attention. Deep feelings. Beautiful physically and mentally (...who am I to argue?...). Firm standpoint. Needs no motivation. Shy towards opposite sex (uh, I'm not so sure...). Easily consoled. Systematic (leftbrain). Loves to dream. Strong clairvoyance (clearly, I'm psychic...). Understanding. Sickness usuallyin the ear and neck (See photo below...). Good imagination. Good physical (what does that mean?). Weak breathing (there go my aspirations to be a professional singer...). Loves literature and the arts (I feel crafty, oh so crafty...). Loves traveling (Hi, my name is Emily and I live in West Africa...). Dislike being at home. Restless (where do I begin...). Not having many children( in fact, I have none..). Hardworking. High-spirited (I have been called 'high-strung...').

Check out her blog to see if your birth month fits.

Also, here are some more photos for your viewing pleasure:

My friend Alfred and I on Sunday. I went with him to the eastern part of the city (near Kissy Road) to meet some of his family and friends.
These are Alfred's relatives. I don't know their names. He has about a million. Roughly.

Monday, November 06, 2006

...a cornucopia of photos...

Ok, first we will start with the downright scary....oooooo.....a graveyard on All Hallow's Eve...frightening! This was the Halloween wall my grade 4/5s created (with some help) on Tuesday last week

My Grade 6/7/8s created this "haunted forest." I helped them out by drawing and cutting out the trees, the rest they did on their own (except that scary skull in the middle of the forest...I helped a student draw that...but he most definitely coloured it in all by himself. He's a little artistically challenged. One of my other students put together the fire on the left - I cut out the flames and she did the rest. I was soo impressed!

This lovely creature is none other than Beatrice-the-Queen - our little cat who is apt to eating her litters. She's just hanging out in this's Sunday. Apparently that's the day she likes to laze about in the charcoal bag. Good on ya' Bea...MEOW!
These are two kids who live in some shacks outside our compound. The boy on the right is named Ishmaili and he is just as cute as a button (if buttons were cute). He always sprints up the road to meet me whenever he sees me coming home from school. Kadi is the name of the girl on the right. She's a bit of a cheeky monkey...and so I doubly appreciate her!

Friday, November 03, 2006

...I'll take that as a compliment...

Yesterday afternoon, a woman I don't know told me "yu fat-o!" as I passed by her on the street. I mean, really. I have been a lot of things in my life, but fat has never been one of them. I was the girl who was asked if she was anorexic in high school for goodness sake! Oh, and this is not the first time I've heard this either. About three weeks ago a group of women who work at a stand I walk by on my way to and from school called out "yu look fat!" as I was on my way home. *sigh* Apparently, it's supposed to be a compliment. If you're fat it means you're wealthy enough to afford plenty of food...and I can afford I guess I'm fat.
Yipee. PS: I weigh less than I have in the last 5 years. Go figure.

Oh wait, there's more. When I first arrived here, my friend Adama told me that I looked skinnier than when I was in Sierra Leone in 2005 (ok, that's fine). But the way she said it to me was "You were fat when you came before." And she didn't mean it in a flattering way. am I fat now, or what? I'm so confused.

Finally, there's been an irritating trend occuring when I go out with Hanneke. About a month ago I was asked not once, but twice in one afternoon if I was Hanneke's "pikin." Yes, the people wanted to know if I was Hanneke's child. A week before the "twice-in-one-afternoon" incident I'd already been asked the same question by a construction worker near our house. Sheesh. I'm just short, people. Believe me, there are lots of short people would think they would be able to differentiate between short and being 6 years old. Hanneke is a month older than me. She's also 6'0", but c'mon...

And that is all I have to rant about.

Thanks for reading!