Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A lot has been going on since I last wrote (well, at least I think so). Here's the low-down:

The Refugees From Guinea

Two of the families and the one single woman who arrived have now flown back home to the States. We still have one family with two kids living with us. Here's a picture. Go figure that the kids at my house are the ones with the most personality. It's like karma or something.

Remember I told you that I cut Allison's hair? Well, apparently she didn't feel it needed any fixing and she made me this card. (awwww...) It was nice of her to draw me taller than herself. Last night she told me that I was just a little bit taller than her 12 year old sister (as if I didn't already know that). I also like how she almost made me married, but then thought better of it. Too bad she didn't catch the "your/you're" difference. That would have really made my day (no, you know I'm not joking).

I also received this card as a bonus as well, apparently for not wanting to play with the children. If only I got cards every time I said I didn't want to do something.

Curriculum Mapping and Development Workshop

For the last two days, I and all the other teachers at AISF have been participating in a professional development workshop designed to help us 'map' our curriculum plans for the year. I will admit that I was dreading the workshop, but was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It did not feel like I repeat of teacher's college and the pointless exercises that went on there, but rather it was something that was relevant and applicable. Of course, the whole experience was made that much sweeter by the fact that we received bonus handbags made out of traditional Kenyan Kikoy material, an unending supply of Tootsie Rolls and peanuts, and a free pen (I just love free pens!) Our workshop leader, Wanda, was flown in from the southern United States and used phrases like "Oh, honey child" and "y'all" frequently which added to the sweetness of the experience. And the best part: because of all of our hard work, today we get to go home at 1pm! SWEET! (Do I say that a lot? I feel like I say that a lot).

Around Town

An example of the infamous "poda poda" a major means for public transportation here in Freetown. What makes these vans special (besides the fact that you can cram up to 20 people inside) are their varied visual aesthetics. This example is sporting the popular (and somewhat overdone) Madonna-love motif as well as the ever present American flag. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this vehicle is imported from the Netherlands and also that the Sierra Leone elections sticker is conveniently slapped on upside down for those riders who are traveling around town hanging upside down while suspended from the roof rack. "Best Paddy" means "best friend" in Krio. In Freetown, they love their cars.

And if you were wondering if there was a place I could go where everyone knows my name...don't worry, there is. Phew.

Why wouldn't you love Essentials Supermarket and Boutique? After all, it is small enough for large selection and big enough for personal care. Does anyone else see a problem with that?

I have a few other gems, but I wouldn't want to graphically over-saturate you.

Until next time...

Thursday, February 22, 2007 is in the details...

I tend to regard my blog as needing to be about the BIG stories, the exciting things, the main attractions in my life, and so I don't write much when I think things are mundane, everyday, or just plain ordinary (how's that for synonyms?). The problem with this approach is that so often my life is just that...a little bit boring. In fact, I found this quote in a book I was reading over breakfast recently that kind of sums up how I sometimes feel about life and also about teaching:

"One night my 5 year old hugged me and said 'I love you, Mommy, but I love God more.' I was pleased and told her, 'That's the way it should be, Katie.' But then she added, 'I love God more because he's never boring and sometimes you're a little boring, Mom.'" ~ Mary H.


Sometimes, I'm a little boring. Here are some boring snippets from my life this week:

  • I'm not wearing my thumb ring (the one that is permanently welded onto my opposable digit) because I sharpened so many pencils that I gave myself a blister.

  • On Monday morning I forgot that people had moved into our house and stored all of their boxes and trunks on my floor and ran into a box and then tripped over a chair on my way to the bathroom. Yes, I have a huge bruise just above my ankle. It's very attractive.

  • I cut the little girl's hair yesterday, but I think it needs some fixing today - I'm a perfectionist. Plus, she needs to brush it.

  • I slept in until 8am yesterday morning. School starts at 8am. Shockingly I didn't run into any furniture on my way out the door. I did, however, manage to smudge mascara all over my face during second period, drop my powdered milk all over the floor while trying to make a cup of coffee, and rip out my earing while trying to brush my hair leaving a bloody scratch that all of my students remarked on. Oh, and it was Parent-Teacher Roundtable discussions that afternoon, of course.

  • Yesterday's winning quote from the kids in my house after I came home from school was "Miss Emily will you play with us? We want to play school. You can pretend to be the teacher and we can be the students!" No, children. Why? Because in my life, I don't have to pretend to be the teacher...

  • I've managed to actually reconnect with all of the people I talked about to other people this week. It feels good.

  • I have leftover ham, green beans and potatoes for lunch. I love our fridge...and the houseguests. I'm eating better than I have since my parents used to feed me (do not be confused. I am not eating the houseguests...We are cooking actual meals now because of the houseguests. Eating people is gross.)

  • I'm actually tired of watching movies on my laptop so now I've taken to drawing pictures in the paint program. Currently I am working on a portrait of a man's face. I am calling it "Portrait of Man's Face." I think it might be my big break into the art world. Watch for it in gallaries soon.

And that's all I've got. Hope it made you smile. If not, maybe this will...

Yes friends, I'm lucky enough to work with this guy. Justin, thank you for this moment.

Monday, February 19, 2007

This is the just first of many shirts that make me laugh. I don't have my camera often enough to capture all of the hilarity - I need a day to just wander around town photographing things! Do you know this guy? Because he's kind of a big deal...

This little girl is named Ramatu - her mother sells roasted cassava and ground nuts at the corner of my road, at the bottom of the hill. I see her everyday and I think we're friends. She's three years old and talks beaucoup...a girl after my own heart. She is also featured in a frilly dress and pink heels in my December 27th entry "So this is Christmas." It seems Ramatu has surpassed me in the ability to walk in heels. In fact, she left me in the the side of the the bottom of the hill.

This weekend our house was inundated with children and adults from Guinea. Guinea's been experiencing a bit of 'upheaval' recently and the US Embassy began evacuating ex-pats early last week. Five missionary families came our way - complete with 11 children between the ages of 10 months and 12 years, and 6 full grown adults. The arrived about 7 minutes after I got home on Friday after school. About half an hour after they'd unloaded they were building a fort outside my room, and I heard a comment having to do with the hide-and-seek-chase-each-other-around-screaming game they were playing that was as follows: "Yeah! And we can be the Christians who are there spreading the word." I think the child who said that was about 6 years old. I played lots of pretend games when I was little (one involved pretending to be runaway slaves with my sister in the back yard at night) but I never pretended to be a Christians spreading the word...Although this comment was highly amusing, the best was yet to come.

After we had fed the masses and most had departed to their respected houses (because thankfully we only have one family with two children actually staying with us), I was icing some chocolate cake at the kitchen counter and being inspected by the little girl who is about 8 years old. She looked me up and down and then declared "You have a bottom for Bamba!"**

And that, my friends, was enough. I spent Saturday night at a friends and escaped to the beach on Sunday.

Today after school, I am cutting that little girl's hair...she asked me to. I swear! Kids aren't sometimes the brightest at 8 years old, apparently.

** This is the name of a dance, which has no direct English translation, but which is presumably connected with the Spanish verb bambolear, meaning "to shake".

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

...just another Freetown night...

It's good to know that in a crisis situation I can be counted on to run around my room four times looking for my pants.

Let me explain...

Last night, around 11pm, I was awoken from what promised to be a peaceful and restorative slumber to to the sound of Janet bellowing for our night-guards, Mohammed and Suliman.

"Mohammed! Suliman!....Mohammed!! Suliman!!"

Man, those two never listen when they're being called, I thought. Earlier this evening Heleen had been trying to get their attention as well because the dog was berserkly barking at something moving in the corner of the compound. We've had a bit of trouble with a giant cobra recently. Nothing to be alarmed about. Yet. I was sure that was what the current problem was. Maybe the dog finally got ahold of the snake.

"Mohammed! Suliman! Mohammed!! Suliman!"

There was a bit of rising panic in Janet's voice now. I was starting to wake up. I'd say the bellowing had changed to a more high-pitched shrieking. Hmm...something must be up.

"Mohammed!!!!! Suliman!!!! Suliman!!!!!! Mohammed!!!!"

Oh dear. Something must be wrong. I should really get up and see what's going on. At this point I couldn't figure out where any of my clothes were and I realised I couldn't just charge upstairs in my underwear, it just wouldn't be culturally sensitive. Imagine Suliman and Mohammed's shock if they saw me in my knickers. So this is the part where I ran around my room trying to find some pants. I think I made a few laps around my room with my eyes closed. Or they could have been open. It was dark. And although we did actually have light last night, I'm not in the habit of actually turning it on anymore. It's hard to remember where the light switch is when you never use it. Especially at 11pm at night when you've just been roused from peaceful slumber.


Uh oh. I've got to find some pants! But Janet needs help! I run to the stairs...oh wait...I need pants...I run back to my room...but Janet needs help....NO PANTS!!! NO PANTS!!! Dear God, I can't see anything. Oh wait, I remember taking off my shorts before bed. There they are. Ok. Pants accomplished. I tear up the stairs.


Janet is still screaming for Suliman and Mohammed. (You must applaud her. I would have given up long ago. Had they expired down there in the garage?) Clearly, the new kerosene fridge we got two weeks ago is on fire. I had no idea what to do.

"What do you need me to do?"

"Find the guards!!"

I run out the kitchen door to be met with Suliman on the stairs. (They aren't dead. What a relief. The kitchen is still burning though...)

"Wetin di mata?"


Suliman takes off. He's going to get water, I presume. I run back into the kitchen and turn a few circles outside the store room where Janet is battling with some flames. I still have no clue what to do. I know water isn't the answer. That will only spread the flames; you can't use water on an oil or gas fire. I'm not on fire myself so 'stop, drop, and roll' are out. I'm at a loss.


Ah ha! Of course...towels to smother the flames. I grab one from the kitchen table. Janet comes streaming out of the pantry with a flaming floor mat and throws it outside. Suliman beats it with a blanket. I thrust the towels at Janet.


Right. Got it. More towels...but surely not the white ones? Umm....the blue ones? But they're a set....just grab something, Emily! Ok, more towels. Got it. I scoop up a pile of towels from the laundry table and run back to the kitchen. Janet must be ready to pass out from the smoke which is thick and suffocating. I hope she doesn't die in there. It really would complicate things. I wet a hand towel for her to put over her face. She doesn't. It's because she's superwoman, I think.

Heleen has arrived from the annex apartment.

"What's going on?"

"The kerosene's on fire!"

Mohammed arrives with a bucket of water.


Mohammed rotates like a pro basketball player and runs back down the stairs. (Where is he going?)

I'm standing in the middle of the kitchen holding a wet dish towel, Heleen is shining a flashlight into the pantry, and Janet is laying towels over the fuel tank of the fridge. At least someone has a clue.

The flames die out. The fire is gone. I go to the living room to open the balcony door. Heleen turns on the fan. Janet emerges from the pantry, a little sweaty, but seemingly no worse for wear. My legs are like jelly. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to sleep for the rest of the night because my body has just produced enough adrenaline to power an entire unit of elite fire fighters.

At least those guys know where their pants are.

Monday, February 12, 2007

...warm fuzzies...

"I'll trade you Snowball for a Canadian dime!"

With an offer like that, how can I refuse?

Valentine's Day is on Wednesday, but I'm sure all you love-birds know that already. Being the crafty-teacher in residence, I have set about making Valentine's Day cards-with-a-twist with my students. This year they're not making the typical "Will You Be Mine?" year they're making Warm Fuzzies. Say what? Here is what I told the kids:


Warm Fuzzies are nice things you can say about other people that make them feel ‘warm and fuzzy’ inside. If I tell you that you have a very giving nature, you might feel warm and fuzzy and I will have suceeded in giving you a ‘Warm Fuzzy.’ You can give Warm Fuzzies to other people by saying nice things about them, or telling someone something you have appreciated or notices about them. Warm Fuzzies are always positive and make someone feel good about themself.

They, like you, were stoked to make their own warm fuzzies, let me tell you! Behold, a warm fuzzy farm:

Uh huh. That's right. This is how I teach my students about love. Aren't they freakishly-cute looking? A word of warning, however - DON'T FEED THE WARM FUZZIES AFTER MIDNIGHT. If you lived in the 1980s you'll understand the gravity of the situation.

And for those of you who are wondering, Snowball is the white Warm Fuzzy with one giant googly eye and one iddy-biddy googly eye on the left. Snowball lives inside my student's desk in a red construction paper 'hut' he created on Friday. It's held up by an extra pencil. Snowball + small red hut = worth the investment, wouldn't you agree?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

...You know you're in Freetown when...

  • you cheer when the lights come on at night and run around the house shouting "layt don kam! layte don kam!"
  • you can pick 4 or more weevils out of your breakfast cereal in the morning
  • you get excited about getting a kerosene fridge because you can eat leftovers and dairy products again
  • you aren't perterbed when cockroaches, lizards, or spiders are hanging out in your bathroom (or bedroom)
  • you get called "baby" or "white man" at least once a day
  • you sweat while standing still
  • you boil water in the mornings in order to have a warm 'shower' - you actually use a bucket.
  • you complain about having to pay Le 1,000 for a taxi ride (aprox. 34 cents)
  • you feel fat even though you've never weighed less in your entire adult life...
  • a taxi driver overtakes you, only to abruptly stop in front of you. This is normal.
  • the post office stores letters rather than delivering them
  • you no longer drink real fact, you are starting to think Nescafe IS real coffee
  • you call everyone older then you Uncle or Aunt (if you're feeling really respectful, Ma or Pa)
  • every soft drink is Coca Cola or Fanta and you've forgotten they make anything else
  • no running water for a week is just another ordinary thing
  • four cars are driving parallel to each other on a one-lane road
  • being an hour late equals being “on time” or better yet: you plan a dinner gathering for 7pm and everyone shows up at 9pm
  • cramming 7 passangers into a 4 passenger taxi is really not a big deal
  • football is played with some sort of ROUND ball and WITHOUT hands. Weird.
  • carry Purell like it’s your life supply
  • you spend countless hours washing your feet when you know very well that by the time you get to the top of the hill, they’ll be covered in unbelievable dirt!
  • you can't imagine paying more than $10 USD for a whole lobster
  • you know Harmattan season has ended because you no longer need to use moisturizer
  • going to the beach is as ordinary as going to the grocery store
  • you a realise that the beach could actually BE the grocery store

....oh, there are more but that's all I've got for now...