Monday, March 26, 2007

..."it's like talking without using words"...

The above quote is how Charlie, of the Charlie Porter Jazz Quartet, described jazz music to a crowd of about 150 people on Sunday afternoon. My Sunday was full of music! The first stop was with Charbel and Ben to the amphitheatre at Fourah Bay College (established 1827), to listen to the Charlie Porter Quartet. The music got underway close to 5:30pm and the sun began to set just after 6pm. It was a beautiful concert. The stone steps of the amphitheatre had been warmed all day in the sun, but the air was cool and mountain-fresh - it was a delicious sensation. The scenery was beautiful too: lush green jungle and rolling mountains. Sierra Leone really is breath-taking. For all of you people getting hitched, I recommend it for an adventurous honeymoon destination!

The second stop on the musical train was a gospel concert where a Sierra Leonean musician named (and I'm not even making this up), Johnny Wisdom was releasing his album. Johnny Wisdom is a bit of a cross between Johnny Cash (on account of the country sound) and Ray Charles (on account of the sighless-ness). It was quite a different experience to the jazz concert! I like jazz, but I prefer to pair it with a drink at the Beaches in the summer, and I need to be in the company of jazz enthousiasts as well. The Johnny Wisdom concert was much more lively and definitely had me (and Charbel) up and dancing in the isles. We were quite the spectacle. Ben wouldn't dance with us. It's ok, he's British (you know how they are...yeah, I don't know what I mean by that either). We also met up with Janet at the gospel concert and had a really nice evening. It finished with dinner and I was home by 9:30pm - not even past my bedtime! (and as an added bonus, because it was no where near midnight, I didn't turn into a pumpkin either! Phew.)

The Johnny Wisdom concert was at the British Council, and the view from there is also amazing. Actually, the view from pretty much anywhere in Freetown is incredible, since it is literally a 'city on a hill'. Unless you fall into a gutter. Then the view isn't amazing at all. In fact, it kind of stinks.

Another thing that hardly ever fails here in Freetown, are the spectacular sunsets. Here is the one at Fourah Bay College during the jazz concert. I think I might be in love with this picture...for those of you who know my love of trees, I think it would make a beautiful art piece. Maybe I'll go home and paint wax.

Which brings me to my next adventure over the weekend...BATIKING! No, this does not involve beating a KING with a BAT. It is an old fabric art using dye and wax to create patterns. Generally it also involves bright colours, another plus in my books! I'm trying to make a wall hanging - it's a poem with a border around it - that involves a lot of text so I was worried it wouldn't work out. No fear! I am so stubborn that I think I actually willed it into working despite the negative opinions of other master-batikers (not even a real word) that I talked to before starting out. I will put up a picture of the finished product if it manages to be post-worthy.

This weekend was fantastic, really. Throw in a couple of dinners with friends and a lot of alone time (which I need or else I turn into a crazy person!) it helped to put me back into a better frame of mind.

All you need is a little art.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


My grade 6s had an excerpt from the book "The Pigman and Me" by Paul Zindel and I found this quote fitting. It made me laugh, perhaps on account of my recent strain of bad luck, or simply because it appeals to the cynic inside of me. Also, it could just be funny.

"Life does [this] to us a lot. Just when we think something awful's going to happen one way, it throws you a curve and the something awful happens another way."

Last night, as Heleen, Janet, Ruth, and 'Benji-the-newbie' (forgive me, Benjamin, but it's just so catchy!) were sitting at the dinner table discussing the day's events over plates of curry (which, you'll be pleased to hear, I have finally mastered. I now no longer burn off the delicate top layer of skin cells inside my guests mouths with 'too-hot-to-handle' curry. Not even yogurt could help me. Who knew you only needed one spoonful of curry, not six? I'm learning new things every day), and I was recounting to them the fact that I now am unable to sleep through the a full night since the 'kitten catastrophe' a week ago.

I'm not tortured with visions of the dead kitten's slobbered on body (surprising, you'd think I would be) but instead I'm kept awake by every stray bark, growl, scratch, or roll-over of not only our dog, Frodo, but virtually every dog in the neighbourhood. It does not help that recently the dogs have taken to howling mournfully around midnight. When I hear their frightening performances, I'm fairly certain that the dogs have magically found a way to capture the surviving kitten and are now performing some sort of doggie death ritual before playing with it until it expires. I lie in my bed trying to convince myself that everything is alright, but inevitably I end up getting out of bed and checking on the kitten, which, by the way, is now safely barracaded with its mother on the kitchen landing. I'm not fooled by this however. I am well versed in Murphy's law and I know that if something can go wrong, it will.

And if nothing is actually going wrong, I'll create it. Last night I also had Janet pull a scab off of the tip of the kitten's tail. I thought it was a tick (don't even get me started with how guilty I now feel). Ticks can cause paralysis, and the kitten has been twitching a lot lately (read also as: trying to walk) so maybe the crippling has already begun. I'm also convinced the kitten could be blind (I'm ignoring the fact that it finally just opened its eyes on Tuesday. Irrelevant). You see, my friends, this is why I should not be allowed to have children any time in the near future. Imagine what I will be like as a new mother? I shudder to think of it. No one will be enjoying any sleep in my house, that's for certain! I'll probably be up every 5 minutes to check that the kid hasn't died from SIDS or learned to roll over in its sleep while I wasn't looking.

All I have to say is that if the kitten makes it through all of'll be a miracle. I don't think I should be allowed around infants or newly birthed animals for long periods of time. It's really in everyone's best interests.

Monday, March 19, 2007

...string and sealing wax, and other fancy stuff...

I travelled the bumpy roads to River No. 2 yesterday. I built a sand dragon (with some help from Charbel, Man Man, and Zack), because I've been told, as adults we should strive to maintain our child-like connection to fantasy. Moments after taking this picture, pandemonium broke out and the kids "mashed" up the monster. It was fun while it lasted!

After a not so fantastic start, the rest of last week worked out just fine. Sorry for the

downer of an entry, but sometimes, that happens. So far, this week has been great! In fact, one of my students brought me in a copy of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" which, with my slack pop-culture awareness, I missed out on watching whenever it was that it came out (last summer?) and I'm looking forward to watching it tonight, if I have time/light/enough battery on my laptop. I have another hair-cutting adventure this afternoon...lucky for Heleen she hasn't told me my butt looks big in the last few days (actually she's never told me that) so she need not fear I'll exact revenge with my scissors.

Two more weeks until 'spring' break...but who's counting?

The kitten has opened it's eyes! It's a brave new world....notice how it's head it supported by a plush and beautiful looking fuzzy caterpillar...a CAT-ER-PILLOW....*sigh* Yeah....I made it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

...tragedy on Animal Farm...

This week has been the worst week I've had since I've been here (and really, it hasn't been that bad, just emotionally draining). To begin with, I'm in the 7 month slump - I'm missing friends and family from back home and all the familiar things. The everyday things that I've grown accustomed to here, but that are vastly different from anything I'm used to, are beginning to grate on my nerves a bit. I swear, if I hear one more horn honking for absolutely no reason, I'm going to start throwing rocks.

Monday: Alright, so to start this week off, I was feeling far away from all of the people back home and then I get the news that Linds is engaged (which, is thrilling, however makes me miss home all the more, so it's sort of a bittersweetness...kinda like SweetTarts). I get to talk to my friend Britt on MSN and read her blog which she finally updated, also quite hilarious. Great to talk, but not the same as going out for coffee at 2am, right?

Tuesday was a better day, but still draining as I continued to deal with feeling far away. And then my friend Cam called me! That was awesome! And also compounded the homesickness feelings. That's just not fair - I should be excited and happy about phone calls and chances to talk to people from back home, but they make me feel sader at the moment. Went to Mamba Point and watched "The Terminal" (which some people hate, I think is funny) and wondered if Canada might coup on my way home and I could get stuck in an airport for a year. It could know how those Quebecois are. :) (kidding, kidding, love the French, love them!)

Wednesday really should have been a great day and it was going so well to start too...The kids were doing science fair presentations all day, and then in the afternoon we were given time to work on curriculum mapping/professional development stuff (translate this as: no teaching on Wednesday) and I even got to talk to a friend about a weekend trip to Cape Split in Nova Scotia when I get back (of course, it would be nice to go now, but there's that ocean in the way...) So for all intents and purposes, Wednesday was supposed to be a great day. I even had a spaghetti dinner to go to after school. And then it all came crashing down.

Yesterday I wrote about how I was excited to go home and watch the two new kittens and so I went home to do just that....except when I went to see them ,they were nowhere to be found! Queen Beatrix was sitting on the step and crying. Uh oh. Something was clearly wrong. I knew that they weren't going to be safe on the landing outside the kitchen. I should have listened to my instincts. At first I couldn't see either of the kittens, but then I saw one sitting shivering and shaking on the step. It was half-wet with dog slobber. Sure enough, the dog had got it. I scooped the kitten up and ran to put it inside. It crawled up my neck mewing and it's needle-like claws got snagged on my shirt. Every time I touched it it seemed to scream at me, and I feared something was broken. I picked up the Mama cat and put her inside with the rescued kitten. She ignored the kitten despite its crying. I felt a wave of panic and thought "what if the cat won't recognize her kittens now that the dog has played with them?" Then I realised that I only had one of the two kittens and went back outside in search of the other one.

At first I couldn't find it, but then I saw it's body. It's slobbered down fur made it blend in with the grey concrete. The dog had been playing with it and clearly had mauled it to death. I was so mad. I sat staring at it for a few minutes, hoping to see some small sign of life. I poked it with my finger. It did nothing but flop back into place limply. I yelled at the guard. I picked up the dog, who tried to run away from me (he knew what he'd done) and chained him up and then went back inside to check on the surviving kitten. It was wimpering and mewing in a corner trying to elicit some warmth and comfort from the cement wall. As you can imagine it wasn't overly successful. Beatrix the cat still wouldn't even look at it.

I decided to put Beatrix back outside in the place where she had originally lost her kittens. She sat there, mornfully look around for her lost babies. It was pitiful. Then I thought, "maybe if I bring the kitten out here she'll recognize it" and sure enough, she did! I was so relieved. I felt completely helpless - how was I supposed to care for a week old kitten? But as soon as I put the tiny kitten back down on the porch, Beatrix started meowing and licking her. I sat and watched the mewing-crying-squeaking reunion with tears pricking my eyes. I went to go and wash my hands and face and told the guard to bury the dead kitten. When I came back to check on the cats, I didn't hear any noise and for a moment I panicked. But all was well. The kitten was nursing, and Beatrix had licked it clean - it was a fluffy orange ball once again. Thankfully, it seemed no worse for wear.

Still, I didn't sleep well last night. I felt guilty for leaving the helpless kittens at the mercy of our stupid dog (his actions further cemented my disdain for 'man's best friend') and wondering if I had of gone outside to find the second kitten earlier if perhaps it could have survived. At least there is one left. I don't know what I'm going to do if I go home and it's sprawled out on the step... I just don't like to see things suffer, whether animal or human, especially when it can be avoided and is unnecessary.

In other unnecessary deaths lately, the woman who sells cassava at the bottom of the hill gave birth to her baby a few weeks ago. She is the mother of the girl in the black and white picture a few entries below. Tragically, her baby boy died a day and a half after his birth. It makes me so sad and angry at the injustice in this world, and I hate feeling helpless against it.

Needless to say, I'm hoping Thursday will look a little bit brighter.

As my mother used to tell me at the times when I was inconsolably sad as a child: (one of those being after I smooshed a spider against the wall after hurtling towards it with a story book held high and uttering a blood-curdling war my mother asked "What did you do that for?" to which I replied, with matter-of-fact logic, "because it was a spider!" And my mother - who hates spiders - said "But spiders eat other bugs, like mosquitoes; they help us. Why did you kill it?" So of course I burst into tears, regretting what I'd done. Seemingly, I can't even bear to see a spider be killed), "This too shall pass."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

...a whole new world...

Here are some pictures I took at a dinner party I went to on Saturday. This is the crazy world that I live in now...or at least one of them. I stradle quite a few while I'm here...and boy, my legs sure do get tired! :)
Llet's start with a slightly random friend Lucy is on the right and in the middle is Ziyad's wife and then...I'm just not sure who is sitting on the left, but she was wearing a pretty dress. :)
The Lebanese "Papas" (Ziyad, Ibrahim, and Chadi) deep in important discussion, overseen by a holographic Jesus. Sometimes he's blessing you, other times he's in close up profile.
It all depends on how you look at him.

A couple of couples, Antonia and Brian and Jemma and Shawn.

Fadi and Nassip - a pair of gentlemen...or rogues. I'm not sure yet.

Meg-the-Yank, Kev-the-Brit, Adama-the-Salone-woman, and Greg-the-Canuck
In other news: Queen Beatrix moved her kittens up to the kitchen landing! I'm very excited and am on my way home now to sit and stare at them. It beats working on my curriculum map...not that I don't love curriculum planning, but there are only so many "essential questions" I can come up with in one afternoon.

Monday, March 12, 2007

...kittens, kittens, everywhere!...

Today was a day of big announcements. I opened up my email inbox and there was an email from my brother in law saying "You're an Aunt!" And then there was a "FW: Pictures of Joy" email from my dearest friend, Lindsay. Neither email was what it appeared to be.

No, my sister is not having any babies. My sister and bro-in-law got two kittens. I nearly had a heart attack from that subject heading! Don't do that again, that's not funny!

Stop laughing.

And the email from Lindsay wasn't an annoying forward but one with pictures (of joy!) of her and her FIANCE, Jon! Uh huh, that's right, Linds is getting hitched! Congratualtions to her and to Jon, who, eventually, I will one day meet. (Maybe. One day. If I can stay in one place for long enough.) ;)

Our cat, Queen Beatrix, had kittens early last week too! I finally got a peek at them over the weekend. She gave birth under our stairs, away from our puppy (who probably would have eaten them) although they're sleeping on garbage at the moment which I'm not too impressed with. I can't wait until they open their eyes and she'll bring them out and we can move them to the balcony! Maybe one will be a little "Tigger," what do you think? He'll have to have freckles though... (for those of you who don't know, I had two cats growing up: Tigger and Sarah. Tigger was a n orange stripped tabby and Sarah was a white half-persian. I tormented them, mainly by dressing them up in doll's clothes. )

Don't worry, I'm not having any babies either. Or getting hitched. Phew. I know, you were worried, right?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Last night was a full lunar eclipse. I tried to take a photo of it, but the camera had run out of batteries. This is a picture of the full moon a month ago, it will have to suffice. Sometimes, the moon is so bright that I don't even need a flashlight when I'm out at night. Since there are very few working streetlights here, it's helpful.

These are my kids! I took this picture on Valentine's Day. Look how festive they are! Notice how the two girls are spreading the love by trying to strangle each other. The boy in the middle in the South Park t-shirt is the one who made "Snowball-the-Warm-Fuzzy" from a few entries back. The tall guy at the back is 14 years old and 6'3". Uh huh. Don't worry, he cowers under my intimidating presence. I'm so proud of all of them. They're really a great bunch of students. One is missing - he had to go back to Europe because his father was in a bad car accident. We're all hoping he makes it back soon; he's quite the charmer and a bit of a class clown.

I forgot to post this picture last time - it's of the whole Guinean brood. These folks were over every day for lunch and dinner, not so bad during the week, but very busy on the weekends! The family living with us at the moment returns to Guinea on Wednesday. I'm going to miss the incessent questioning. On Saturday, 5-year old Adam and I had this conversation as I was about to go out on Saturday:

"Miss Emily, do you go out every day?"
"Not every day, but quite a few days."
"Well....I'm tired of it!"

They make me laugh. I'm going to miss them when they leave.

I like to call this picture "Where Cars Go To Die." No, it's not a scrapyard, it's the side of the road before the Aberdeen Bridge. It's a little disconcerting, I'll grant you that. You have to be thankful that you weren't one of the people in any of those cars.

Elections are coming up at the end of July. The election campaigning and advertising has begun! Sierra Leoneans are being registered to vote beginning now until...I think the middle of May or June. There are some great posters and billboards. I will take some photos and post them soon.

These are some fishermen pulling in their giant nets after a morning of fishing. The chant songs as the pull in the lines, not exactly "heave-ho," they have much too much rhythm for that. It's a pretty powerful sight. Literally, it's full of power.

Ther are four more weeks until Spring break. The time has been flying by. I'm hoping I can go up country over spring break. I haven't been yet, and I'm told it's beautiful. I'm going to post this now, because I'm worried that the electricity might go off again - it's been going on and off all day. Light has been better as of late. We joke that it's because we've had house guests. Electricity always seems to be better when we have people staying with us.

It's a pretty good trade off.