Thursday, April 12, 2007

...When in Mange...

It took me forever to upload all of these pictures, and I'm sure some of you were thinking "gee, Emily's being fairly cryptic with this photographs, isn't she going to explain anything?" Fear not, friends, I am! I have been extremely busy over the last few days and have felt like I've only just been keeping my head above water.

The Easter break was great, but also very busy full of planning, working, batiking and traveling. I was surrouned by people for about 4 days with no real break, and so I need some 'alone time' to keep my sanity. I'm going to enjoy some of that this weekend. I have a whole weekend to myself! (well, mostly). I don't have much planned for Saturday, save some marking and lesson planning and a phone interview for the donning job at King's I'm really hoping to get for next year. There's a birthday celebration for a couple of the girls here Saturday night, and then on Sunday I have a rehearsal with a girl who plays guitar to prepare for leading worship at a women's retreat next weekend! I'm excited about that!

Today after school I also taught my first piano lesson to one of the boys in my grade 4/5 social studies class - we learned note names, identified octaves, and counted how many times the key patter repeated itself on the keyboard (only 5, it's not that big!). I enjoyed it and the kid is a pretty talented performer, so I'm hoping to have him singing and playing chords in no time! Fingers crossed!

And now, on to Mange!

One of the first pictures I took when I arrived was of these four women and girls at Adama's house. I like it because it represents four generations of women - from Grannie to baby and all the in-betweens. This is a close-up of the school aged girl from the above picture. She is one of the students that a teacher back in Canada sponsors (yes, Micky, that is you!) She is refered to as 'rasta girl' and her sister is 'rasta baby' by the people in the village. I swear. I wouldn't make something like that up.

The bulbs this man is carrying on his head are from a palm tree and are apparently used to make palm oil which is a main staple in the majority of Sierra Leonean cooking. Palm oil is a thick red oil, tasty, but most likely horrible for you. They also use MSG in a lot of their dishes...yum!

I travelled to Mange with Adama, and stayed with her and her mother in their home there. The trip up was quite the adventure, but not as exciting as the trip home! Highlights included:

  • A 1.5 hour wait sitting in the back seat of a poda poda before we left on our three hour drive up country. Mange is past Port Loko but before Makeni, if you're looking to orient yourself.
  • Stopping to help a woman who was apparently 'in a coma' which actually happened to not be a woman at all, but only a flat tire. Perhaps the Themne word for 'woman' is similar to 'tire?' Perhaps the woman was just really ugly?
  • Sitting next to Adama in the poda poda after she had wrapped a giant purple scarf around her head to protect her hair from the dust of the road, and tied a triangular bandage (she's a nurse and has access to these things) around her face, bandid style, to stop from breathing in dirt. I wish I could have taken a picture, but my camera was wedged somewhere under a seat inside my knapsack.
  • Eating 'cotton grass' on a stick. Apparently that is rabbit, or squirrel. Adama couldn't quite make up her mind. Although, 'cotton grass' is close to "cotton tail" and we all know that Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter were rabbits (ok, maybe only I know that...I did have a complete Beatrix Potter collection when I was small) so it may have been rabbit. It was delicious.
  • The three hour wait in the sun trying to find transport on the way back.
  • The drive on the way back, equally dusty, equally bumpy, but this time done with four chickens, three watermelons, a bag of papayas, a bag of mangoes, and Naimeh, Adama's mother. We kept the chickens in the trunk. Shockingly, two died on the way. I can't imagine why. Naimeh sat in the front seat. She survived.

This is the room that Adama and I slept and ate in. It was nice and the windows even had screens! Luxury!

One of the highlights of Satuday was our trip to the river (we actually made 2 but I only took pictures the first time). Adama doesn't really swim, but she splashes around. I swam out by some rocks and pulled a girl around in an old dugout fishing canoe. Later in the morning, people came to the river to do washing. There are various techniques....

One is beating the clothes until they bend to your will. Adama says that this method can tear the clothes and create holes in them. I believe her. If was were beaten with a paddle with that much force I'd probably have some holes too.

The other method is vigorously scrubbing the clothes with a brush and soap. I think I would prefer this method and it seems more fiber-friendly as well. Good to see that laundering is not limited to women!

This little girl was a-dor-a-ble. I watched her fill her bowl, splash it all over herself, dump the remainder over her head, laugh and repeat for about 10 mins. Eventually she tired of filling the bowl herself and kept handing it to her brother to fill, interrupting his decimation of a mango.

After the washing is done, and the swimming is over, the clothes are carried back home...

Up the stairs carved out of the rock face leading to the river once-upon-time by Chester, Adama's brother...
Through the dappled jungle...

Past the pineapple groves and the palm trees (I didn't know that pineapples grew near the ground...I thought they grew in trees! )...

To home, where the clothes are hung on the line in the backyard, or more discreetly in the washing house hidden behind palm fronds at the side of the house.

And while the clothes are drying, dinner is made. This dish is cassava leaves, very traditional, very green, very delicious. Cassava leaves are a bit like spinach, although not as nutritious, and this dish is cooked with fish, chicken, palm oil, ground peanuts and of course a pinch of msg! The sauce is served over rice and flavoured with hot peppers.

After dinner, you can sit outside on the porch and watch the sun as it slowly dies behind the Health Centre (hmmm....sketchy). For added viewing pleasure, the goats roam freely. Sometimes, they try to mount each other. If you're feeling in the gambling mood, you can place bets as to which one will bleat first. You just never know!

And then, when the sun has set and the mosquitoes come buzzing, you retire, to bed, to sleep. Yawn! All in all, a good weekend, great company, and some excellent pictures.
Thanks to you, Adama, Naimeh and all of your family.

And finally, for an added bonus: a random picture of yellow 'rubbers' used to carry water or petrol...and a blue bike used for riding or transporting things.


At 7:59 PM, Blogger D Tremblin said...

Hi Emily. Your photos and descriptions are great and take me back... I was in SL from 81 - 89 and have so many vivid memories. The photo of the guy with "bulbs" on his head - the bunch of red date-sized fruits are the fruit of the oil palm tree. The palm fruit is the source of both palm oil (extracted from the red fleshy palm fruit) and palm kernel oil (extracted from the hard black "nut" or fruit seeds). Back in 82 I took my class to a palm kernel oil factory just outside of Freetown. I don't think it's still there. Anyway, if anyone reading this is interested, they can check Wikipedia. I just did and learned something new: "Palm oil became a highly sought-after commodity by British traders, the oil being used as industrial lubricant for the machines of Britain's ongoing Industrial Revolution, as well as forming the basis for different brands of soap such as Palmolive." I have fond memories (and video footage) of my son, now 20, running around in a nappy down at our house at King Tom 18 yrs ago, collecting bonga nuts (the hard, black palm kernels) from the ground and placing them carefully on the cement curb and hitting them with a rock. He'd seen others doing it. Thus his nickname "bonga boy". He doesn't remember any of this! One more (probably boring) fact about palm oil: I used to make dog food weekly using palm oil, broken rice and fish powder. I apologise for the length of this comment. Please say hello to Jan, as we taught together back in the early 80's!
--Deb (A Hoosier in the UK)

At 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey emily

your blog is a fantastic window into your world. i love your list of books you have read - i can tell the age-group you must be teaching! the africa map is super - what creativity children have. i do hope you are in toronto for a while when you return! blessings, peggy smith

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Concerned Sierra Leonean said...

Hello Emily,
why do you find it necessary to include pictures of naked children? You may have their parent permission to take pictures of however I am sure that they do not fully understand the implications of having their naked photographs all over the internet for the whole world to see.


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