Monday, May 21, 2012

Tenki! Tenki! (Thank you, Thank you!)

I just received a package that contained some beautiful Easter cards from a class at St. Joseph’s school (the elementary school that I attended and that my mom currently teaches at). I so appreciate the cards and all of the prayers, it means so much. I enjoy reading about what is happening in St. Johns and when I share the drawings with my neighbor kids they absolutely love it. I wanted to mention it in my blog because if I send a letter now it won’t get to St. Joe’s until after school is out and I really want to make sure that the kids know how thankful I am for their thoughts and support. There were a few questions so I’ll take a minute to answer those . . .

Q) Is it always hot there?
A) Simple answer: Yes. During the day it always ranges between 70 and 100 degrees. Sometimes at night during the rainy season it will cool off a little and I will have to cover myself with a blanket, and there was even one morning that I wore my Hope college sweatshirt (that was a glorious morning) but most of the time I am sweating. Good thing I packed a lot of deodorant.

Q) Are you close to the equator?
A) Ya, Sierra Leone is very close to the equator. That is the reason why we only have two seasons (rainy and dry) and why it is so hot. We are in a tropical ecosystem. When I was teaching about climates to my middle school class they thought it was crazy that there could be a place that was colder than here (and that people were able to live there). I showed them a picture of snow and they were amazed. Fun times :)

Q) Are you having fun there?
A) YES!!!! Everyday I get to learn something new, and to a nerd like me that is the definition of fun. It’s not always the easiest thing to be away from my family and friends or the many amenities that come with living in the states, but the good days definitely outnumber the bad. (But the candy the class sent me will help with the bad days :)

Q) How’s the food there?
A) The main local food here is rice with a spicy, oily, sauce. Normally it has fish, but it can also be made with beef or chicken. The main sauces consist of cooked leaves like cassava leaf, potato leaf, or a plant called kren kren. In addition to the leaf sauces they make a really good sauce from ground up peanuts and then another yummy one with tomato paste and onions. When I first came I didn’t really like the food and it was way too spicy for me. But now sometimes I find myself craving rice and sauce and the pepper doesn’t bother me so much anymore. Another perk about the food here is the delicious fruits that grow. Right now its mango season and I am in heaven. We also get fresh bananas, pineapple, oranges, watermelon and guava. Most of the time I cook for myself on my coal pot and I mainly make pasta, eggs, pizza, beans, soup or fries. Not the healthiest diet due to a lack of vegetables.

Q) How is your cat?
A) Yathiki is doing well. She is so big now! She has gotten very good at catching mice which I love because now I don’t have to hear them scratching around at night. Everyone in my village knows her name and when they pass my house they call her. They think it’s so funny how I hold her and pet her because her it’s not part of their culture to show affection to animals. But they just attribute this behavior to the fact that I’m a weird foreigner :)

Q) What kind of animals have you seen there?
A) Everyday I mostly just see cats, dogs, birds, lizards, sometimes a pet monkey. I haven’t ventured off into the bush because of the warning about snakes, but I’m sure if I went there I would see more wildlife. 

Q) What is a discorama?
A) An incredibly fun program. It was like a talent show that my school put on. The four houses competed against each other for the top score. There were five judges that decided who won. The events were single dancing for boys and girls, group dancing for boys and girls, single lipsynching, duet lipsynching, drama and cultural play. It was a great time and the kids got really competitive and excited. 

Alrighty, thank you again for the thoughts and prayers. I am sure that is the reason why things are going so well for me here. I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am to you all.

For a quick update on life in Kamabai:
School is slowly starting up again for the last term of the year. The official start date was a month ago but because of some issues, we’re just now getting into the swing of things. The bright side to us not having school was that I got to spend a lot of time in the library and it looks so good now! It is so gratifying to have it look like a real library and not just stacks of dusty books. The kids are excited too, if a little bit apprehensive. The truth is, they don’t know how to use a library because they’ve never had the chance before. Books here are so scarce and expensive that most times they are kept off limits to the kids because adults are afraid they will ruin them or steal them. Which to be honest is probably going to happen a few times as I’m getting the library officially started up, but I want to believe that after the kids see the uses of having the books in the library they will learn to respect the books. My action plan now is to do one more thorough cleaning (I am in a constant battle with the dust that blows in) and then start making the library more inviting. I’ve already got some ideas about painting, making a corner for the primary school kids, and an area for the computer we’re going to get.  That’s another thing to be thankful for, a church from London that started working with our school this year said they found three computers for our school and at least one of them will go in the library! So hopefully next year I can start tutoring kids in computer which is something that they are so curious about. The church also asked for a list of books that we could use in the library, so hopefully we will be able to get some more books which would be awesome.

Everything with the social life is going well. Two weeks ago I went up to Fadugu to visit Sara and go to a jam that was being put on for Bob Marley Day. I didn’t even know such a holiday existed until this year. It was really fun, I always enjoy hanging out in people’s towns, seeing their schools and the people they see everyday. This last weekend I went down to Makeni to celebrate Marc’s birthday, which was a lot of fun as well.

Oh, I realized a few things that should have been on the packing list I included for the incoming trainees:
-Power adaptor: Helpful for when you want to charge things. I got mine at Best Buy for $30. It’s a Targus and has worked well and isn’t bulky like some that you will see, so I recommend it.
-Batteries: You can get these here so don’t bring a two year supply, but its nice to have a few to start you off.
- Knife: A pocket knife works. Or you can get a legit small hunting knife, whatever your style. But its nice to have something to peel cucumbers and mangoes during training.
-Headlamp: I have had the worst luck with headlamps and now just use a local light that I bought. But I know some people really like them and they are convenient.
-Snack Food: The transition to local food was rough for some of us. Having some cliff bars or trail mix stuffed away somewhere would have been a nice comfort those first few weeks.

Okay, I think that’s everything. As I said before, don’t stress, just focus on spending the last few weeks with your loved ones and get ready for an adventure! See you at PST!

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