Saturday, 3 November 2012

The great feeling of knowing you are exactly where you're meant to be!

Almost one month in and so much has happened, from back stabbing (literally) to having to become some sort of earth bag construction expert over night.
Lesson #1: Never sit on a three legged stool in the sand while chopping veggies!
So Courtney, my colleague and fellow kindred spirit, managed to fall backwards off the stool while helping with lunch last week. She happened to have the sharpest knife in the place in her hand and used this to break her fall. Luckily we had a wonderful Neurosurgeon – Katya – in the house. Cool as a breeze she took over the operation Karl and I had started to perform in the solar house. While Katya was stitching Courtney up (without any anaesthetic) I was trying to distract her from the agony with graphic stories of the horrors of child birth. All went swimmingly and 10 days later the stitches are out and Courtney is back running around doing what she does best.....

Lesson #2: The importance of planning and the learning curve that comes with all new projects

This is something that should be a focus in places like Europe and even more so in West Africa! Orphund – a wonderful NGO, made up mainly of Australian volunteers, builds orphanages around the country and continent. Each member of foreign staff supporting themselves and fundraising with friends and family to financially support the project – not a penny is wasted on administrative “needs”. Many of the volunteers take their annual leave from their various livelihoods to come and get down and dirty building orphanages amongst other related tasks, what a refreshing change from spending summer holidays on the beach, although there is some beach time thrown in.
Tribewanted’s building team have very successfully created a wonderful array of buildings to host guests from earthbag structures to wooden beach bungalows. Therefore their expertise was hired to create a new orphanage in Tombo out of the aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly adobe. While the first building is almost complete and ready for the Orphund girls to move into there have been some delay and issues regarding the budget and planning of the project. In Sierra Leone there is a saying ‘ To plan ahead is to plan twice’ and while this doesn’t sum up the only reasons for the problems we’ve encountered this attitude has clearly been a stumbling block. Another issue is most certainly the lack of training in planning and budgeting – cue building and budgeting workshops every Sunday!

Lesson #3: Nature and local culture that just keeps on giving!
From electrical storms that send goosebumps all over your body to pods of Dolphins putting on a show in the Atlantic seas, this place has got so much soul soothing stimulation that I haven’t even finished my first book. We had a visit the other day from my all time favourite lizard, the shifty Chameleon and regular visits from feisty little baby crocs keep our days in this wilderness occupied.
On the way back from Banana islands the other we came upon a boat bobbing in the middle of their widespread net, drumming a hypnotic beat to lure the fish to their demise. Somehow these ancient cultural methods have persevered and mingle on a daily basis with technologies like mobile phones that somehow seem so foreign in comparison.

It has been greatttttttttttt to have Shane my BFF come to visit! It is pretty much impossible to sum this place and this adventure up without coming to seeing it with your own eyes and it has been very refreshing to hear his thoughts on the projects, the place and the potential that is Sierra Leone. Tomorrow will be his debut Irish dancing in West Africa to the village community and the headman. The reason poor Shane won’t be getting a rest from dancing over here stemmed from a discussion a few weeks back with the community about secret societies and their original purpose - to share a tribes culture, dance, language etc with the children of that tribe. Hassan commented that it must be hard for Europeans to understand as we have no culture - WHAT!!??! Hence the display of Irish culture planned for tomorrow afternoon. Let’s hope they don’t think his fast foot action means he’s possessed and have the witch doctor come!!!

There has been quite a few ticks on the bucket list and some awesome memories cemented in our minds on this little adventure!
Some other highlights of the past few weeks include:
  • Seeing the massive impact a 3 day trip to tribewanted has had on a bunch of International school kids.
  • A canoe trip up the lagoon.
  • A forest walk to the beautiful cove of Black Johnson to hear the passionate tales of an English lady's struggle to stop sand mining.
  • Weekly classes on the beach front black board with the local primary school kids
  • Meeting some really amazing people passing through John Obey and sharing their stories
  • Lobster, chilled white wine and good company as the sun went down at Sussex beach
  • Visits from my old family and friends from Allentown
  • A very positive meeting on the importance of stopping sand mining and supporting sustainable tourism with the head of the District Council
  • Utilizing the combined experience of myself, Courtney, Kat and Mark to devise material that will hopefully be used to ensure the best experience for the guests and volunteers who happen upon Tribewanted
  • Hammock time
Looking after the city slickers wheely case on the way to Banana Island

Right that’s it for now, time for a bucket shower before hopping on an okada to head to Freetown to show Shane the other side of SL.

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