Friday, June 29, 2007

June 29 - Buh Bye Anna and Canal News

Last night we said goodbye to our colleague Anna as she heads back to the UK today. Anna was a great friend to me here and the most independent person I think I have ever met. She was a taxi-taking, Krio-speaking machine. I'll miss her and hope to meet up with her in the UK to grab some Ghanain food and see all her photos from her 6 months in Africa that she took with a traditional camera...imagine that stack!

Here are a couple of photos of the legend that is Anna:

Lovin the Ghanain

Chillin at the beach!

I also managed to discover the following article yesterday:

Most of you know that the Rideau Canal is one of my favourite spots on EARTH and I was happy to see it make such status. The Africany part of this story is that I was actually looking for the news story about the Omanian parkland that had been reduced by 90% for oil cultivation because it was on the radio yesterday morning. Apparently the Ottawa piece of that story wasn't news here. Glad I was interested in the middle-east issue!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

June 28 - City Compare

Woking - Suburb of London (south-west) in Surrey
Freetown - Capital of Sierra Leone, On the west coast

Time zone
Woking - BST = GMT + 1
Freetown - GMT

Woking - British Pound (1£=$2.50 CAD)
Freetown - Leone (3000Le = $1CAD)

Ranking in Human Development Index
Woking - #18 – 0.940 (high)
Freetown - #176 – 0.335 (low)
(Canada is 6th at 0.950)

How I arrived
Woking - Air Canada to London Heathrow
Taxi to Woking

Freetown - British Airways to Lungi via Dakar, Senegal
Helicopter to Aberdeen
Plan vehicle to home

Where I lived
Woking -

1) Guest room in IT Director’s flat downtown Woking
2) The Arden Bed and Breakfast across the railway tracks from downtown
3) ADP Flat in the west end of downtown

Freetown -

1) Flat in the lower level of a house near the office
2) Family Kingdom Hotel on Aberdeen

Where I worked
Woking - International Headquarters in Chobham House building.
Sat in the library with the rest of the team.
Coffee and tea available in the kitchen.

Freetown - Plan Sierra Leone Country office. Gated grounds with loads of drivers, cleaners and security guards.
Our office was Twin Tower #1 (their name not mine), a shed in the parking lot with a metal roof. Two desks shared. AC. Coffee and tea via thermos on my desk.

Main tasks
Woking - Get to know the project and the team. High-level planning. Meetings, meetings and more meetings

Freetown - Detailed test and implementation planning

What I ate
Woking -

Breakfast – Cereal and/or Toast
Lunch – leftovers from the night before, sandwich from M&S or local shop
Dinner – Salad and chicken at home or pub food. Shopping at Sainsbury or M&S

Freetown -

Breakfast – Continental at the hotel included
Lunch – Traditional African dishes cooked by the Plan cook (Musu who was shockingly like an African version of my Aunt Audrey). Rice with meat and sauce daily.
Dinner – depends on the day. Restaurant or oatmeal packet.
Shopping at local supermarket for snacks, oatmeal and water

Woking - Super duper expensive. Same prices as at home but 2.5 times as much when you convert to dollars.

Freetown - Not that cheap. Imported goods (cereal, sweets) are expensive but local items (fish, mangoes, nuts, breads) are cheap. Drinks are cheap too.

Woking - Same as home only not fresh for nearly as long as it is mostly imported. Expensive. Favs – Prêt yogurt bowls, anything from M&S, Hobnobs

Freetown - Rice with everything! Loads of fish and lobster. Fresh fruit but no veggies. Bottled water. Chapmans! (SLE drink)

Woking -

Kelvin’s flat = free
B&B = 40GBP/night
ADP flat = ? (probably around 1000GBP/month)

Freetown -

Sketchy flat – $40/night for both
Family Kingdom - $3000US for 6 weeks for both of us. (one room)

How I travelled
Woking - Foot, Southwest Trains to London and the tube
Freetown - Rides from friends, Plan staff and the White Dragon (Nana’s car)

How I communicated
Woking - UK mobile (vodaphone), Skype and calling card
Freetown - SLE mobile (on loan from Nana – CellTell), Skype

What I did for exercise
Woking - Stretch cords, Peak Fitness gym, local pool, morning runs along the canal
Freetown - Run along the beach, Hashing, Yoga, balance ball and stretch cords.

What I did for fun
Woking - Hang out with Laura, had visitors in (Martha!), watched TV, worked out, went to the pub, shopping, coffee, theatre, went into London
Freetown - Hung out with friends, beach, runs, dinners, bars, read, ate, chilled on porch of our hotel room

Woking - Newquay and the south/west region, London many times
Freetown - Banana Islands, River #2, Chimp sanctuary, Charlotte Falls, Private Beach

First Impressions
Woking - Simple and cute. Friendly and small. Just like home only more expensive.
Freetown - Busy and beautiful, more ‘developed’ than I thought. People are well put together.

If I came again what would I bring
Woking - Toiletries (so expensive), a proper day bag, more $$, dutyfree
Freetown - Better clothes for going out. Some jewelry, fake wedding ring, more $$, better workout videos

Monday, June 25, 2007

June 24 – 24 hours of our own beach!

This weekend was a different one that’s for sure. It started with live music on Friday when an ex-pat band played at Sportsbar. It was a fun evening and I am starting to be able to recognize most of the folks at the events we go to. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but I fell like part of a gang. Here’s the poster from the cover band. For those of you gals out there who will spot it…no Jem was not truly outrageous but a round-bellied man who was the lead singer.

Saturday morning I did my now regular long run up the beach. It has been raining every day so the beach was nicely packed down. I got my usual ‘hello Canadian girl’ due to me wearing my ‘not remotely fast enough for the Canadian Marathon Team’ t-shirt. It’s hard to think that that was my second last run. I have to remember to savour next weekend’s tour de beach.

Mid morning Laura and Manny (Emanuel her driver) came to get us and we headed off to a small beach near Tokeh that is owned and operated by the British High Commission in Freetown. As Laura is a BHC employee she was able to book the place for the weekend for our exclusive use. She mentioned that the High Commissioner had been up to the beach last weekend so we thought, how bad can it be? Well, it was interesting.

We spent 24 hours on a secluded beach just the five of us (L-R in photo: Quirien, Conor, me, Laura and Anna) and our three hosts (Simon, Frank and Ompah). We arrived about 1pm and were welcomed by a marvelous break in the rain. We had a clear blue day which resulted in a few sunburns, my first (and definitely last) on this trip. We sat on the beach and read, swam and chatted. Our hosts made us some fabulous fish, rice and sauce and we enjoyed it on the ‘patio’ of the concrete building. The building was a four room concrete shelter with a toilet and a shower hose. There was a fridge but no power so it was more of a well-sealed cupboard. We didn’t spend much time inside so we didn’t give it much thought.

BHC building on the beach

We had a fire on the beach that night and enjoyed the sky and the water. It was amazing to be on a beach all alone in this country and really reminded me of cottage country when you are lucky enough to have a lonely spot on a lake. We did manage to see a snake a couple of times. It was wicked! I won't put up the photo so my Mom doesn't get scared. If you want to see the snake video give me a shout!

Most of us slept outside on loungers under mosquito nets. It was not the most comfortable and a choir of frogs was more than happy to serenade us all night long but in the end, it was a fabulous experience! I think I may have slept for 30 minutes due to heat, sunburn and frogs but it was worth it.

Sunset on the BHC beach

Sunday was lazy and a bit wetter than Saturday. Having not thought about breakfast we finished off the cookies and water we brought and read our books until Manny came to gather us. The ride home was sleepy and silent. We went to our favourite restaurant ‘Bliss Bakery’ to celebrate Anna’s last weekend here as she leaves on Friday to go back to Plan UK in Camden. It was great and we were even given some of a family’s birthday cake to include us in their celebration. Yum!!

As of tomorrow Quirien and I are officially off cookies in an attempt to get back into shape for our journey’s home. Seeing as I have a little over a week left but at least it’s an effort to lose some of the weight I have gained here. 9 more days of work until my journey returns to the UK. J I’ll have to keep exploring this place. It will be hard to top this weekend that’s for sure.

Special hi to Matt (Jay’s brother) and Karen who celebrated their wedding this weekend! Congrats you two. Jay told me the wedding was a total blast. I had no doubt in my mind. Happy recovery!

Friday, June 22, 2007

June 21 – Going ‘Up-Country’

I suppose I have to explain the term ‘up-country’. Around Freetown when folks talk about going out to the communities around the capital they call it going ‘up-country’. Technically it’s sort of ‘in-country’ or ‘side-country’ but you get the point.

Wednesday was a big day for our team as we got to go ‘up’ to Porto Lorko (pronounced without the ‘r’). It was about a 1.5 hour drive from the office on some rough roads and the 7 of us fit nice and tightly into the Plan vehicle and arrived safe and sound.
Our mission, to train the volunteers in the community who take photos of the sponsored children, their families, and the area to use digital cameras. This feeds into the new software tool we just released that will resize and digitally label the photos to feed into the Sponsorship packages. This is all part of an Implementation Dress Rehearsal (IDR) for the tool where groups in sponsorship countries all over the world try out the tool, the new processes and the training and give us feedback so that we can improve it before it gets distributed globally. Since three of us are here in Freetown, Sierra Leone was chosen as an IDR site and we were asked to do the training.

We spent the afternoon and evening with a class of about 30 volunteers teaching them about operating digital cameras and the dos and don’ts of photography for Plan. It was fun to watch the audience try to understand Conor’s Irish accent and then listen to Nana translate it into Krio. The class started out quite timid but in the end and after a few interactive activities they were more than enthusiastic. Nana told us that it is a badge of honor to volunteer for Plan and that these people are honest and trustworthy. They were pretty smart too and are now excellent digital photographers.

One of the things I found very amusing is that some of these folks arrived on Raleigh bikes that had been donated to Plan. The amusing part was that some of the bikes were still wrapped in bubble wrap! A funny sight as they rode off into the darkness when we were finished.
Our ride home was a lot less cramped and filled (as usual) with tall tales from Nana. Then another night of storm-filled sleeping!

Monday, June 18, 2007

June 17 – The Chimps, Charlotte Falls and a Rainy Father’s Day

After spending a quiet night on Friday eating Chinese food (yes, they do have okay Chinese food in Freetown) and getting rested for the big ‘monkey’ day we met up at Laura’s so that her driver could take us to the Sanctuary. The first thing we learned was that chimps are not in fact monkeys but GREAT APES. This puts them in the same group as gorillas, orangutans and bonobos. The Sanctuary had all kinds of helpful boards to teach visitors about the chimps like this one:

And this one:
The sanctuary was started in when a chimp named Bruno was rescued from a family home. It is illegal not only to hunt chimps but also to keep them as pets. This place finds and recovers (either voluntarily or through the police) chimps in Sierra Leone and beyond. They are brought in, studied and treated for what ails them and then taught to live in groups in a HUGE forest setting. Because of their exposure to humans the group is unsure if they will ever be able to be truly wild ever again but it doing their best to try to re-integrate them in groups. They spend nights in shelters like this where they can be monitored:

And their days out in forest areas from 4-9 acres that are just breathtaking!
We got to watch them be fed and made friends with a few once they were done throwing rocks at us. (None hit me but I think Anna got one in the head, ouch!). We met the biggest chimp Phillip who made faces and even did backflips for us:

These guys were so adorable and incredibly human like in there movements. It was amazing to see them in this ‘wild’ environment!
After the chimps we headed across the road to Charlotte Falls. The falls were lovely although not exactly what I was expecting considering it has been raining so much.

We paid the 2000Le (less than $1) but as we walked through the village to the falls realized that our joint 10,000Le donation would have a significant impact on the villages supplies for the week. Our tour guide and three young child-friends walked us to the falls and giggled as we took photos and poked around the area.

We ended our journey with lunch at the Country Lodge which is the ‘posh’ hotel in Freetown. Yummy food and ice cream! What a great day!

That evening we headed out to a fun party and for another visit to the locale party club, Paddy’s which was a bit of a scary encounter with some pick-pockets and a purse slasher but everyone came out with everything they went in with. Just learned to watch our backs, a lesson I am sure will help me in Kenya.

Happy Father’s day to all the Dads at home (including you soon to be Dads like Darren and Tim). The weather helped us out here in town today as the rain kept our plans simple including lunch at my favourite bakery (including éclair for Conor and Macaroon for me) where we found many of the attendees from the night before recovering with great coffee.

Watched Pink Panther at Laura’s (which was surprisingly funny) and now am home catching up on some work and relaxing. Less than three weeks left for me here. I can’t believe I have been gone for two whole months and am past the half-way point of my time in SLE. Much to do with work before I leave and many new African experiences coming my way I am sure.

Everyone enjoy their week! Miss you. Eat your veggies!

Friday, June 15, 2007

June 15 – Special Court: How do you impose justice post-war

Previously I mentioned that many of the ex-pats I have met here in SLE work with the UN Special Court of Sierra Leone so I would like to let you know what this court is doing because I find it quite interesting.

At this point most of you know of the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia that took place in the 90s/early 00s. The purpose of this court is similar to Nuremberg trials after WWII and more recently, those held in the Hague regarding Kosovo. They are putting various war criminals on trial for atrocities that occurred in this country.

One of the biggest stories/trials is that of Charles Taylor the former president of Liberia. (1997 – 2003). ( there’s a good bit on this page about the SLE civil war too.)

The revolutionary campaign that started the war here was supported by both Muammar Qaddafi and Taylor. Among other roles it is said that these two men supplied the rebels with arms in exchange for diamonds and helped the leaders of the revolution to organize their armies. Basically he supported the war in SLE and later was became Liberia’s president.

On 7 March 2003, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) indicted Taylor, charging him with crimes against humanity, an indictment which still stands. The trial work began when he was captured and turned over to the UN in Sierra Leone in 2006. The actual trial started June 4th in the Hague and the legal teams are headed their next week to support the trial.

Many of the lawyers I have met here are working on the case including on both sides of the courtroom and all have their own opinion on the purpose/value of the Special Court and the prosecution of war criminals in general.

I would be lying to say that I have never thought through this concept before. I have always been interested in the aftermath of WWII and all of the effort over many years focused on bringing justice to the world. I’ll keep my opinion to myself and let you take a look at the following article:

Some of the things in this blow my mind and it all makes me remember (again) how lucky we are to live in the ‘free world’.

On a much lighter note, big plans for the weekend.  Look for loads of updates on Monday and enjoy yours!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

June 11 – Babies and Another Hash!

Another Monday….woohooo. Only three more before my departure which is bitter-sweet. Today Moosue brought the receptionist’s grandson to our shed to visit. Issac was a cutie pie but he definitely didn’t like Conor. In an attempt to change my flight home to a week and a bit earlier as requested, Nana and I headed to downtown Freetown to the BA office.

I wish I had brought my camera because downtown in the middle of the afternoon was chaos. So much to see. People selling everything from flip flops to stationary and car parts to Persian rugs. The streets were full of people going about their business to and fro. We managed to find a spot to park, well maybe not a spot but an area that wasn’t already in use and headed to the BA office. Let’s just say the visit wasn’t fruitful and we’ll have to visit again to get the ticket changed.

After work we headed to King Harmon and the old Railway for our third hash. The run was good and VERY hilly. We even got to cross a bridge I had only seen from the road high above. Hashing is a fabulous way to see a place. We ran through all kinds of yards and roads and even saw the cutest little puppy along the way. We even got free Freetown Hasher t-shirts. My first SLE souvenir!
Tired and sweaty we headed home. Quick stop at the supermarket for some instant oatmeal (which turned out to be pretty decent) and home to bed.

June 10 – Weekend of Bananas

So, let me tell you a bit about the weekend. Friday I stayed in to try to kick the end of my ‘illness’. Watched a little TV, read my book and went to bed. I know, exciting.

Saturday morning I decided it was time for a ‘long run’ so I got up at 8am and headed to the beach. I ran from end to end and back in just under an hour. It was HOT and I was TIRED. I have never run on the beach like that and it was amazing to listen to the waves and feel the sand beneath my feet. With the added bonus of watching the locals haul in the fish nets all along the beach and of course the usual, ‘hello white girl’, ‘thank you Canada’ (my running shirt has a flag on it) and ‘how da bode?’ to which I responded with ‘tired!’ each time. All in all a great run and a fabulous way to start the day.

Spent a while lazing about and eating breakfast. Finally got the internet connection to work at the hotel and had a bizarre one-sided Skype with Jay. Is it ever weird to talk in response to MSN questions while sitting by yourself in a gazebo at a hotel.

Later that afternoon the gals (Laura, Anna, Quirien and I) headed off on the journey to Banana Island. The drive to the beach was amazing with some stunning sites and a paved highway that reminded me of northern Ontario. Manny (Laura’s driver) had some ‘mad skills’ in maneuvering on some harsh roads and delivered us to Kent beach to meet the Banana Island Guest House boat.

The highway to Waterloo, Kent and Bureh.

Manny told us the next day when he came to gather us that he stool on the shore for an hour watching us cross what was perhaps a 3km crossing. The weather was not calm and the sea matched. It was a rough ride to say the least and we were soaked when we arrived on the island.

The 'shuttle' to the island. That's the islands in the background.

The guest houses were right on the shore in Dublin. There were four huts each with two rooms. The rooms were quaint and well-equipped with nice furniture, showers and flush toilets. The guest house is powered by solar power so, since it was a dark day there was no power but we enjoyed our night anyway.

We ordered dinner and after some typical SLE delay we ate like kings. I ordered lobster and watched the guy pull it out of the trap, let it run for a bit on the beach and then carry it off to be bbq’d. Dinner, rose and UNO led to an early night under a mosquito net. I love sleeping under mosquito nets!

Catching our dinner. Man are lobsters ever dumb.

Sunday was a great breakfast! I ordered French toast which I didn’t have high hopes for but which turned out to be fabulous. We went on a walking tour of the island to see all the beaches, the old and new churches, the fishing port and the new well and hospital that are almost finished. We even encountered a SNAKE but luckily I was in the back of the tour line so it had slithered off before I got anywhere near. YIKES!

We spent the afternoon playing UNO, snoozing and eating and then took a much calmer ride back to the beach and a lovely drive home. I did some yoga and headed to bed. I think I’ll need another day to recover from my weekend.

My camera battery died in the middle of the weekend so for further photos see Quirien's photo album at:

Friday, June 8, 2007

June 8 - Who is Nana Bampoe

Greetings everyone. Since yesterday was our dear Ghanain team-mate Nana's birthday and since I talk about him all the time on this blog I thought it appropriate to let you know more about him.

Nana Bampoe:
  • Nana Bampoe was born in Ghana many many years ago. (he claims he's 40 but I don't buy it)

  • He has had many jobs through his years all in IT including working with banks and software development firms.

  • Nana has 7 siblings and all of their names are Nana except his eldest brother who is named after his father. (Eugene I think) He says the family has no trouble telling each other apart as they use different intonations for each Nana but when someone called their house for a Nana it was often chaotic.

  • Nana is the Technical Implementation Coordinator for our ChildData team and works with all the global offices to make sure they are ready to roll out the new system. He really knows his stuff.

  • He is always ready with an analogy or a methaphor in any situation.

  • Nana cares A LOT about his friends and family and is always there to help.

  • This fellow can tell a story like you wouldn't believe. It will last hours and at the end will simply leave you scratching your head. Apparently his Grandpa teleports and he is descended from Royalty.

Here's a photo from his birthday party at Sierra Lighthouse last night.

Clockwise from nearest: Laura (British High Commission), Nana (Plan - ChildData), Kwame (Nana's friend), Roberto (Nana's Friend), Anna (Plan - Programs), Conor (Plan - ChildData)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

June 6 – A bit more about Sierra Leone/Freetown

Thanks to all you folks who have given me suggestions about what to write on my blog. I hope to get to all your great ideas but I think I’ll start BIG with a bit more about the country I am in, in general.

Sierra Leone is located on the west coast of Africa close to the equator. The country has a population of just over 6 Million who suffer from extreme poverty. The most significant factor contributing to economic conditions was the long civil war, which lasted for a 10 years - only ending in 2001, when a UN peacekeeping mission was mandated. Since 2001 the country has been relatively stable and efforts to improve life here have been made, assisted most significantly by the international community with grants (like those from Plan) and debt reduction programs. Many NGOs (non-governmental organizations) pulled out of Sierra Leone during the conflicts but, from what I have seen driving around this city, they have all returned (CARE, Save the Children, ActionAid, etc)

Sierra Leone is an extremely poor African nation, with economic conditions characterized by tremendous inequality in income distribution. While it possesses substantial mineral, agricultural and fishery resources, its economic and social infrastructure is not well developed. Serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development. The fate of the economy depends upon the maintenance of domestic peace and the continued receipt of substantial aid from abroad, which is essential to offset the severe trade imbalance and supplement government revenues. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) has completed a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program that helped stabilize economic growth and reduce inflation. A recent increase in political stability has led to a revival of economic activity, such as the rehabilitation of bauxite mining.Some key comparative facts emphasize the current situation to give you a look at Africa-to-Africa and Sierra Leone-to-Canada.

All that ‘high-level’ stuff is great but what do I see here in Freetown. One has to remember that Freetown is the capital and by far the largest and most infrastructure-rich city in this country. The layout of the city is far from that of a normal city and even far from most capitals in Africa. There are some large buildings which are mostly UN, US or UK built. There is a football stadium and grocery stores, restaurants and bars but these are few and far between. Much of the trade occurs from small huts on the side of the road and hand to hand between the people. There is no mall, there are no stoplights, streetlights or sidewalks. None of the comforts of home really but this is developed SLE.

The people here (who I will talk about more in a subsequent post) seem happy. They are much better dressed and have much more style than I thought. They maintain clean appearances, they drive okay cars and they are very friendly. Not what you would expect from a country so ravaged by war so recently in the past. The soldiers of war live amongst the people now having dropped their weapons and re-assimilated. There are rarely violent incidents except when thievery is suspected. They take their possessions very seriously.

People ask me if it is dangerous in Sierra Leone. The plain answer is that there are dangers that are rather different than those in first world countries like Canada and great care and awareness are necessary. Health care in Sierra Leone is poor and social issues need to be understood. I have a very reasonable standard of living, clean water and have an opportunity for a healthy diet. I am very well taken care of by both Plan and my ex-pat ( friends who are always willing to give you guidance and a lift home.

Living and working in the developing world, where conditions may be fairly basic, definitely demands a certain level of physical and psychological fitness and health is clearly of high importance. For those of you who witnessed my preparation for this trip I had 13 shots for everything from rabies to yellow fever and happily take a pill each day to prevent malaria (these pills have done crazy things to my dreams too!). After my illness on Sunday Nana has threatened several times to take me to the hospital for a malaria test and I know he is watching me closely for signs and will haul me there if I look to be at risk.Certainly personal safety is a concern but risks seem to be very manageable.

The people have been nothing but honest and I prepared well by not really bringing anything I worry about losing. I protect my passport, laptop and money well and follow my instinct always. In fact sometimes looking around I wonder why anyone would want to rob me considering how much more put-together the Sierra Leonians and some of my new friends seem. I appear simple and I think that helps me out.

I hope this helped you get a better idea of where I am and the social setting. Keep the questions coming!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

June 5 - A weekend of nothing, an illness and a couple of flat tires.

Well I appologize that it's been a while since I wrote.

Just to make up for the are some of the turkeys on site at Family Kingdom. Seriously and they are NOT afraid of

The Weekend -

Friday we went out for dinner. I'll save you the details but needless to say they don't make very good pizza around here and even the dogs at the restaurant wouldn't eat our 'scraps'. After dinner we headed to Atlantic which is the friday expat hangout. It's right on the beach and you can even walk out to the beach with your drinks. A pretty low key night.

Spent Saturday just hanging out in the sunshine. Reading and sitting on a patio. Very lazy. Here's the view from my book (top) and from the patio (bottom).

Saturday night we finally made it to dinner at the Sierra Lighthouse which is a hotel right on the edge of the beach. We had tried twice before with no luck so it was good to finally make it. Anna had introduced us to the 'Chapman' which is a local SLE drink (don't ask what's in it..I'll find out though so I can make them when I get home) We enjoyed a couple of special Chapmans then hit the casino. Actually I didn't hit the casino. I wasn't feeling well and wanted to watch the Sens game anyway.
That's right...I got the Sens game on tv in my room in Freetown! It was blurry, in french and in the middle of the night but it was on nonetheless. And they won...maybe I am good luck!
Sunday was rainy spoiling our beach plans so we slept in and then Nana brought us our 'wheels'. He has lent us his second car which is standard making Conor our new chauffeur. We now have a bit of freedom which is nice.

We wanted to take it for a practice spin so we headed to our friend Laura's place. I should call it Laura's castle. She works for the British High Commission here in Freetown and lives in the nicest apartment I have ever seen anywhere! Polished marble, chandelliers and a huge tv. We sat in the lap of luxury and watched Anchorman. How's that for a non-African afternoon.
Later, we went to find some dinner and discovered Bliss Bakery. It was Bliss! The food was great. The coffee was REAL (all I had had here until then was instant...blech) and the pastries look brilliant! Unfortunately this was the beginning of the sickness for me so I wasn't able to enjoy. I'll have to go back.

We popped over to the grocery store for some water. The store isn't all that different from those at home but they all have VERY varying prices and all contain houshold goods. Everything from lamps to towels to toys. Oh and liquor...tonnes of liquor. I'll do some scouting and let you all know about prices. Eating breakfast at the hotel and lunch at our desks has made for little need for supermarkets aside from water.
My first Illness - Sunday afternoon introduced my first illness in SLE. I'll spare you all the details but let's say I didn't eat much from Sunday lunch until Monday lunch. BLECH! Feeling much better now though. :)
Hash #2 - Monday night was our second Hash which we managed to be 20 minutes late for. If there's one thing harder than hashing it's hashing without the crowd of people to follow. Luckily Conor was nice enough to run with me until we found the crowd and the locals were more than willing to help us by pointing the direction that the other runners went in. We never once thought that maybe they were lying to us or tricking us. That's just an indication of how nice everyone is here in this city. We managed to make it home and I think I sweated out the sickness trying to keep up with 6'2" Conor. Can you say 'big dog, little dog'?

Crazy Tire Fun - Well we knew it would happen. The driving here is rough. The roads are quite pot-holey and there are always people all over the streets. Conor has done a great job driving so far. We were taken down this morning by a rock that totally destroyed our front right tire. :(

Conor managed to manouver off the road and before we were even out of the car a local had blocked our back tire and started to change the tire. It was amazing! He moved so fast and had the spare on in about 5 minutes. The problem then was that the spare was flat...seriously!
So, this man took the tire and got in a shared cab (more on cabs here later) and rode to the petrol station to fill the tire. We started to wonder at that point if he was going to come back but there wasn't much we could do but hang out on the side of the road with our three wheeled car.

At this point we realized again how safe this country was. If we had been in Nairobi or Jo-burg we probably would have been in some if not great danger but not Freetown. Someone from Plan stopped to see if we were okay and went on to tell the logistics crew of our problems.

Well the guy came back with the tire, put it on and had us on our way in minutes. We gave him some money (which we later found out we didn't have to do but come on...he saved our bacon and it was only 20,000 Le which is about $7CAD. Enough to feed his family for a while or buy 80 mangos!) and were on our way before the Plan crew made it to us.
We joke now that we solved our predicament by looking like foreigners and having a little cash. Puts things in perspective a bit.

Tonight is again movie night and we are actually going this time. MI: III. Yay Tom Cruise running! Thursday is Nana's birthday so that should be fun. I'll try to catch a photo of the ellusive man for you all and give you the details of his illustrious life.

I have also gathered some requests for topics from folks but if there is anything you particularly want to hear about from here just add a comment to this blog.'s a lizard to keep you occupied until my next post!

Friday, June 1, 2007

June 1 - Weekend Plans

Well, it's friday again, what a fast week. Craziness. The week was busy but nothing amazing to report. Dinner party and some hockey (like three minutes) on Wednesday. Goodbye dinner for Ellen last night and tonight Atlantic. We shall see.
I am trying to get my butt to a hike on Saturday morning up by the American Embassy but it's early so we shall see. Definitely some working out, chillin and working this weekend.

I 'borrowed' this photo from Conor. I think it's great photography. This is one of the slums in Freetown. I promise to blog more about this place on the weekend.
Everyone enjoy. Happy Birthday to my EVIL brother Chris!