Friday, April 24, 2015

I'm Too Tired to Think of a Clever Title

     I’ve been going back and forth to the field so much I can barely keep track of what day it is. I’m in Port Loko right now waiting for a car to arrive to take me back to Freetown which is where I’ll be for the long weekend. Last Monday the water in our apartment stopped working. We still don’t have running water a week and a half later. Apparently there was an issue with a pipe in Freetown because most places are being affected. I cooked pasta without boiling it in water. That was an adventure. It wasn’t half bad though. At one point, we actually stole water from the pool so we’d be able to flush our toilet. It hasn’t been very enjoyable and I was so grateful to take a hot shower this morning with running water at the guesthouse in Makeni. Hopefully the water will be back on by the time I’m in Freetown tonight, but I don’t have high hopes. I’ve almost resigned myself to not having water for the rest of the time I’m here.
     Anyway, last week when I was in the field, I learned from Jethro that the workers at Mena Hills (the guest house that we stay at Makeni) are mostly orphans. They work at the guest house and the pastor who owns it pays their school fees for them. I guess I should mention that schools are open again! It’s fantastic! It’s been a lot of fun to watch the little kids run to school in the morning or see them playing outside during their lunch. Everyone looks pretty sharp in their uniforms which really makes me miss how easy life was when I didn’t have options about what I would wear on a daily basis. In an effort to make up for almost an entire year of missed school, the school day has been extended and school will run throughout the entire summer, including on Saturdays. The goal is to get all kids in school, including ones who hadn’t been going to school before Ebola started. Since Sierra Leone is not Ebola-free just yet, precautions such as smaller classes (down from about 50 kids per class to 30 kids per class) and regular temperature checks, are still being taken.
     Another fun aspect of my trip last week was that I was alone. It was the first time I’ve traveled completely alone and it was great! So that I don’t sound completely antisocial, I should tell you that it was mainly great because I was alone in the car with the driver which meant that I got to pick the music and I just played my own music (MercyMe and Sidewalk Prophets, anyone?) so it was awesome. The rest of the time it was pretty boring. Except for the moment when I turned on my TV at the guest house and caught the last few minutes of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. That was great. On my way back from Kabala to Makeni, Emmanuel was my driver. He is probably about the same age as me and we started talking for a bit. At one point he asked me, “What about your parents?” and I just kind of stared at him and asked “What about them?” I figured he was probably going to ask me what they do or something like that. Instead he asked me, “Are they still alive?” I was a little taken aback because that’s not normally something you ask a 25-year-old. If I was 55 it would be a bit different. I almost responded with something along the lines of, “Well, duh. Of course.” Thankfully before I opened my big mouth, I realized that he was probably asking me that because his parents aren't alive. Maybe he was orphaned during the civil war. Maybe one, or both, of his parents died from Ebola. I don’t know. I didn’t think it was a good idea to ask. After I got out of the car, Emmanuel gave me a mango which probably means something, but I was too awkward to refuse even though I don’t like mangoes. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that happened with Kabala national staff members. The next day, someone from the Kabala office emailed to tell me that he admired me very much in his heart and couldn’t stop thinking about me. I’ve literally spent approximately 3 hours with this guy. Because I’m basically a child trapped in an adult’s body and don't know how to handle awkward situations (which is probably why I relate so well to Dr. Sheldon Cooper), I’ve ignored him (which is easy since we live several hours from each other) ever since I got his email. Sasha got the biggest kick out of it, but I was super uncomfortable. Apparently it happens all the time though. I can understand when people randomly propose to you on the street (as happened to Amy just the other day), but I think staff should be held to a higher standard. Apparently nobody else feels the same way. Looking back, I probably overreacted just a little bit and it does seem kind of funny now.
     Last weekend I pretty much stayed in my apartment for the entire weekend. I watched a bunch of documentaries on Netflix and sat around feeling gross because we have no running water. This week was pretty uneventful. I was in the field Wednesday and Thursday. I transported over $15,000 worth of checks to Makeni. My fingertips have started to feel like they are on fire and I think it’s because of the number of times I’ve had to wash my hands in chlorine/bleach water over the last few months. This weekend is another long weekend because Sierra Leonean Independence Day is on Monday. So on Monday I’ll be hiking Sugarloaf Mountain in the morning and then giving a Skype lecture to some La Salle students about my work here and about my time in Kenya. I’m really excited about it!
P.S. I wrote this yesterday and I didn't check the shower last night, but the water was back on when I went to take a shower this morning! Yay!

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