|View of Freetown from the office|
It’s been awhile so here's a quick aside about some random things that have happened recently. One day one of the main stories on the radio was about the President going to Germany to receive his annual physical which he apparently missed last year because of Ebola. First of all, I think it’s outrageous that the President goes to a European country to go to the doctors when people here can barely access medical care at all. Also, can you imagine if CNN had a breaking news report every year when the President went for his yearly physical? Anyways, I also saw a dead motorcyclist in the middle of the street. There were huge crowds gathered around the poor guy as we drove by the scene. His body had already been placed in a body bag which is not acceptable because only burial teams are supposed to do that. On a totally unrelated note, I learned one rainy season lesson the hard way...don’t let the cleaning lady wash three of your four pairs of work pants on the same day because they will be wet for the next three days and you’ll have to wear the same pair of pants every day. Thankfully pants never get dirty, right? My former supervisor, Nancy, left on the 14th and Davor is my new supervisor. We went to Country Lodge for dinner on the Friday night before Nancy left and on the way we saw someone washing his clothes in the water that was streaming through the gutter. Meredith took one look at him and said, “Doesn’t he know there’s a river right there?” It was pretty funny, but I guess using rainwater is much safer than getting in a river that’s got all types of parasites in it. I’ve become the sole representative for CRS at the weekly Burial Pillar meetings at the NERC. The meetings have become very interesting lately. We began discussing the possibility of transferring responsibilities for burials to funeral homes. A burial team would still pick up the body, but more traditional funeral practices could begin again. This was done very successfully in Liberia, but Liberia is not Sierra Leone. While Sierra Leone is about 75% Muslim, Liberia is about 85% Christian. Muslims do not use the funeral homes so it is only Christians that would benefit from this new plan. This helped in Liberia because it’s predominantly Christian. Since Sierra Leone is predominantly Muslim, this plan is unlikely to benefit significant numbers of people. Either way, we don’t think we’re quite ready to make the transition to using funeral homes just yet. Personally, I think it’s unlikely to happen at all.
|"Nor Pis Ya Dortyman" sign near the office|
Last week I went up to Makeni for a few days. Davor and I went up together and we stopped in Port Loko for a little while on the way up. The Command Center in Port Loko is a completely different place than it was just a few weeks ago. With Operation Northern Push heating up, there are a lot more British military personnel (they had left a while ago, but they’re back now) and there are tents sent up everywhere. There’s a lot more going on and hopefully the effort will help bring the case numbers down. When we finally arrived at the hotel in Makeni, Davor and I walked in and Elijah, one of my favorite Mena Hills staff members, said hi and then asked, “Do you still want this room?” He was pointing to Room 6 and Davor said, “Yeah, yeah that’s fine.” What Davor didn’t realize is that Room 6 is my room. It’s my favorite room and the staff members know that so when I come they make sure to reserve that room for me. Anyway, when Davor replied, Elijah just laughed and said, “No, No. I’m talking to her.” It’s the little things. Unfortunately, things haven’t been going very well at Mena Hills. John B., one of our favorite employees, was fired because “he was messing with the money.” Now some people may think that he deserved to be fired, but there’s always two sides to the story. At most, John B. took a couple of Cokes and a little money. Everyone here does stuff like that. Just because everyone does it, doesn’t make it okay, but there are other things to consider. John B. is an orphan. He has been raised by the pastor who owns Mena Hills since he was a very small boy. I’m sure the pastor knows that everyone takes some (“small small”) money here and there. John B. just happened to be the one who got caught. The pastor wasn’t making much of a profit so he started looking into things and this is when John B. got caught. The pastor told some of our staff that he “wanted to make some money during Ebola” so he needed to make an example out of John B. That doesn’t seem like the way the pastor should be treating a boy he raised as his own and it was very disheartening for us to hear that his main motivating factor was money. Being the awesome people that they are, our staff members who stay at Mena Hills have tried to help John B. out by giving him some money here and there and there was even talk of hiring him as a messenger for CRS. I’m not sure if that happened, but I hope it does or that the pastor reconsiders and rehires John B. because he’s really a standup guy. I also finally got to go with John (our staff member, not John B.) on his nightly walk. Every single night he walks around Makeni for about an hour. As we were walking, everybody was waving to him and inviting him to come dance or have palm wine with them. That’s the type of thing that makes being in the field way better than being in Freetown. John returned to Sri Lanka permanently this week and I was extremely sad to see him go. When I first arrived, Annisha always told me that John reminded her of her dad and I can see why she’d think of him as a father figure. He was always looking out for us. The first time I went to the field, he was the one making sure that I stayed far away from the burial team members and gravediggers, asking the staff to get me a mosquito net when my room didn’t have one and ordering food for me when I didn’t know what to ask for from the staff at Mena Hills. I think John is the type of person every CRS employee, or every person in general for that matter, should strive to emulate. I look forward to seeing him again when I travel to Sri Lanka someday.
|View over Freetown from Hill Station on our way to Makeni #lookingood #rainyseason|
|UNICEF tent set up outside the Port Loko CCC for Operation Northern Push|