I’m not going to not admit that the draft of this is saved on my computer as blogitlikeitshot
One day, long ago, I think it was maybe in July of 2011, I had a dream of writing one blog post a month to keep you all updated on life in Sierra Leone. I also had a dream of the blog posts accurately capturing life in Sierra Leone and being interesting to read. Unfortunately, not all dreams are meant to come true, I learned that in a short story by Anne Lamott, not sure it was the message she was going for, I think it was more like what you think your dreams are and what God has planned for you are sometimes different but that’s okay and you should relax about it. Anyway, what I’m getting at is, it was very sassily brought to my attention on Friday that I haven’t updated this thang in a while and I refuse to let Rachel Murray win every competition so I’m getting back in the blog game. (Side note: you should read Rachel’s blog. I personally can’t read it because I don’t want to give her the satisfaction of upping her stats, but I hear good things. Rachelamurray.blogspot.com)
A lot has happened since I last wrote. I can’t remember what I said exactly but I was in Freetown at the time being sad so the first big thing that happened since then was that I went back to site and felt less sad about my situation. Then one week after giving our midterm exams we gave our final exam and all of a sudden I was done with my first year of teaching. We recently had our Mid-Service Conference in Freetown and during one of the sessions we all wrote our biggest success and our biggest challenge from the previous year so I’ll share mine here to sort of sum up the year of teaching so we can move on to talking about the fun things I did during my summer vacation.
Biggest challenge: I cheated and did two. The first one was being a woman in Sierra Leone. I no easy-o. And I’m well educated and independent and have endless opportunities, so I can only imagine how hard it must be for the many wonderful amazing women with few if any opportunities in a culture that undervalues them. The other one was learning to compromise. Obviously I think I’ve learned to compromise before at different points in my life but here it’s different. It’s compromising on things I used to think I shouldn’t. Like that television and solar panel deal that got taken out of the library and put in the principal’s office. I had been looking at the problem as having only one solution, the solar power and TV be used only in the library only for educational purposes. I thought that was the only thing to do since that’s why we were generously given those things but I also know how to read for pleasure and don’t depend on my cell phone for a huge amount of my daily entertainment like most Sierra Leoneans do. So naturally they weren’t too keen on a plan that didn’t allow them to use that solar power for some of the things we all enjoy, like have a charged cell phone to watch music videos on or watching TV. It’s funny because I hate not having electricity just as much as the next Sierra Leonean but I was so focused on what I felt was right I didn’t take that into consideration. I’m going to try to meet in the middle more this year. Like maybe we don’t save all the profits from sport this year to help fund next year’s sport but maybe just half or a quarter or a few thousand leones please papa god. Small victories.
And my success was my students. I don’t know if I’ve gushed about them enough on this blog or bitched about them enough either because some of them are terrible. But this is a success so I will focus on the good ones. I’ve noticed a lot of changes in the students who have taken a liking to me. It is amazing every time I see them starting to understand concepts in class but it’s a million times more amazing when I see them figuring things out for themselves in the library or on the internet, even if the information they’re looking for is about Harry Potter. And when they come to my house with questions about their notes which I know means they must have taken the time to review their notes. One of my mottos in my classroom is I can only teach you, you have to do the learning and I usually throw it out during a rant about how no one appears to have reviewed their notes so it’s always nice when someone comes to me with a specific question based on their notes rather than just saying I don’t understand. I have some really smart and curious students and I feel like giving them the opportunity to practice finding information and taking the initiative to learn on their own might be the greatest things I ever do in my life.
Now on to the fun stuff. After school got out all of the Peace Corps Volunteers in Salone were able to come together to celebrate the wedding of Cody and Ivy. Cody and Ivy are two volunteers from my group who met here, fell in love, and now are married! It was a beautiful wedding and so much fun to see everyone together, especially the first group volunteers who were all getting ready to close their service and head home.
Speaking of heading home… I went to America!!!!! And I realized that Boston has a smell, or at least the airport does. I knew I was home as soon as I got a whiff of it stepping off the plane. It was really wonderful to be home and see friends and family and the Red Sox and to get my hair cut and nails done and feel clean and pretty and, of course, eat monstrous amounts of food. I think most nights I had at least 2 dinners. It was also just really comforting to see that it was all still there, sometimes when I’m here America just seems like this weird dream and I can’t really remember what it’s like and what I’m making up in my hungry delusional mind so seeing it for real was definitely comforting and I think put me in a good mindset for my last year. America is there, waiting, full of food and wonder, but I only have one more year to enjoy the spicy, oily, msg-filled food and wonder of Salone and that’s what I intend to do, enjoy ever spicy bite of wonder.
I got started enjoying pretty much as soon as I got back. After a quick stop in Kabala to see the Troubinator and my neighbors and make sure my house was still standing, I headed down to Bo for Wardens training. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this yet but I’m the deputy warden for our district, which means if there’s an emergency I’m responsible for helping Marc keep us all safe. It’s a pretty big deal. But what was really great about warden’s training was that it coincided with the swearing-in of our new group of volunteers, Salone 3! When you join the Peace Corps you have to spend 1 to 3 months as a trainee, which means spending all day ever day sitting in technical, medical, safety and security, and language classes and being even poorer than a volunteer. It’s not an easy time at all and so when the trainees finally finish and get sworn in as real live volunteers it’s a cause for big celebration. There was a lot of dancing, I wore my new fancy lappa dress, Jesse lost all of his clothes, it was a great night.
Of course the only way to follow-up a swearing-in party is to take 13 and a half hours of transport up to the quaint little town of Kamakwie and go hippo hunting. You might think that camping would be the last thing that I would want to go do considering I poop in a hole 100% of the time here but even as a full time cook over charcoaler I still find the small cabins next to a river with monkeys overhead and a campfire at night appealing. And that basically sums up the trip; we stayed in cabins, went canoeing on a hippo filled river, hung out with monkeys, and played Cranium by the light of our campfire. The only thing missing were s’mores and my camera, which I’d forgotten in Kabala.
So now we are on the eve of my last first day of school as a teacher in Salone (maybe, a lot of people are saying we won’t open til the 17th but I’m gonna stop by in the morning just in case). I’m excited to get back to work with my students since over the summer the only project I kept up were the computer classes. I have some new ideas I want to try out this year and obviously compromising and small victories and being positive and all the things I got from Mid-Service before I burned out and started thinking about my ideal meal instead of listening so hopefully it will be productive and exciting and enjoyable. I will do my best to keep you all posted.
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