Merry Christmas, Happy Harmattan

December 31, 2012 at 2:32 am Leave a comment

Every year, on the first weekend of December, something magical happens in Kabala (and no, I’m not talking about the agricultural show because that did not happen this year >:[ ). You go to sleep your usual warm temperature and then you wake up in the middle of the night freezing and you have to find socks and pants and multiple lappas to cocoon yourself in. Both times that I have experienced it Harmattan has shown up all of the sudden like that and both times it has been so welcome.

Lets let Wikipedia explain some of the magic:

So for the next 2 months or so I will be cold. It’s a beautiful change of pace from sweating. You can walk around outside in the sun at anytime of day without worrying about becoming severely dehydrated, you get to huddle by the fire in the morning with your neighbors, you get to go to school with a cup of tea and have every single person say “I want some tea, give me your tea” and think it’s the wittiest comment ever, and you get to experiment with cold weather African fashion. It’s the only time of year I ever wear pants and everyone thinks I’m bluffing.

Harmattan isn’t all bliss though. I never realized before just how cold 55 degrees Fahrenheit is but when you have no way of heating your house that’s a very cold temperature to try to sleep in. That cocoon I mentioned earlier slowly grows as the temperature drops more and more. During the coldest days of Harmattan last year I was wearing two pairs of sock and two pairs of pants to bed with a sweatshirt and my windbreaker jacket and two lappas on top. And Troublesome usually ends up sleeping on top of me trying to stay warm too.

Other than being cold things are going pretty well in Sierra Leone. The election ended peacefully (at least for the most part) and without a run off (tell papa god tenki). A lot of people in America have been asking me if I thought the election was free and fair (they don’t really use those words but I think that’s what they’re getting at) and I have to say that from my point of view I was impressed. A lot of other volunteers who I’ve talked to have had very different opinions but from the bio-metric registration to the sensitization campaigns to the disqualifying of polling stations with too many votes cast and inappropriately handled ballot boxes, I think Salone did admirably in making this election as official as possible. I wish it had been a little less disruptive, not only did my school not function for almost 3 weeks but many or our teachers missed a lot of school to work for the National Electoral Commission, but I’m glad everything went smoothly. Here’s The Economist’s take:

On the school front, I did manage to cover some material in between the end of the election and the end of first term and my SS1 (think high school freshman) finally arrived! SS1 was my favorite last year because they’re the youngest so they’re not jaded and mean like SS2 and SS3. I finally got electricity connected to the computer lab from the NGO next door so hopefully we can start doing bigger computer classes next term. The library has been hoppin’ lately. I was a judge for our student government’s debate competition. I did an entire lesson on American Christmas complete with Justin Bieber’s Christmas album playing in the background. Lots of things.

And socially, I taught Effie how to play peek-a-boo and she loves it! Alhaji and his mom came to visit. There was a football game in my honor. I had a big feast with all of my neighbors for which I cooked both African and American food and everyone didn’t like any of the American food except Maxwell was all about the mashed potatoes so I’m putting that on my Volunteer Report Form as successfully sharing American culture. Again, lots of things.

Iwrote most of this blog while home in America for Christmas and if I’m being honest, it was kind of a traumatic experience. It was really fun seeing friends and family but it turns out it’s really hard to go back and forth between Salone and America. When I’m in Salone it’s hard to believe that America is a real place and not just a beautiful dream and it’s the same when I’m in America, it feels like Salone and my life couldn’t possibly be real. I think when I came home over the summer I could just think of America as a theme park or some other wonderful but not real place that I was just visiting for two weeks, but this time I was thinking a lot about life post-peace corps (since that’s only 6 months away now) and it was stressing me out. Imagine how you would feel if you knew soon you’d be moving to Disney World. No but seriously, America is amazing and exciting because of all these opportunities, different jobs and different places to live, success as a realistic outcome, etc. but after two years of not worrying about having a job you like (your just glad when you’re not the only person who shows up at the office) and knowing that success is the most unlikely outcome, it’s a little intimidating thinking about going back to a world where I’m going to care about things again. The good news is? with so little internet I probably won’t be able to worry about any of this again until I’m actually back in America, so for now I’ll focus on the beach, and climbing that big hill in Kabala for New Years, and maybe (but probably not) accomplishing some things in my last two terms of teaching.

Thank you to everyone who hosted me or ate with me or drank with me or helped me take out my corn rows while I was home, especially thanks to @VickyChao for doing all of those things with me and especially thanks to my parents who were the ones that flew me home and paid for most of my eating. I hope everyone had happy holidays and I hope 2013 starts out good but saves the best for once I’m back in America with all of you!


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The Importance of Being Ernest

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About Me

Peace Corps Sierra Leone June 1, 2011- August 2013. Making the world a more peaceful place one science class at a time.



The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps.


Elizabeth Purvis
c/o Peace Corps
P.O. 905
Sierra Leone

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