What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Office is Finished!!

It took several years - interrupted by malaria, Ebola, a PhD, rising material costs, and a family being started - but we've finished it. So now we can start the real work! 

The next year will mostly be planning, administration, and getting funding and materials. So we've leased it to another organization for the next year, to help us cover our costs while before start implementing our projects. But by next October we will have computers and space for the community, and be able to offer computer training, public internet access, and meeting space. We will also have office space to run our other projects from here as well. We of course have a lot of work to do to get the funding and materials, but it is an exciting moment for us... A long journey to get here, but one that is only just beginning!  

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


There is a fairly dominant part of Czech life that is not really talked about, especially officially: the making of homemade plum brandy, a cornerstone of Czech society. Seemingly everyone I know is either making it themselves, taking their own plumbs to a local distiller, or has access to it through friends and/or family.

For me, in my time in and out of the country it has been a highly sought after commodity as the quality of "domaci" (homemade) slivovice is night and day from that produced by big distillers. Last year, my first at my house in Czechia, I did not have enough plums to do anything other than give a few to my neighbor to add to his batch. Instead, I had plenty of apples, so my neighbor and I made Calvados - which was amazing! Yet, for all its glory, it still pales in comparison to its plum counterpart.

This year I've been vigilant in finding and collecting plums. I went with my friend to Moravia (the wine and slivovice region of Czechia) to make "povidla" - a dense jam like preserve from plums - and came back with an extra bin of plums. Then I went to an old abandoned house, were over the last two years I've watched the plums rot on the tree, and filled two buckets of plums. Another neighbor, who is not around, told me I could use his plums to mix into mine and those from the abandoned house. I also found a "mirabelky" tree on the side of the road and picked them. All told, right now I am fermenting 500 Liters of plums, which should yield 25 liters of slivovice. Some of which I will age.

The process is simple enough. You pick the plums in a couple stages as they ripen over time. So one weekend you pick what you can, and then climb up into the tree and shake the branches. What drops you start fermenting, picking out any moldy ones as you go. The next weekend you come back for what is left on the tree and pick/shake again. It is not easy work. Try climbing into a tree and balancing, pulling, holding, and vigorously shaking each branch until things are falling. Then it is picking them all up off the ground, sorting out the "moldy" ones and taking the stems off. Imagine climbing, shaking, and then picking up hundreds of plums. Exhausting... but still enjoyable!

You then put them all in big barrels with sealed tops. I would like to use wooden barrels, but they are absurdly expensive, so I'm using the standard local plastic ones used by most people here. And its really simple, you just pour in all the plumbs, and let the fermentation process start. My neighbor blends them up into a thick liquid, but without the tools I'm just letting them ferment as they are. The mirabelky started to break down immediately and are seemingly practically fermenting before they hit the ground. The first couple days I checked the barrels to see if anything started to mold and picked a couple out.

And that is where I am right now, just waiting for nature to take its course. It should be about a month, and then it can be distilled. But I'll cover that once I get there... 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Klinika to be Evicted

Yesterday, not two weeks after a vicious attack by neo-Nazi's, the Autonomous Social Center Klinika in Prague was attacked once again. However, this time it was not by Molotov cocktail wielding fascists, but by the state and its political machine. Klinika was sent a letter from the principle facilitator of its contract, the state Office for Government Representation in Property Affairs (UZSVM), declaring that it will not renew its agreement and allow Klinika to continue to use the space.  UZSVM cited zoning regulations (that remain the same as they were when the the original agreement was signed), that the autonomous social center is not using the building for its designated purpose as a health care facility. Their press release, in cold and callous fashion, also included a letter from the conservative mayor of the district were Klinika is located (Prague 3) that accused the people at Klinka of being extremists. UZSVM has obviously bowed to political pressure from open campaigns to discredit and evict Klinika by mayor's office and the state housing office.

The letter, claims that the legal designation of the space does not allow Klinika to offer the educational and social services that it provides free of charge to the public. This direct jump towards not renewing Klinika's contract at best circumvents, if not ignores, a process within which any occupant (Klinika) with the owners permission or the owner of the build itself (UZSVM) could change this designation through reallocating the space within an elongated application process that could take up to two months.  However, rather than offering Klinika this option they have chosen to wait until less than two weeks from the contracts expiration (March 2nd) to inform The social center that it they have “mysteriously” found zoning documentation saying we are not fulfilling the buildings stated purpose, and that we will have to leave the premises at the end of the contract. 

This letter was also accompanied by one from the mayor of Prague three saying that she does not want her district to be a “war zone” between left and right wing “extremists.”  But is it extremist to be attacked by extremists?  Klinika is a peaceful collective of individuals dedicated to volunteering their time to provide a safe space for people of all races, colors, creeds, genders, etc, and which provides non-commoditized services for the local community. Kinika offers free language courses, meditation classes, a free shop for re-purposed and recycled goods, a bar, cafe, space for meetings, internet radio, and concerts among others endeavors. In short, Klinika has dedicated itself to caring for not only the local community, but all people – regardless of race, color, sexuality, national origin, ability, etc. Perhaps this is abnormal universal caring is what the mayor considers as “extreme?”  If  this is caring for everyone equally is an extreme social and political position, then Klinika are proudly extremists.  But not violent extremists, and not in a war with the masked group that attacked Klinka two weeks ago. Yes, Klinika is politically active, it has created a political space were politics are practiced every day, and it organizes around the egalitarian issues its patrons are passionate about. But the Czech Republic  is now a free country, were political expression is legal – whether mainstream or in the minority.  It is an absolute shame that a peaceful group of people, volunteering their time to provide free services to the community, get attacked by a radical extremist group for their politics of caring, and then KLINIKA itself is vilified, becoming political tools to promote narrow political agendas.  Should the synagogue be vilified when it is attacked? Or the victim of sexual assault be blamed for being raped?  No, of course not.  Nor should Klinika be shamed – or evicted – for being the victum of a senseless and universally condemned attack.  This cold and callous response by UZSVM, the housing office, and Prague 3 does not feel like the response of state institutions in a democracy, nor that Czech society enshrines the right to free speech, free assembly, and free political expression as any true democracy should. 

In short, if caring about people is extreme, then yes Klinika is extreme. And if this “eviction” is not for political purposes, then why is Klinika not being offered the time and ability to change the buildings legal designation? Klinika is not violent, they are not at war, they only wish to provide a safe space for people in need and those that can benefit from their services.

In leau of this brazen act of political theater, Klinika asks all of its international comrades and sympathizers to stand in solidarity with us. To comment at your local embassies or consulates. To let them know that this is not what democracy looks like. Democracy is free language lessons, free political speech, and the right to offer a non-commoditized space to a general public increasingly in need of services states no longer provide and private companies charge too much for.  Please, stand in solidarity with us. Make your voice heard so that Klinika can continue to breath life into its surrounding community.    

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Klinika Attacked by Neo-Nazis

Following a day of protests in Prague both for an against migration in Europe, the autonomous social center Klinika came under attack last night. During the days demonstrations, a legal permitted march against “fortress Europe” organized in cooperation with Klinika's collective came under attack more than twenty fascists and neo-nazis. They came from behind the march as it turned a corner attempting to cut it in half. As the peacefully protestors in the march turned to protect themselves from the fascists, an overwhelmed group of police offers intervened to stand between the two groups. The neo-nazis began throwing whatever they could find at the marchers; eventually rocks, sticks, and small explosive devices. The marches defended themselves by returning the projectiles and eventually the much larger numbers of the march intimidated the attackers into retreat as they turned and ran away.

This group had been antagonizing people throughout Prague earlier in the day. I personally saw the same group earlier that day on public transport as I went to the rally. They were very aggressive with riders, including accosting one young women – trying to get her to come with them. She quickly left the train, visibly shaken, upon which one of them – previously speaking Czech – claimed she was a good “Deutsches Mensch.” I got off at the same stop as them and while we went different ways, me towards the beginning of our march, they went in a direction that would put them exactly where they attacked the march from.

Upon completion of the march – which included continuous antagonism from nationalist elements, and a few more radical characters – people made their way back to Klinika at differing speeds. When I arrived, there was a small group of people there that had just learned that the Nazis were coming to attack Klinika. We prepared as best we could but quickly came under attack. We pepper sprayed them which kept them outside long enough for us to lock and barricade the door. At this point they started throwing rocks at the windows, shattering the old medical clinics windows with ease. As we attempted to barricade the windows, glass and debris flew everywhere. One member of the Klinika collective was hit, opening a gash on his forehead. The rocks were followed by a lit flare sending sparks and fire all over, but it got caught in the shards of the multi-paned glass still jaggedly protruding from the window. We quickly put this out as the rocks stopped flying.

At this point, things calmed down for a few seconds and we were all able to check on others throughout the building. However, the calm quickly ended as one collective member yelled fire! Several of us ran into the hallway where the smoke was coming from and found thick smoke throughout the entire atrium the entire downstairs cafe area was full of smoke with flames leaping from the window at the entrance. They had apparently broken the windows there in the same fashion as upstairs and thrown another incendiary devise in which lit the drapes on fire. We were still able to put it out without much permanent damage to anything but the windows and furniture.

This attack though, was a brazen and coordinated attack on an autonomous social and community center in the heart of Prague that offers a free non-commoditized space for people of all ages and persuasions to take free language lessons, have a quite beer, take their kids to nursery school, attend free lectures, and even attend meditation classes. However, the center has also been a hub for aid and relief for migrants, and therefore a target within the migrant crisis gripping all of Europe. The center acted as a staging area for relief goods going east and south for newly arriving refugees from the war torn areas of the middle east and central Asia. Given the days protest event against migration in Europe, the escalating anti-muslim rhetoric and political climate it foments, it could easily be said to be the rationale for the attack – if there ever could be a rationale for such an irrational act of violence; or better put, terrorism. For that is what this was, definitionally, an act of terrorism. This group of fascists attacked an innocent group of people providing a safe space for the community and aid for those in need.

Whether you agree with Klinika's politics or not, with migration or not, there is – and can be no – justification for the same type of terrorist attack that these fascists and their nationalist brethren portend to be against. If you hate Muslim people because .000001% are engaged in radical politics and use violence in an attempt to get their way, then how is anyone to condone the same thing within our own midst? Again, whether you agree with Klinika's politics or not, if this is a democracy and everyone is entitled to their political beliefs, then you have to respect Klinika's political efforts and condemn this brazen act of violence against peaceful protestors and an autonomous community center simply trying to help people. It is in peace that Klinika exists, and here now – as 400 plus people come to show solidarity – that Klinika survives and excels in defiance of violence and terrorism.       

Monday, November 9, 2015

No more Ebola in Sierra Leone!?

Statement by His Excellency the President
Dr Ernest Bai Koroma
To Mark the End of the Ebola Outbreak
Bintumani Conference Hall
November 7, 2015

My fellow Sierra Leoneans
Today, Sierra Leone marks the end of the Ebola outbreak. We give thanks to Almighty God, and I stand here humbled by the dedication of Ebola Response Workers, whose heroism is without parallel in the history of our country. As I traversed the length and breadth of our country during the outbreak, their heroism greatly inspired me; seeing their bravery first hand in treatment centres all over the country reinvigorated me; and I vowed again and again to do all in my life to end this scourge. Because of them, I stand here today as your Head of State to say that we prevailed over an evil virus, that we persevered, and that we have overcome.
The disease challenged the very foundations of our humanity. We had to change the way we grew up caring for sick relatives; the way we mourned loved ones; the way we showed affection when greeting each other. And we complied with necessary but difficult restrictions on movement and traditional practices.
Sierra Leone did not know about this disease; the world at large was astounded by the ferocity of the virus in our sub-region. Everybody was learning new facts about Ebola, and some of the advice we received from the experts at the earlier stages of the outbreak proved less effective in fighting the virus. By the time the experts mastered the tools to attack the evil virus in our region, too many lives had been lost, too many wrong turns made; too many actions taken that intensified the isolation of our country and halted the great strides we were taking to improve the economic and social life of our people.
Every district and most chiefdoms have had first hand experience of this terrible disease. A total of 8,704 Sierra Leoneans were infected during the outbreak and we lost 3,589 of our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers and our sons and daughters. We lost 221 healthcare workers including 11 doctors. I pause to remember all those who lost their lives and I pay special tribute to our healthcare workers and other Ebola Response Workers who made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives as they tried to save the lives of others. May their souls rest in perfect peace.
Their deaths were very low moments for us, but we kept on fighting. We still kept coming forward to join the fight as healthcare workers, as hygienists, burial team members, lab technicians, swabbers, surveillance officers, social mobilisers, ambulance and non-ambulance drivers and motorbike riders. In total over 35,000 Sierra Leoneans were formally registered as Ebola Response Workers and there were many more who volunteered to serve in the fight without recognition or acclaim. We salute these volunteers who served in various capacities within our surveillance system, manning checkpoints, and telephone hotlines, digging graves, and counselling the sick and bereaved.  
We also owe our victory over Ebola to the extraordinary actions of the international community. We remain grateful for their solidarity, their heroism, and the bravery of the thousands of international Ebola Response Workers who answered to our call for action against the greatest enemy our country has ever seen.
We are victorious because of the truly amazing role played by communities all over the country. From Kailahun where the outbreak started to Bombali where the outbreak ended, communities achieved extraordinary feats in the face of great adversity.
All of these efforts made us get better at fighting the disease. With these efforts, the world has come to know better about the Ebola Virus Disease, with these efforts, the International health community, the World Health Organization and other global health partners now know how to scramble emergency responses to global health pandemics. With these efforts we built a strong response system; and our countries are now prepared to deal with these problems at the onset of early warning signs.
We have also been able to make considerable progress in treating the disease. Earlier on the accepted dictum was hopelessness, we were told that you had a 90% chance of dying as there was no known cure. Now we average a 70% chance of survival just by providing the mechanisms for early detection and management of prospective cases.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, we declared a State of Emergency because the very existence of the country was at stake. Today, I have commenced discussions with the leadership of Parliament to end the State of Emergency.
But we should never lower our guard.
I fully endorse the WHO recommendation for enhanced surveillance to continue in Sierra Leone for the next 90 days. The Ebola outbreak has ended in Sierra Leone but we must remain vigilant and we must remain alert.
The history of Ebola in other countries has taught us that we must be prepared for a re-emergence of the disease in the future. My Government is therefore committed to maintaining an enduring response capability even after the Ebola outbreak is over. We will retain adequate laboratory testing capacity and an appropriate number of isolation beds and treatment beds; we are confident that we now have the systems in place to ensure that we can respond rapidly and effectively in the event of a re-emergence.  
We must continue to sustain the new habits of hygiene, sanitation, and vigilance. To fully secure our victory, we must continue with the newer and better ways of caring for the sick, the healthier ways of handling the dead, and the progressive habits of hygiene, sanitation and vigilance that helped us defeat the virus.
We must continue to abide by the Chiefdom by-laws
We must continue to call 117 to report the sick 
We must continue to call 117 to report every death 
We will continue to swab all dead bodies to enable us to remain certain that Ebola has not returned and is undetected. 

Safe and Dignified Burials will now only be implemented when there is a suspicion of Ebola.
During the outbreak, our traditional healers supported the response and agreed to a moratorium on their practices. My Government is committed to working with traditional healers to introduce safer practices in the conduct of their work.
Before the outbreak, our nation was on the verge of its greatest economic breakthrough. We were in the middle of the biggest infrastructural development in the country and we were constructing roads everywhere. We were being hailed for sustaining our peace, strengthening our reforms, promoting diversity of voices in our media, and bringing more youths and women into decision making positions.
The Ebola outbreak halted actions on many of these areas. It is a testament to the resilience of all of us that whilst the outbreak reversed our economic prospects, dented job creation, and slowed the pace of road construction and other infrastructural development, we sustained our peace, subjected our actions to the judgement of the courts, and got competent bodies to scrutinize the management of resources. Democrats should not be afraid to subject themselves to the scrutiny of the courts, the Auditor General, and Parliament. And citizens of our country must bring forth their opinions with firm regards for truth, civility, the right of others, and concerns for the peace and security of Sierra Leone. We salute all those civil society activists, all those journalists, all those Paramount Chiefs and traditional and cultural heads, religious heads, musicians, political parties, lawyers, youths, women, councillors, and MPs who acted to sustain our democracy during the outbreak, and whose actions strengthen our response and helped defeat the virus.
I salute our security forces; we are ever grateful to our soldiers and police officers for their services as health workers, engineers, surveillance officers, guards in quarantine homes, borders and checkpoints, and all other enforcers of law and order during this most difficult period in our nation’s history. I applaud the business community, construction workers, the teachers, the market women, the bankers and public servants who braved the hazards of the outbreak to sustain our lives and secure many of our achievements. I acknowledge with gratitude the dedication and commitment of the Ministry of Health and the NERC to ending the outbreak. We are grateful to the Sierra Leone Diaspora, who acted for mother Sierra Leone by providing resources to families and communities, and expertise to the national fight.
The fight was long and the road was challenging. And many a time, in the frustrations of loss, tragedy, and the seeming intractability of the disease, falsehoods and untruths were uttered, communities and groups wrongly accused and people’s character unjustly tarnished. A new beginning requires leaving behind those weaker aspects of our words and actions; a new beginning requires forgiveness of those moments of despair. This is why I have requested the Attorney General to, within that which is allowed by law, discontinue action or end punitive measures against those who had acted contrary to the regulations set forth in the State of Emergency.
But the new beginning also warrants us to hold unto the better practices, the just scrutiny of actions, more civil discussions of events in the media, and putting this country back on the road to economic development that pays greater attention to the details of health, hygiene and sanitation at the personal, the school, the community and national levels. The new beginning warrants that traditional practices that have a negative impact on health, and which were discontinued during the outbreak, should not be returned to
Our Post Ebola Recovery Programme is inspired by this warrant for a new beginning.  We defeated Ebola because we paid great attention to details. We prevailed over the evil virus because we increased our professionalism in handling the sick, and in burying the dead and protecting ourselves against hazards. I witnessed this first hand in many of the more successful treatment centres I visited. No one is above the regulations put in place in those centres; no one should be above the protocols put in place to promote the sacred interests of this country. We will continue to empower the Audit Service to probe into the management of resources, we will continue to call on Parliament to hold all to account, we will continue to respect civil discourses in our media. These are our pledges for the new beginning; I am personally overseeing the Post Ebola Recovery Programme as Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Transition and Recovery. As I did during the fight against Ebola, holding briefings everyday and traversing the length and breadth of our country, I will pay close attention to the details of the recovery.

We have already started the implementation of the programme priorities for health, education, social protection, energy, water and economic recovery. Over the past four months, we have:

Supported more than 30,000 vulnerable households with cash transfers
Paid school fees for more than 1.1 Million children returning to school
Supported farming households with seed and fertilizer distribution
Provided support packages to survivors, orphans, widows and Ebola-affected individuals

As we look ahead, we are driving forward with plans to:

Double citizens’ access to water,
Double the citizens’ access to electricity,
Drastically reduce maternal and child mortality,
Create sustainable jobs and foster local SME growth, and
Reduce overcrowded classrooms in our schools.

In addition, we remain committed to on-going work to support survivors. This includes a comprehensive package of support for Ebola survivors, including free healthcare and psychosocial support. Our 4,051 EVD survivors are our heroes. They have shown great courage in overcoming the disease, and a great many of them have shown heroism in contributing to the Ebola response. There must therefore be no place for stigmatisation or isolation of our survivors. It is the duty of all Sierra Leoneans to ensure that these heroes are reintegrated into our communities.
We have taken steps to cushion the economic impact of the outbreak on our people. We have increased salaries by 15%, supported 23,000 vulnerable families with cash transfers, and we provided grants to local councils and gave them the flexibility to utilise the funds in fighting Ebola in their communities. To increase employment prospects for our youths, and stimulate the economy, we resumed suspended infrastructure projects, and restarted the reconstruction of major streets in Freetown. We have also been able to mobilize financial resources to meet some of the shortfalls in government revenues occasioned by decline in economic activities during the outbreak. We are also working with investors to resume iron ore mining and other operations within the next few months.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, we must give thanks to God almighty for our victory over Ebola, we must ask for God’s blessings on those who lost their lives during the outbreak, and we must recognize the immense sacrifice and heroism of our Ebola Response workers. With the approval of our religious leaders, I hereby declare Saturday November 21, 2015 as our national thanks giving day; and by the powers conferred on me as President I also declare Friday December 18 as a day of recognition of Ebola Response workers. Whilst we will be giving National Awards to Ebola Response workers on that day, our greatest actions will be to sustain the success of their heroism by committing ourselves to a new beginning for our country 

This new beginning calls for greater attention to the details of our habits - from our attitudes towards our own bodies to our increased attention for family, community and national safety and security. The new beginning calls for sustaining the collaborations across families, communities, chiefdoms, districts and regions that got us to defeat Ebola; the new beginning warrants greater attention to the needs of the vulnerable amongst us - the Ebola Survivor, the orphan, and the widow. But more than ever before, the new beginning calls for greater watchfulness and resilience in the face of the great threats facing our world – climate change, evil viruses, intolerant fanatics and newer forms of crime.  Great opportunities beckon. We must utilize the watchfulness and resilience we have acquired in fighting Ebola to grab the great opportunities that are available to a determined nation. We are a people of great determination; we are a country dedicated to Unity, Justice and Freedom. May our vigilance bring forth the fruits of these great ideals; and may the lessons we have learned during this outbreak guide our dedication to making our country better than ever before.

God Bless Sierra Leone

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

No more Ebola in Nigeria

Nigeria has been declared officially free of Ebola after six weeks with no new cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

Africa's most populous country won praise for its swift response after an infected Liberian diplomat brought the disease there in July.

The WHO officially declared Senegal Ebola-free on Friday.