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...

Friday, November 19, 2010

The chairman

So despite all the days fireworks, last night brought some semblance of normalcy. I went to the police station to pick up my pick pocket police report, it however has still not been typed yet. I offered to type it for them!! They may actually be ok with that, lol. So I still have to wait on that one. Then I walked over to Apex (the expat place) with a friend I've made from one of the street stalls. He is an aspiring musician and going to give me his CD. I can't go anywhere without people calling my name now. Whether it is motorcycle taxi drivers or random people on the street. It is not a big city. I am a friendly white guy that talks to everyone. I don't know why, but I keep having the words from a song by Nas pop into my head: "In the streets I'm well known like the numbers man!". It is refreshing, and it makes me feel good.

Anyway, Wusum(Apex) was good. The staff knows me, and we get on well. It is the only place I know with consistent power to charge my phone. I went to charge and write. Then the Hispec guys, Gary and Dave, came in. Gary was at the expat evening that that other post was about, he was congratulating me for standing up to them that night. Thought I was spot on and that the others were rude and ignorant. This made me feel much better about that evening... These two are really good guys.

From there I headed home for a feast with the chairman. No rice and plasas here. Three full grilled fish, homemade french fries, etc. We sat and talked for two hours. This is a man that I truly respect. He went to University in Moscow in the mid to late 80's and then stayed on to work at the Sierra Leoneon embassy there till 1996. He was there through the collapse of the Soviet Union. He is well travelled and extremely well educated. Talking to him about development is a true learning experience for anyone. Not to mention that we have a lot of similar view points. Especially on letting Africa develop in an African way.

He had one good story of an NGO in Kamakwie. 700,000 euro budget, 6 expat staff, four land rovers. They are there to build wells and do agricultural work. But what do they need so many land rovers for? Get rid of two and you've got maybe 10 more wells or more. And what about six salaries for westerners?

Another story of the World Bank looking into city water in Makeni. They spend 2.5 million US dollars on feasibility studies and then to try to run water from 23 miles away. All the villages in between want it as well, pipes are tapped into, whole thing falls through as not feasible. As the chairman says, this is not what people here want, build wells for everyone from the source to Makeni with some of this money and use the rest on schools and such. Not engineers and WB executives.

And he's upset because what the West then concludes is its "corruption". The money went in but nothing came out. But they were bad projects that someone in the West thought people here needed. And the money was not spent in an efficient way. It also was not what people here wanted/needed. Life here is lived differently, they are Africans, not Europeans or Americans.

I like this man. Yeah, there's probably a skeleton or two in his closet like most everyone, but he has some good ideas, and I believe the absolute best of intentions. I just hope that we can now get these projects together and funded. Going back to the US not only with no money to incorporate but now in debt from the flight change does not help. But we will persevere... ;)

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