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 12, 2010


So yeah, it's amazing at how quickly things can turn. How just a few hours can be so completely educational and change the context and perception of things so quickly. The last two days have done that. I find myself right now asking the question: in a place where - to their credit - people can find happiness and contentment in any situation, is it really worth working to help them redefine their happiness? And ESPECIALLY if you're making sacrifices that they seem unwilling to make? Unmotivated to make? Or if you seem to be working harder for them than they are for themselves?

I so truly admire people here for their culture, they live a lifestyle I could only dream of living. The ease with which they go through their days, their perseverance in the face of conditions that we in the West have no concept of or interest in learning. They are good people with broad smiles and a friendliness that I have never seen. Why is it that I want to change that? What is it that I want to develop within them? I come here, I try to get them to work a certain way, I try to set things up in a way that may be more efficient to us, but that they are not comfortable with. Yes, it makes sense to me/us, but at what cost, and why? They want education, but - and forgive me for saying this - but is it just that they want education so that (in addition to feeding an unquenchable thirst for knowledge) they can get paid more for doing little? I guess I shouldn't apologize for saying that, because I admire a culture that truly appreciates a simpler life. We work so hard in the West, in fact putting it before living. They want nice things, and material items, but society goes deeper than that, it seems to value status more than these "things".

To come here as a business man is difficult. To come here as an aid worker I think must be easier on the head. I want to find a way to make people happier, but what if they already are? Building that track is really the one thing here that is deeply in my heart. Education is important, and I want to work on it and jobs, but only if people want it. The day that those 15 kids came to my house here and said hello, expressing their gratitude for my interest in building a track, was a day I'll never forget. So much hope mixed with so much humility. They just want to run, they want to enjoy it. I picture myself in the Garrison Union Free School gym in second grade, I couldn't read, but I could run around more cones than anyone. All the kids in my 1st and 2nd grade class could read. But not me. I could have shrunk into a corner, but I was the fastest kid in class. I gained my self worth from my ability as an athlete. It can never be substituted, not by a good grade, not even if I ever get a PhD. I learned to read on Spiderman comic books, and I learned the value of self through my legs. These kids, what else do they have?

When I first got here I was on a mission, asking everyone what they and people here wanted as they saw it. Jobs, and education. This is what they need as we see it. But the only reason they need those things is so that they can become more like us, and less like themselves. This desire is something that we have exported to them and which they would never know to even want, if we hadn't made them think it was all there was to live for. I wish I could live a simpler life like their's. One without having to know about computers, TV remotes, cars, and planes. One where I didn't have to spend decades in school just to hope to be competitive in a job search. There is no rat race here. The culture is completely different. No one will step all over everyone to get things. They will do what they need to to survive, they will do as little as they need to to have a higher status, they will thirst for knowledge and learning like nowhere else. It is so complicated and of no logical sense to our way of thinking. It could never possibly be summed up here. But it is a way of life that I COMPLETELY envy and would love to have, but one that given the life that I come from, I have no hope of ever having and can't ever really even hope to assimilate into...

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