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...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Reading Questions

The Fog of MemoirThe feud over the truthfulness of Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone.

Ishmael Beah. Click image to expand.On Jan. 19, the Australian, Rupert Murdoch's Aussie broadsheet, published a 4,600-word investigation challenging the credibility of the child-soldier memoir A Long Way Gone. Author Ishmael Beah's heart-wrenching account of Sierra Leone's civil war and the two years he spent as a cocaine-addicted teenage killer achieved instant literary acclaim after its publication last winter and was selected as the inaugural title in Starbucks' reading club. Into its 35th printing, A Long Way Gonehas sold more than 600,000 copies worldwide. Beah, 27, now travels the world as a UNICEF ambassador raising awareness for the plight of child soldiers.

To Read the whole article:

This raises some interesting points, but really, with all the horrors and blood that has spilt in Africa and Sierra Leone is this the best discussion we can have? No matter the truth of Ishmael's story or not - which I as well wondered how he could remember it all so clearly - the fact of the matter is that his story is real somewhere and to someone. What he describes in his book has happened, and we need to be doing something about that, not about if one story has 100% accuracy. Whether the boy was a child soldier for two years or two months - does it matter? It must have been horrible. Let us focus on that.

Sierra Leone - A True Picture


Friday, July 23, 2010

The AT in the Rain!!

So I just got back from another trek on the Appalachian Trail.  I wasn't sure if I would go today, but am glad I did.  I was reminded of why at the first sign of a drop of rain in college I threw on my running shoes and hit the pavement.  I love the rain, especially out in the woods.  So peacefully enticing.

Climate and When to Go

I've been getting some questions about why I want to go when I would like to go in October and if it might not be better to push this back a bit.  I wanted to explain the rationale a bit in reference to the rainy season and the dry season.   

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blood Diamonds

Amputee Soccer/Football

This video is about Sierra Leone's neighbor Liberia.  The two countries were intricately intertwined in both their civil wars and the catastrophes that they still need to overcome.  Sport and amputee games are helping heel some scars, its just a shame that these small countries would actually have enough people without limbs to field teams.  What can we do?

Thanks to Marla for passing this along...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Posting/Email Test...

Sorry for this, but I just saw something that might help with the posting/emailing part of things and the linking to the site.  So for those getting this via email, let me know if you were able to read the rest of this on the email or had to link to the website...

So the rest of this is really not a whole heck of a lot, but how about some more music!!!

Random Taskings...

So today is thus far pretty straight forward, I've looked into some interesting stuff.  I actually did start an REI registry, but really so I could have a list of things that I decide upon.  The first one is described below, the SteriPen for water sanitation, and is actually on sale!!  So I'm gonna have to get on that one!!  I have also just been running through music from Sierra Leone on a great website SierraLeoneNow.com.  I found a couple decent songs, one of course was a good slow jam which immediately got me fired up!!!

And a little rap.... which unfortunately doesn't give me an embed option for right here.

I called the Hennessy Hammock people and the website phone number went directly to a women's mobile number who had to call me back because she was 'outside the country'!!  Not sure how that worked...  But anyway, good conversation.  They actually let you get a hammock for a couple weeks and if it doesn't work out for you, you can send it back.  That's a great deal, sleep in it a few nights in the woods and still take it back, sweet.  We talked about two options, the Hyperlight ($229) and the Deep Jungle ($269), the deep jungle has two layers on the underneath part of it, and another pad if desired, so that mosquitos can't bit you through the fabric - sneaky little critters!!  The other one is just plain light.  I didn't ask about the difference between the bottom entrance versus the side zip entrance, but as per looking at the website now it seems I should have.  It would be nice to be able to use it as a chair as well, side zip?  There is one called the Ultralight ($189) that has the side option, as does the Deep Jungle.  They all come with the rain tarps, but she thought it might be worth thinking about a larger one if I'd be in rainy areas.  Worth a thought, but I should be there after the rainy season is mostly ending and under trees as well.  

But the most important thing thus far is that I started going through my list of NGO's doing work in Sierra Leone and sent several of them emails introducing myself and the project.  This will be of the utmost importance as once I am on the ground it will nice to have people to coordinate with and just simply sit down with and talk to.  I will be able to bring them additional publicity through any exposure I can generate, and in-turn possible help them obtain more donations.  Obviously as well, there could be longer term implications for cooperation once our non-profit is further established.    

SteriPEN (REI Review)

Many of us like this miniature light saber. It uses ultraviolet light to deactivate the unseen cooties (viruses included) that could be lurking in water. Short-wave UV light (specifically, UVC, which transmits "germicidal" attributes) zaps, or "disrupts," their DNA, rendering them unable to reproduce and thus cause illness. This is what my coworker's daughter took on her trip, and she returned healthy and well-pleased with its performance. The SteriPEN is typically my first-choice water-treatment item for backpacking trips, but every person has different preferences. It may or may not be the right item for you.


  • All SteriPEN models are small, simple to use and lightweight.
  • No wait time is needed once water has been exposed to UV light.
  • UV light imparts no taste to the water.
  • The wand can be used to treat water (without ice) in individual drinking glasses, such as in hotel rooms.
  • UV light is very effective against Cryptosporidium, the most treatment-resistant pest among protozoa and bacteria.


  • The quartz lamp could break.
  • Batteries can run out. (The manufacturer recommends using lithium batteries.)
  • Not effective in very dirty or gritty water unless it is prefiltered or clarified. Light must interact with organisms in order to be effective.


  • If water has a high particulate content, use the SteriPEN's prefilter — a screw-on cap for water bottles equipped with a 4-micron screen.
  • The use of the prefilter is advised in any outdoor situation to keep water as particulate-free as possible.
  • For speed and simplicity, bring a water bottle with threads that are compatible with the prefilter.
  • If the water clarity is poor, give it a second or even a third dosage of UV light.

Speak to me!!

Contacts page!!  For those of you who do not already have a way to contact me, I just set up an email address and created a 'contacts' page.  Not very exciting at all, but hey, what in life really is exciting...  ;)   I got out the emails to the phone companies in Sierra Leone, but still nothing back yet but an automated out of office reply with other contacts.  Nothing from the Giants or Vibram either, but will call again today.

I spent some time yesterday, by chance, on this site librivox.org.  I was trying to find audio books as I've been enjoying them of late in the car or whatever.  And then here is this library of some 3000 recordings of 'public domain' books.  They are mostly older classics or the such - pre-copyright type of stuff, Shakespeare, whatever.  But there was some really good stuff there and it got me thinking that that might provide a nice option for the evenings after a long day of trekking.  It would take up no extra space - not like books would - and I wouldn't even have to sit and hold my eyes at attention to read when I was tired!.  Anyway, I thought it seemed interesting to think about.  I downloaded a few things to experiment with: Confucius, Sun Tzu, the 911 Report, The Wealth of Nations, even the one fiction book I own and haven't finished - Kim by Rudyard Kipling -, and of course, I had to download all 2 gb of Das Capital by Marx!!  Big fun!!  lol.  Anyway, I think today I will do some follow up stuff, then get into the non-profit set-up and hopefully into contacting Non-profits themselves...


Monday, July 19, 2010

To do list...

So today is a day to try to get things done.  First things first, I called the NY Giants to see if while I'm away they could save some copies of the games for me so I could watch them when I get back!!  Lol.  Yes, I know, I have issues... but I don't want to miss the whole season!!  I ended up having to leave a message with the a PR lady, but the initial conversation with the community relations women "Jen" was positive!!

I spent some time working on Hammocks and found what sounds like some good ones, but there's no way I can get real far unless I can physically get out there and lay down in one or two.  the more you read, the more you realize how individualized the comfort is.  I don't have the luxury of being able to get a couple and try them out.  One shot deal with little room to try things - especially without shipping things back and forth all over the world (which I heard a rumor is rough on the environment..;)  But this is one of the struggles we all face as the world moves to primarily internet based commerce, some things are forgotten, like that somehow somewhere some things need to be tried before they are bought.  Specialty items are tricky, can't keep a retail store open with them, but can't buy them without trying them!?!

My mom thinks I should look into a new backpack after this weekend's endeavor, I had thought I'd go and try to get fitted just to see how far off my current one was (I can't even find picture online for it, bought in 1999?), its all about cash though - you have it or you don't!  She also thinks I should have a 'going away shower' in leuw of the baby and/or wedding showers I won't have!!  Wait?!?! Has she given up!?!)  lol.

I went back through the wintersilks page for silk apparel as well, might be a better option than the spouse beater I wore.  They have a couple things on sale.  But I don't know that it is a solution so maybe I should just pick up a shirt and see how it feels?  Still thinking I'll ask for donations from them...  I also looked at - to my horror - underwear!!  I don't know, I haven't worn briefs since probably puberty, tough call.  I put a phone call in to Vibram as well to introduce my self and the concept, but of course I was met with voicemail!!

I've gotten my hands on some of the Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars music.  Interesting Afro-reggae inspired light sounding, heavy hearted stuff.

Also in speaking of music, I haven't been able to get this song out of my head for days.  Its this little jingle that comes on when you go to Africell's home page.  I am working on an email for them and Comium to ask about the i phone and there thoughts on my needs.  Zain, which seems to be the one with the most coverage doesn't seem to have an email address, interesting...  More to do, and the heat of the day is here, so its time to get hydrated and outside to see if my feet can handle a bit of running!!  :p

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Time Within Ourselves

About a mile or two into the journey yesterday, I came to a very definitive point.  There I was completely on my own, walking through the middle of 'nowhere' surrounded only by the beautifully fresh air.  My thoughts were running to wherever they wanted to.  Life, jobs, women, hobbies, meaning, whatever...  And I realized that this is really what Western civilization is missing - time within one's self.

Our days are so full of everything.  Families, jobs, dreams, wants, desires, obligations, stresses and worries...  But life is only as complicated as we make it, and we in the West have chosen to make ours so incredibly complicated.  Not that this is in itself a drawback for our lives, but something that should be recognized and worked with and through.  One of the things that I like best about meditation or running is that it clears your mind and body of many worries.  But it was amazing that hiking like I did yesterday went even further, it was a whole day, alone with myself, amongst nothing but fresh air, blue sky, and nature's own creation.  It is a clean place, there are no memories in a new forest, there is no baggage.  Only the things that you take in with you - and fortunately for us, the kind of mental and emotional baggage that we carry with us throughout our daily lives is something we don't have to carry out of that forest.

I just wish that we as a society would take more time to stop and be alone with our selves, alone with who we really are.  Not the 'you' that you present to the external world on a daily basis, that we show other people who's opinions we already care way too much about, but the one in the mirror that we need to find the most comfort with - ourselves.  

Hiking Lessons

So yesterdays trip was a very good learning lesson on what I will be doing daily and how best to try to handle it. Firstly, the water situation is going to have to be solved properly.  I was planning on getting a camelbak bladder that can either go into the backpack or on it somehow.  My backpack is not ideal as it is old and doesn't have a compartment made for it.  The other thing is that I drink a lot of water, so this is key.  I was out for pretty much 7 hours yesterday and I drank over five liters just while I was out, never mind before and after, and I still only peed once while I was out, and that was at about 6 hours into the journey.  So in a day like yesterday I would imagine that I drank 7 or 8 liters of water.  The plan then is going to have to be to make sure that when I wake up that I start hydrating immediately and that once I stop I do the same.  Because the more water you carry the heavier it all is.  It is nice though that your pack gets lighter as the day goes!!

The backpack is a bit tricky, it is not ideal.  It is old, and was not bought to do what I'm doing but to go around europe from hostel to hostel.  It is not going to be good in the rain and was not entirely comfortable.  I mean it was ok, and poor people don't go out and buy new things, but my shoulders are a little sore today, but nothing I would get used to though.  The bag's straps don't sit at the same angle as my trap muscles do so they dig in a bit.  The waste strap is a bit tricky as well, couldn't get in right spot to take more weight off the shoulders without restricting the waste area.  But the biggest thing that I really needed was a pocket or two.  Everything I have on that pack is in the back, I definitely need something on the waste strap that I could put the phone in, pen and paper, snack, whatever.  Everytime I have a thought and want to remember it for writing later it would be nice to be able to note it, and pockets in my shorts seemed to be in the way of walking.  That will be a necessity.  I definitely will need a compass, I was actually quite happy with my sense of north and south, but it was because I knew the map of the trail and the sun was out.  I'm good at that stuff anyway, but Sierra Leone will be a different and less 'known' scenario.

Shoes:  I love the Vibrams.  But I have to get my feet in better shape to stretch and work like that.  The hills took a lot out of them, asking them to flex more and more powerfully than they had.  I should have done about ten miles the first day out instead of 16.  I also would like to get one of the trekking pairs that has a little bit more grip and a bit of padding.  The padding could be a plus, especially with the pack on - but not a necessity while walking, running it could help though.  I'd also like to get the new running one the bikila, that has a bit of padding as well.  It seemed like my body was used to walking "barefoot" with my natural weight, but once I put on the heavy pack my heel strike got much harder.  After about a mile or so I feel like my stride had adjusted to the body/weight dispersment.  My feet are really sore on the inside today.  The muscles and tendons really.  But actually it is mostly the left one which a did hit at one point.  I also have a leg length discrepancy that annoys one side or the other at times.  So it could be some of all that.  I don't have anything even remotely resembling a blister though.  They were fabulous in that sense.  Actually, the shoes were fabulous in general except for a little slippage in the beginning on steeper grassy hills, but it was fine once I settled in.  

I started out in a simple pair of cotton shorts, it really would be nice to just use synthetic moisture management shorts and stuff, but I just don't feel as good when I wear synthetics.  We'll see, a pair of running shorts I have would have been great so maybe i'll try them in the future.  But the shorts I started in were really quite good, they did get drenched though.  I changed into more typical lightweight cotton cargo shorts once I started back.  I don't know if it was because when I stopped that I stopped sweating and my thighs dried up, but the chaffing started immediately.  I changed shorts after not even a mile to similar ones as what I started in (and have been running in regularly) but they didn't help.  I will need to solve this problem as it is debilitating.  Inner thighs and 'up' ouch.  Body glide is another option, but that is one of those long term debilitating, short term 'solutions'.  Your body becomes dependent upon it.  Usually I get some chaffing the first few times out running each spring in shorts but my thighs just sort of adapt after a bit.  Maybe this would happen?  I don't know, this was pretty bad.  I must admit I even thought that I might need to consider underwear as I was finishing up - huge concession for me.  Then of course my mother gave a brief lecture on that one as well.

One thing I was thinking with the shorts and shirt was to have two pairs one for the morning and one for the afternoon as I did it yesterday.  That way the wet one could hang and dry while hiking.  If I wore one pair all day they would never dry at night and it was really nice to put a dry pair on after lunch.  I wore a 'spouse' beater (more commonly known in a 'gendered' context which I prefer not to use;)  I thought this was pretty good.  I don't know if it is best, but I was cool enough I suppose.  I can't vouch for how good it would be to walk into a village like that though, backpack on, looking gorilla-esque.  I still want to try the silk shirts and see how they works.      

I also stopped to try to get some stuff out of my pack and it underlined the need for organization.  I wasn't trying to be for this day, just looking to add weight, but I will need to develop a system.  I am going to basically be living with this thing on my back and need for it to be completely functional.  I also saw a father and son that were using hammocks, they didn't have much great to say about them.  "Good for a couple days, but not extended trips".  Everything I hear though is that I will have to stay off the ground with tropical camping, and that pretty much starts and stops with a hammock.  Theirs was interesting, straight tied to three trees it was just a nylon hammock with a mosquito screen on the top.

I'm thinking I will have one, they said they were great weight wise, but then I would take a bed role and light bag so I could sleep on the ground if needed.  One thing I took from the book a long way gone, is that surviving in the forests there is incredibly feasible.  Ishmael was 12 and he managed with just the clothes on his back, I should be able to as well with my pack and no war to navigate through.

Bugs.  Wow, they are annoying.  The one thing I can't understand is why it is they just want to fly into your eyes?  I don't mind them flying around me, or landing on me, but why must they fly into my eyes?  Even blinking isn't sufficient.  The problem that I had with this is you can't really enjoy the forest, you are kind of squinting and blinking, its like your face must remain tense and defensive at all times.  But it was really only an issue in the forrest, in the clearings it wasn't an issue.  I put on a little bit of natural bug spray and it helped some, but I think I sweat it off in about fifteen minutes.  It was supposed to be 92 (33C) degrees yesterday, but it seems much nicer and cooler in the forest.

As far as other equipment, I thought about a hat, but think it would be hot, though I did spend a lot of time wiping sweat off my brow.  So might be worth looking into, especially if it rains.  I think for me it really will be about more pockets and better organization of my thing in a way that is more usable while moving.  It is really annoying to have to take off your pack to do or get anything.  I'm thinking I might look into the way the army sets up their gear, could be a good benchmark.  I also needed business cards, as I met a few people that I could've just handing them a card and maybe they'd check the site instead of just telling it to them - I'd probably forget it.  They are one of the target audiences so a good idea.  The food was fine, nuts and dried fruit, broccoli and grilled chicken, I wasn't hungry much at all.  Not even for lunch or dinner for that matter, but I knew I needed to eat.  Fruit will be important, but it sounds like it is readily available in Sierra Leone.  My body will need the sugars.

Anyway, I think its time to end this novel for now.  I feel like there was more, but you're probably already either asleep or didn't even make it this far anyway!!  lol.  Enjoy the day...