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, August 28, 2010


So I've sent off a good introductory email to Kaps about the gamechangers idea and copied Stefan Ernst from Germany.  Stefan has been to visit Child Help and may be able to give some perspective on capacities there.  We'll see what feedback comes of it.  Lots of questions at this point...

I've gotten my Hammock now as well.  But I'm in Rhode Island and don't have two trees that work here in the back yard!!  doh!!  gotta travel...  But I'm headed to REI today.  They have a big sale and well... I need sales!!!  So planning on both purchasing things and populating my registry with the rest.  But there may be some financial scenarios to help with things, we shall see...  Ok, I'm off to shop!! Yuck.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Opportunities and Considerations

So a while ago, my chief sustainable living and building advisor (my cousin Rachel) sent me a project funding notification that had come across her desk at Solar Energy International (SEI).  It was a really good concept and one that would certainly work well with my experience: "Gamechangers".  It is a sports micro-venture fund jointly sponsored by Architecture for Humanity and Nike which is "seeking proposals for the final round of funding to support the construction of sports facilities offering programs that tackle social issues in the community."  They have $500,000 of money to be allocated in $25,000 and smaller allotments, for projects that should address one or more of the following key areas:
  • Improved access to opportunities to participate in sport
  • Removal of physical, economic, social and gender barriers to participation in sport
  • Improved social cohesion
  • Improved physical activity
  • Provides innovative alternatives to play spaces for communities that lack resources
  • Positively affects the environment or reduces negative environmental impact of sport-related initiatives
  • Generates opportunities for social and economic empowerment

More stuff...

So there are a number of things that have been going on of late that I haven't written about yet.  I got my backpack yesterday, and am expecting the Hammock today.  I got this specific backpack pretty much strictly because it had the special airflow back and it was the one of that style that fit best.  As a result, I have no idea what all these pockets and straps are for!!  lol.  Actually, a lot is pretty self explanatory, and makes complete sense given my experience, but still I was going through it last night... so many little intricacies.  Very amusing...

I checked google analytics today and saw that we have officially gotten our first visit to the website from someone actually in Sierra Leone.  May not seem like much, but is still a good step.  I have specifically been holding off on doing much of the marketing until I get closer to actually leaving.  I figure its easier to have people maintain interest in the actual trip once I am there or about to leave, rather than the less exciting build up to it.  So to get visits that seem to just be coming of their own accord is positive.

I have continued to email with Cyril at Zain telecom, and he said that I could very easily just use a modem to plug into the computer and use the internet.  $70-75 for the modem and then $10 for 100mb.  I'm asking him for a full rate card for more usage.  But it is pay as you go so that is positive, no contract or anything.  With this I wouldn't have to buy a $400 smart phone, which would REALLY help my budget.  But I still need to get a phone and I need it to double as a descent camera, so still not out of the woods yet.  But it could give me more flexibility.  I tried calling Nokia yesterday and asking, but think I got hung up on... I'll have to find out more of the technical aspects to it and go from there.  It may be more worth while to do the full-on smart phone given the $75 modem, the cost of another phone with good camera, and future considerations but time will tell.

I have been working on flash cards for Krio, but I must admit am not getting far.  I just can't seem to be too successful without being in country and listening and learning right there on the spot.  This brings me to another thought that has been slowly growing in my mind given multiple conversations I've been having with people associated with the country.  Maybe it would be worth it to spend the beginning of the trip a bit more settled.  Yeah, I know not a new idea, I was already thinking to spend a week in Freetown getting acclimated.  But Kaps with Child Help and I have been talking about some project ideas and with others people about security and not getting taken advantage of - basically involving getting to know my way around the people and language.  This makes perfect sense given all my other time abroad, some places and people will try to take you for all you're worth as a foreigner 'with money'.    I am going to put together an entire post on this in a little bit though that will get into the possible project and these other considerations.  For now though, I just thought I'd put up another update...  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quick notes

So I got vaccinated today!!  Not quite what I expected though.  I thought I was getting a number of vaccines today but needed to get a prescription for Yellow Fever and Typhoid, which I didn't have, so I will have to wait for that until when I go back for the second sets of Hepatitis A/B in September.  So I guess that means I am definitely going to be waiting to get my visa.

I also wanted to publicly thank my grandparents for donating to me the costs for the vaccinations, my first aid kit, and contacts for the trip.  I can't say enough how much their donation really put me back within striking range of coming up with the money that I will need to make the trip work.

I spent some time today working on a possible project to talk to Child Help Sierra Leone about.  We'll see, very much premature, but so are the funding deadlines for it as well!!  Anyway, I am getting really backed up on getting things written down, but am hoping to get some time to just write over the next couple days.  More soon...  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A day in the life.

So I am trying a little experiment using google docs in an effort both not to lose my work so quickly, and also in respect to the idea of use this format while I am in Sierra Leone (as you can see by the formats on this post, the experiment didn't go so well). Who knows what could happen over three months time out on my own in every corner of Sierra Leone.  It would be a travesty if I have a lot of things written and saved on the computer and then something happens to the computer and everything is then gone!!  So I will be trying to work with google docs a bit to see if it could be an avenue worth using.  So I’m writing this there first, and then will copy paste into the blogger program.

Yesterday seemed to be a fairly progressive day.  I spent a good deal of time on the phone with my father (technology advisor).  We were trying to talk through the computer and phone set up that I will use there.  I put another email in to “Cyril”, my contact with Zain telecom in Sierra Leone, asking what seems like the last substantial question.  He recommended a Nokia N series phone for internet browsing there, and my question is; is this if I want to have internet capabilities on my phone, as opposed to on my computer via my phone?  Basically, can any phone plug into a computer and connect it to the Internet?  All phones need to have the right SIM card (smart chip) configuration - which they can easily do there - but do I need to spend $400 on a smart phone that does all the same things as a computer or can a regular phone let me just use the computer for my needs?  Zain also has the modem that you plug into the computer and connect from there.  I just don’t want to spend money I don’t have.  At the same time though, I have to go prepared for all or I might get nothing.  Tricky.  

Ideally, should money not be an issue, I’d get both, but this is not the loosest budget out there!!  lol.  There is always the old option of just a smart phone and a keyboard, but fact is, I need a computer.  I need it now, and after no matter what, so I have to start here.  I was looking at the number of posts I have had and since my computer died, my posts and productivity has dropped a lot.  I can’t have that happen, need to keep pushing.  So the computer has to be purchased.  

My father and I have for months been talking about the ASUS Eee netbook and honed in on more specifics.  He did some research after the conversation and he sent me the specs on one that seems to match the criteria:

Asus Eee PC 1001PX-MU27-BK Seashell 10.1 inch Atom N450/ 1GB/ 160GB/ Windows 7 Starter Netbook Computer

   * Mfr Part Number: 1001PX-MU27-BK
   * Processor: Intel Atom N450 (1.66GHz, 512KB L2 Cache)
   * Memory: 1GB DDR2 SODIMM memory, Max Capacity upto 2GB
   * Display: 10.1" WSVGA (1024x600) Non-Glare Screen LCD w/ LED-backlit
   * Graphics Module: Integrated Graphics Controller
   * Hard Disk: 160GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
   * Audio: Integrated Hi-Definition Audio CODEC; Built-in Speakers and Microphone
   * Connectivity: Fast Ethernet; 802.11b/g Wireless LAN
   * Interface: 2x USB 2.0 Ports; 1x VGA Port; 1x RJ45 LAN Port; 1x Microphone-in; 1x Headphone-out
   * Card Reader: 3-in-1 Card Reader, Support MMC/ SD/ SDHC
   * Camera: Built-in 0.3 Megapixel Camera
   * Battery Pack & life: 6 cells Lithium Battery, upto 9 hours
   * Color: Black
   * Dimension(WxDxH): 262 x 178 x 25.9 ~ 36.5 mm
   * Weight: 1.27 kg
   * Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Starter

I had seen longer battery life, and a better webcam, but as he said: “there are going to be trade offs and balances” and 1.27 kg is one fabulous trade off.  That’s 2.8 pounds with a 9 hour battery.  Those two are really my key concerns (as well as temperature) and I think this machine will do a good job with those key concerns.  I saw online that bluetooth was optional for this machine, and that would be something I would need to try to get if it isnt’ already included, but otherwise this looks pretty good.

The one discussion that we did have that is a bit disappointing was regarding the operating system.  I would like to use Linux as it is open source and thus much more in tune with my ideals.  There are however legitimate concerns over whether a phone’s software package would work with Linux, so this may not be an option at this time.  I will however be running through the city tomorrow and perhaps will look for a Nokia store to ask a few questions.  It may be easier to get answers from them than Sierra Leone as the questions are more technical than country specific.    

So there you have it, that was yesterday.  Close to solidifying another item.  As for this google docs experiment, my web browser has crashed twice in the writing of this and the doc was still there.  So that’s good, but how quickly does it auto save??  If I erase all now will I loose it??  Experimenting...  NO!!!  I won’t, I just deleted it and let the auto save do its thing, but I still was able to use the back arrow.  Why can’t google do that for its Blogger software just as it does it for this software?  Hmmm... the world is of course a mystery after all...

Whooopss... something seems to not be working so well with the copy pasting and formats from google docs... pictures are not going in right, and font is off at spots... I wrote this post in less than an hour, and its been another hour plus just to get it into blogger with pics... wasted time... and now I'm late...

Monday, August 23, 2010


So I've worked on some things over the last couple days but have run into more technical difficulties.  I lost an enormous post that would basically have served as a mission statement for both my life and this project.  One of those heartfelt things that you just can't see being able to reproduce again on the spot.

Basically the way Blogger works (the program I use for the website) is that it auto saves posts as you write them about every 5 seconds you don't type - with no going back.  I had put in five hours of work and gotten to the end of a post; deepest motivations, all sorts of quotes from ancient chinese texts and everything.  I was going to just fill in the labels and then leave it for the night to "marinade" and the proof and post it in the morning.  However, somewhere within that end, something got clicked or done somehow and all the text was erased.  I was working on the bottom so didn't notice it right away, by the time I recognized it missing the text was gone - it had already auto saved.  Auto saved nothing!!!  If it was just a normal post I would be annoyed, but one that came from so deep in my heart was really tough to stomach, and it had already been a tough day...  I searched for help online and it seems that this is a very common occurrence as there were countless forums of people saying the same thing.

Then of course I went on a 'quick' ride with my brother to pick up his friend...  yeah lets just say we were driving around in circles in rural Pennsylvania with the worst attempt at directions I may have ever seen!!  And then after all this, we just said screw it, lets just stop in this bar and get a drink and something to eat - turns out after we had already asked the staff about our quest, placed orders, and been there for a bit that the bar was where we were supposed to be!!!  Far more elaborate and interesting a story than seems right there, but fun/ny all the same!!

Then of course we got home and the power had gone out due to a number of storms in the area.  So basically, not much has gotten done!!  But I'll get back into it and write more on where things are in a bit...