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, September 3, 2010

Getting Excited

So the further I get into the discussion of this possible athletics facility in Sierra Leone the more exciting this trip becomes and the more I keep thinking I should have started doing this type of thing a long time ago.  All this time 'looking for work' and applying for 'job' after 'job'... and sitting right under my nose were plenty of rewarding opportunities if you just think outside of the mainstream concepts of 'work' and 'jobs' for specific hours and specific pay.  When you think in terms of intellectual and emotional fulfillment for a days effort, even if there is no pay, then there are plenty of things to do.  You just have to let go of the rest of the trappings of life that we are 'supposed' to have.  Granted you can't live forever without some money for food and shelter, but someday, and purhaps not too far off, that effort will be rewarding beyond just your own view of yourself in the mirror. 

This idea for building a track in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone is a great one as well.  That location in Mathinka community is less than a mile outside of the city of Makeni (pop, 105,000).  So it can touch thousands of kids and would provide an opportunity for them to engage in a positive, structured, goal oriented, and motivating activity.  It is also gender neutral and can go a long way with little resources.  Obviously a lot of research still needs to be done.  But it is a great opportunity through a very viable project to get a foot on the ground there.  It also is a project that my experience with athletics and sports management will greatly benefit from.  Win, win, win...

So excitement and hard work, a good pair.  But it will have to wait till Monday as I'm off for the weekend to see a great old friend get married...  ow ow bro...  

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Just not sturdy enough...
Dan?!?!  My REI superman...  was mistaken when he told me that my cookware was titanium, its aluminum.  I am not sure if you know that aluminum is actually not that great to cook on.  Some of the metal leaches into your food, which is of course not good.  So I may have to look at this again.  I also went out running last night with my headlamp and it didn't get the job done.  I got a light weight one from Petzl and the strap doesn't seem to be working well, not very secure.  I tried another one on while I was there and it seemed more stable, so I will probably exchange it.  The way the light worked wasn't really ideal either, so we will see how another one works out.  All told, I will be exchanging much of what I bought, the steripen, the headlamp, perhaps the the cookware (beggars may not always choose...), and even the camelbak bladder I bought doesn't have a valve to shut off the water (which I've already had an issue with on my other one).  The beauty of REI though is that they have the 100% satisfaction guarantee.  Meaning I can just go in and exchange them.  Fabulous store.

My finances are back to possibly being perilous as well, so I need to be careful about everything.  I had been told I would be getting unemployment, however, that may not be the case now.  Back to square one...

On a side note, I wanted to say that it had been a bit since I checked in on Crisis Watch (pdf), which is a great piece of information put out by Crisis Group.  And there it was - no Sierra Leone!  This group and publication specifically tracks crisis and war across the globe, and it has no mention of Sierra Leone at all.  In other words, its not in danger of a crisis!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Changing more than the game

So we are making progress with the concept of building an athletics (track) program in northern Sierra Leone.  Since my original post on it I've sent some questions to Kaps, and a lot has transpired.  An email was quickly sent from Stefan (who I cced), and as it turns out, most of what he has been doing over the last two years has been writing proposals for this type of work.  He also seems to know his way around funding circles in Germany which could certainly benefit any proposal.  The addition of multiple possible funding sources could broaden the scope of any project.  Building a track can be expensive, and an all-weather surface would be ideal in a country where they get as much as 580 cm (230 in) of rain a year in some places and averages 315 cm (125 in).  The possibility could exist that for much of the rainy season the facility might basically be unusable without the right surface.  More funding could make all-weather a more viable option (though still unlikely).

The first thing to discuss really though should be the email that Kaps sent me.  He was very positive on the idea and is going to work on the questions I asked about.  He also recommended that we do it in Mathinka community as there are no sports facilities there, and the government is not willing to sponsor any either.  He also said that in the whole of the northern province there is really no "standard sporting field" even though there are plenty of "young stars" that would be interested.

Bombali District, Northern Province
I unfortunately can't find Mathinka on a map for the Northern Provinces though.  I did find a quote that located it in the Bombali district that said it was a village.  However, I also saw that Child Help already has a project there and the map label related to Child Help's project (not on their website) that shows it as being right next to Freetown.  There is a town named Matinka (without the "h") just north of Port Loko, but while in the Northern Province, this is not in Bombali and not near Child Help's possible project site.   So I can not be certain at all where or what size this place is.

The location and the relative size of the location would be of importance to the planning of a project.  Obviously if it does not have much reach in terms of population then a cinder track would be of best use.  If this community is however an area within the city of Makena (100,000 pop) then it would certainly be well worth looking to get a facility that can handle more children and young adults.  I don't know if this makes sense, but building a track facility can be very simple just as it can be very complicated.  With a flat area, several volunteers could go out and cordon off a track area and distances, put up a fence and bleachers, and start running.  At the same time the project could also be a professional facility with an all weather surface.  With the more complex and expansive the facility though, the more 'capital' it takes to build - and I am not just talking about financial, but negotiating, political, good-will, entrepreneurial capital, etc.  If you work really hard to build a great track facility in a village of 5000 people, it is great for those people living there, but you are not getting a good cost-benefit scenario for your effort and/or dollar/euro.  The next time you try to build a facility, perhaps in a more populated location, you may end up with less help and/or money due to donor fatigue or lack of continued interest.  Capital is unfortunately not infinite thus efficiency must be thought of.      

But we shall see, if Child Help already has a project in this community, they must have a good understanding of the area itself.  I just hope that it is a place that would benefit the most amount of children for the cost.

On the whole though, this is a great turn of events as I see it.  I'd love to help them put together a proposal, and with Stefan in Germany as well, it really broadens our capabilities and possibilities.  So we shall see what Kaps comes back with regarding those questions.  I am going to send him another round of them now as well in an effort to address some of the concerns raised here.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Should the path of some of the trip be altered?  I know that most everyone reading this regularly will think of it as a good idea.  My original plan has been to pretty much step off the plane, spend maybe a week in Freetown, and then head off on my trek about the countryside.  Given a wealth of advice that I have been receiving from many people, Kaps' genuine insistence on taking care of me, and the project that he and I have been discussing, I have been more readily contemplating the possibly spending as much as the first month settling in, working on the local language, and getting to the point where I would be better prepared to go on my trek.


I just wanted to drop a quick thought on vaccinations.  I am not a big fan of putting an illness into your body.  But I have capitulated to western medicine's conventional wisdom and started the cycle.  I had a polio booster and Hepatitis A/B last week and must say that I can definitely tell that my body is fighting something.  I have been lethargic, and disinterested in much running.  I spent a decent amount of time splitting wood yesterday and and was noticeably fatigued and even felt a bit sickly as it went.  It is amazing to think that this is of course for the better...

I just wanted to mention this in case anyone was reading this as a "how to" piece.  I would certainly say that you should be ready to spend a couple days before the vaccinations "being healthy" - good food, sleep, etc. - and then be prepared after words to take it easy and healthy again for a few days.  Most people may not notice it, but with my allergies/sensitivities, I have definitely noticed a difference.  

Sunday, August 29, 2010


So I headed out to spend my day yesterday in the Rhode Island branch of REI today.   They had a sale going on right now so it made sense to go today and walk up and down every isle to see what I needed.  I met three outstanding people (who happened to also work at REI as well!!) who were all extremely helpful - Dan, Nate, and Helga.  I spent the most time chatting with Dan as we went through the trip/what I'd need (I was there for over three hours...)  I purchased:

  • The SteriPen Classic - which I will take back and exchange for the 'Adventurer'.  The classic was on sale so I figured I'd go with it and do the research when I got home.
  • Camelbak 3 Liter bladder.  I now have a 2L and 3L.  They can fit into my pack together or seperately, so it gives me some versatility.
  • A cooking pot set-up.  They had the GSI Halulite that is basically one big pot (big in camping terms) and then some other bowls that all pack into the one pot.  It s really light as the pot is titanium and the bowls plastic.  I don't even have to take the whole thing either.    
  • I picked up some Sawyer permetherim insect repelant for clothing. You spray it on clothes and it should minimize insect issues.
  • A leatherman plier/knife /tool set.
  • A Petzl head lamp.  I am a bit sceptical with this one as I sacrificed some comfort for weight and a bit better light.  We'll see REI's 100% satisfaction guarantee makes it easy.  I will try it next thursday I think and if it doesn't sit right, I'll exchange it.  Worried about running with it and sweating - will it stay in place...  
  • I also got a little lantern type light by black diamond.
  • I finally got some body glide...
  • I also got some tiny little containers for spices or something of the sort, and a 2L dry sack for whatever ends up in it.  
It was a costly trip, but I got good deals on some stuff and then the things I wasn't certain about put on my registry:
  • Sleeping:  I got into the one Marmot sleeping bag I'd been looking at.  It was really warm, more than I'd want.  I tried out some sleeping mats but wasn't sure about using/carrying them, as well as cultural etiquette when sleeping at someone's house.  I also saw silk sleeping bag liners.  This seemed like a great option perhaps just in general.  If the sleeping bags are to warm (and $2-300) then maybe a $65 silk liner, with maybe some kind of bed pad type thing and another layer may be a more versatile way to use money and sleep well.  More for the same dollar.  We'll see, worth thinking about, but is it warm enough?  I just basically need a solid lightweight blanket!!  Any advice?  
  • Solar power:  hhhmmmmmm....  this one is gonna be tricky.  After speaking to both my fathers about the computer and wattage, it seems that the ones they have there just aren't enough.  I need more wattage and then they get pricey.  This is going to be tricky.  I can't spend $2-300 on some giant solar panel that I can't walk with.  I need to learn more and see what I can do.  But if I can't get a solar panel that is functional I might have to use just the phone and keyboard - if possible... 
  • I also found a nice pair of Nylon pants that zipper into shorts.  I just couldn't justify buying them yet though.  We'll see.  I have some other considerations for clothing and a lot of this.  I'll get that post written at some point here as well...  
Ok, so that was my day.  I can't say enough about the help I received today.  Dan had actually spent some time in Africa and had some good advice and pointers on what I'd be up to.  Like I said, good people.