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 17, 2010


So orders have begun to be made, and connections situated.  My registry is shrinking quickly.  I have now ordered my phone and the keyboard.  I have gotten a map and some other things of that sort.  My pot was donated and on its way.  :)  I need to get back to the can stove concept and get one of those made up over here so I can experiment a bit with it. 

The big thing I did yesterday though was head over to Mountain Tops, a local store in Beacon, NY.  They are really good people and the type of store that I would like to support.  I am oging to try to go through them for the rest of what is on my list to obtain.  Obviously I am thoroughly dictated by budget and price, but if they can match a price, I'll get it there.  They were very supportive of my trip.

My immedidate goal in going over there was to see if they had the Vibram Five Fingers Smartwool version, which they did.  So I walked out with them.  So excited... NATURAL FIBERS!!!  Amazing how I can immediately feel the difference... energy...  :)  nice.  So that gives me two pairs to take with.  I'd like to have three, but without a sponsor it just doesn't seem feasible...  They also had some natural fiber toe socks for them - one bamboo and one wool.  I also tried on the Vibram Flow which is for colder weather and water.   They were a bit tight as they are full foot and my fat 4E feet are averse to confinement!!  But they would be fine.  They were very flexible.  Good stuff, would be a good investment for both when I get back and for any water type stuff I would do over there (they are made of wet suit material).  But that's wishful thinking...  :-/

Anyway, I would love to be able to establish a relationship with a local store such as Mountain Tops.  This trip will not be the first time I do this type of trip.  The world is huge, and there are a lot of people in need... Beacon is also the type of place that I would  look to first to locate a non-profit upon my return.  Good community of people.  All things considered, it was a good couple days... 



I spent a good deal of time yesterday looking into how to get my electronic devises powered while I am in Sierra Leone.  This is a major concern for my trip as it is the key to staying connected to this website.  I have been having a bit of a dilemma with my new computer.  I will be able to get a solar charger that will be able to power it, while still being reasonable in terms of size and power capacity.  I have been researching it for several months now and have been narrowing things down quite a bit of late.  I looked at a number of different brands and have decided that powerfilm seems to have the best power to weight ratio and thus would work best for a trip like mine.  But which model should I get?  They have both rollable and foldable ones.  And what about wattage?  My computer apparently needs some 30 watts to charge as if it was pluged in to an outlet (no concerns with my phone as it will charge easily with most any model).

Finally, after laboring over it, I finally just called Powerfilm, and...  JULIA TO THE RESCUE!!!  I must admit that I love some of the shopping I've had to do for this trip.  A lot of these companies are so specialized and focused that they can't help but be really personable.  You get to speak to real people and the same real person each time you call.  In Powerfilm's case the customer service number rings straight through to an incredibly nice women named "Julia".  I of course started asking my questions as I do... until I realized I should just submit my project to her and let her tell me how she would solve it with their products.   ;)  Much easier!!

So Julia's solution is that, technically, I would probably need a 28w panel given my netbook's needs and good sunlight in Africa - but its like 7 feet long!!  So we talked through my budgetary/logistical constraints and - though not guaranteed - I is probable that I could get by with the 14w and probably even the 10w panel.  The constraint is that it would take much longer to charge than a normal outlet.  This however is not such an issue as time I will have, space and weight I won't.  There is no way I would carry (or could pay for) the 28w panel.  I'd have to leave the computer behind.  

We also decided that the rollable one would be better as it is more durable and is waterproof.  The foldable panels, which are more compact and actually geared towards backpacking, are not ideal for me and my trip.  Especially with longer term considerations of rainy seasons and such.  I will have to be careful not to compress the roll though, but weather won't be an issue. 

The connectivity issue will be fine as well.  The panel connects like a car cigarette lighter.  So for my phone I will need a car charger and then I'll also need to come up with a converter for the computer.  I will also need to get a DC to AC inverter so that I get a steady charge.  I will need to look further into this in terms of price and functionality.  But, all told, I can get an affordable and logistically acceptable panel.  Thus I will have power for everything while I'm there.  Nice.  Thanks Julia!!  ;)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chilling... but productive

So I decided to spend the night outside in the hammock last night.  What I was thinking I am not sure.  The temperature was 50F (10C) when I went out there at about midnight.  After jostling around trying to get it all situated I pretty much wide awake so it took a while to get to sleep.  I slept pretty soundly until about 3am when I woke up and was freezing.  I had taken a down comforter that was a possibility to go with me to SL, and had clothes on, but it just wasn't enough.  Once I got inside I realized it was 46F (8C) out, the coldest it apparently ever gets in Sierra Leone is about 60F (15.5C) at night.  Not the best test environment, but what choice do I have?

Anyway, I learned a few things.  Sleeping in a hammock is not difficult, but sleeping in something in a hammock is a different story.  Everything slouches down towards the middle.  So you end up with your feet and head sticking out of whatever your in.  Not a bad thing if it isn't too cold.  Sleeping bags come back to mind as you can just simply get in them before you even get in to the hammock and your in!  But who wants to be in a sleeping bag rated for 40F (4.5C) when its 80F (26.5C) outside when you get in it?  This sleeping scenario seems so simple... but it is HAUNTING ME!!!  lol..  ;)
How can I sleep?!?

Monday, September 13, 2010

One step at a time...

AT near Depot Hill
So yeah, I'm still functioning pretty slowly here.  This neck injury has completely thrown me off my game.  Struggled with things this weekend.  But I woke up today and got my self out into the woods despite whatever my neck feels like).  I really struggle when I can't exercise and run.  So I decided to take the hammock out and see what the deal was.  I gave myself a good mile and half (2km) hike uphill into the woods (gotta get some work in for my legs), then I followed a little side trail for a bit and set up my hammock.

I am quite impressed.  Once you get the hang of it all it goes up quickly.  It was more complicated finding the right spot than setting it up: how thick are the trees, how far apart are they, are there any other anchors for the flaps to tie on to, etc.  Of course the knots were tricky, but you know you can always make a knot that holds.. maybe not get it appart, but it'll hold!!  ;)  Anyway, I got it set up, and then spent a little time 'tweaking' it before I settled in for a bit of light afternoon reading/napping and chi gung.

It is pretty comfortable, and much more spacious than I anticipated.  I pictured myself mummy shaped with barely a turn allowed, but it was exactly the opposite.  I was on my back, my side, diagonal, knee or legs open, even on my stomach for a bit, there was plenty of room.  It is a bit tricky moving around though, but this may just be me being overly careful, as I just can't imagine the tiny little ropes would hold a whole lot of bouncing.
The temperature wasn't even 80F (25C), but the hammock definitely provided a bit more warmth than outside, and with the leg room I had I can't imagine I'd want to restrictive of a sleeping bag.  I would definitely need something underneath me though as there isn't much there in terms of insulation or mosquitos.  I may do well with just a lightweight wool blanket that could go under and over me as needed, and one of those silk sleeping bag liners.  This could give me some good versatility, and would be cheaper than the bag.

All told it was a good afternoon, five hours out and about, did some reading and slept for a bit.  It felt good, so I'm quite comfortable with it moving forward as my place to sleep.  I'm looking forward to getting 'off the grid' here though and on my own, in a new place where I can learn new things and help people.