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...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can Stove... can not!!

So my stepfather and I spent last night trying to construct an aluminum can stove out of some old soda cans.  Two hours later we had had fire and we had had heat, but we hadn't had anything like what we were supposed to have.  :(  We tried two different kinds of stove constructions, but neither one seemed to work properly.  We are thinking its because of the fuel.  We first tried rubbing alcohol and then pulled some denatured alcohol of of a shelf somewhere.  It just didn't seem to be getting hot enough to really do what it was supposed to do. 

In the beginning it should be just a light flame in the middle, but once it gets up to temperature, the flames should come out the little rosets to look just like a typical burner.  Upon playing with it and practically pouring the alcohol over the entire stove, we still weren't getting it to work properly...  We got about 30 seconds out of it, but it couldn't maintain... :-/  Back to the drawing board...  :-/ 

Yeah... for about 30 seconds!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


So usually, I just post links to these Peace Corp blogs on my walking lion facebook page, but this one deserved its own post on my own page!!   "Alli" is a volunteer in Sierra Leone (I hope she doesn't mind me marketing her site!!) who through strength of character ended up on a 15 mile walk through rural Sierra Leone.  She paints quite a picture, and one that I would hope my detractors would read and hear.  Hope, defiance, optimism...
    "They all jumped when we walked up telling us that it was going to cost 40,000 leones for a trip that is usually around 5,000 leones. They were trying to take advantage and make a few extra leones off the white girls. Fair enough and understandable but I wasn’t going to give in. Well, we were not particularly happy and tried our best to negiotate wit them, always smiling of course. They didn’t budge. So we said fine an din a stubborn, angered defiance and self preservation, we decided to walk. It was early in the day, we had water and bananas, so we headed down the road." 

Changing the game

So yesterday I finally got my part of things back to Kaps regarding the Gamechangers proposal. Its been a bit tricky with visas, vaccines, and car accidents.  I went through the other proposals and the requirements and pulled out the relevant concepts that we need to discuss in our proposal, and sent this to Kaps.  It was also accompanied by a checklist that we'll need to hit on, a really bad sketch of the facility concept so he would have an idea of what I meant, and then the proposal itself (one blank, and one with my thoughts in it).  The big thing that we will need is a very rough costing for it and his organization's information as they would be the key applicant.  The rest can go from there.  Not much left to do.
No jokes please...  ;)
I also wanted to take the time right now to discuss what exactly this project means, and why to do it.  Many people may be looking at this and saying, "why build a track in Sierra Leone, don't they have more pressing needs?"  When we look at things through our eyes, in industrialized society, we think of sports as "fun and games".  But sometimes we lose sight of what sport can be in terms of a tool for bettering the community.  Of course a lot of people have heard of the rationale that sports will keep kids off the streets and focused, but it is still easy to lose site of this.  This concept however is a huge part of this project's appeal.  But that is not the only part.

In less developed countries such as Sierra Leone there are completely different concepts of many different aspects of life - sanitation, hygiene, personal dedication, motivation, goal setting, etc.  The education system there is entirely lacking, and many children need to work instead of going to school.  An athletics facility and program can go a long way towards providing a FUN way for children to learn many aspects of life. This facility can do many things:
  • Teach goal setting
  • Teach "hard work"
  • Teach a regimental approach to goals through specified and disciplined training programs.
  • Provide rewarding outcomes to generate self-esteem
  • Teach teamwork through relay activities and other team sports on the main field.
  • Promote avenues for both boys and girls, children larger or smaller, faster or stronger.  
  • Teach basic hygiene through shower and changing facilities (rare in the area)
  • Promote healthy lifestyles
  • Provide a sports/recreational facility for local schools
  • Offer clubs for local youth and adults
  • To give people something to do...
The bottom line is that there are virtually no opportunities for young people in the area.  A facility and club environment like this - through sport - can teach a great deal of things about how to find success in life.  Sports are a tremendous teaching method.  They are fun. Sitting in a classroom is not generally fun for a kid, running around tends to be more so...

Team work, a little self-esteem... from a developing country.
So no this is not a leisure enterprise or a fun thing to do.  This is a specific and well intentioned project to help develop an area of the third poorest country in the world, that has very specific and well documented intents, and is based on a major reason why I am what I am today.  I was a undiagnosed dyslexic who couldn't really read even into the second grade.  But despite continual educational struggles, my athletic abilities gave me a personal source of confidence that allowed my other capabilities to find themselves.  Now I have a masters degree, have dabbled with doctoral studies, and have had success in the business world.  I never would have gotten anywhere without athletics nudging me out the door.  I assure you, I am not alone or special in any way, I just had the right opportunities and support.  Just as we would like to provide for these children. 

Sure, I know, some people think that efforts and money could be used in "better" ways.  As an academic minded person trying to map out the most ideal pathway to development in a place like Sierra Leone, can empathize with this line of thought.  An athletics facility would not be my first academic thought for developing "the community" there given its dire lack of general education and jobs.  But the bottom line is that if the funding is out there, if Nike and Architecture for Humanity want to put up some money for the project, I see no reason not to go for it...   

Monday, September 27, 2010

Finishing it up

Big day today, started playing around with things this morning and then the day just took off.  Sorted out the phone, and then banged out the Gamechangers stuff for Kaps (more later on that).  Went and picked up the now dead automobile, managing to get it back home - limping the whole way!!  Then I sat down and started looking at sleeping bags online.  And I found a steal to good to pass up.  $60 dollars for a 40+ degree nylon and down bag from Lafuma.  THAT'S $240 UNDER BUDGET!!  Sweet!!!  Who cares if its a mummy bag, giddie up!!  Regular price is $125, but Sierra Trading Post was cheap and my friend gave me a coupon on top of it all.  I also would like to publicly thank the person that donated the money specifically for this sleeping bag... I now officially get to sleep with her the entire three months I'm gone!!  lol. Nice!!  ;) 

I wanted to buy the bag locally from Mountain Tops, but I have little choice as I know they can't do that kind of price.  I feel a bit bad, I wanna use them.  But they haven't been very proactive with helping me with my stuff.  Its been over a week and a half and the only word I've heard from them was when I stopped in there.  Still no response to my email or the things I asked about even after stopping in.  So I had to just get things done.  I leave in less than three weeks... no time to wait.

That was the premise of it all today, get it done.  I ordered the two shirts I've been procrastinating on, the Steripen, and the solar panel - which is huge in terms of having time to experiment.  But I mean screw it, the only way to now if it'll work is to get it and try it out.  If it doesn't work Amazon will exchange it for me!!  Gotta make it happen.

I now have pretty much everything of consequence bought.  Only details left...  feels nice...  relieving...  

So I'm not crazy... (at least not about this;)

So I finally called Nokia about the issues I was having with the phone and it seems its not "user error" after all!!  The rep said that I received a refurbished phone and that it was not working properly.  I am not sure of the specifics or if this is 100% verifiable as I bought it "new" from Amazon (not 3rd party, but actual Amazon). 
Yeah... lets hope you can help connect us humans...
Basically when the Nokia rep asked for the serial number, and I told him I bought it new last week, he seemed pretty shocked an said that it was actually refurbished.  Could be had been sitting on Amazon's shelf for a while or that somehow they got  duped and sold a bad batch  as new.  But they say they buy only new from the manufacturer...  Not sure, but the bottom line is that I have had lots of success with both seller and manufacturer of the years, so best not waste time speculating.  The phone isn't working properly, so they'll send another one and I'll go from there.   
 An exchange via Amazon can be here in 3 days, so I went for that.  I am a bit worried that it will be from a bad batch and maybe there will be issues again, but ordering direct from Nokia takes longer and the phone is $30 more plus shipping.  So I'm going exchange first.  If there is an issue then I'll be up against the wall.  I'll have to take what I get from there as I scramble to leave.  This really does mess up my experimentation scenario.  I still have to be sure the phone and keyboard will work to buy the right solar panel.  I might just have to buy the panel and hope it all works out...

Technology... $%#%&...      

Sunday, September 26, 2010


So let me just say one thing first: I hate electronics.  There are some things that 'men' are supposed just love, cars, gadgets, electonics, whatever.  Well I am obviously not one of those guys.  I hate all of them!!  lol.  I do like building things though, not sure that matters...  Anyway, I can't figure out all these electronics devises for the life of me.  I'm a thinker, I'm a project manager, but I'm not a techy...  :-/ 

Right now I have a wonderful netbook, a 'smart' phone, and this incredible little waterproof flexible keyboard.  What I am trying to do is to figure out how to get them all to work together using Bluetooth wireless technology.  Theoretically I should be able to sync everything together with no wires.  Theoretically... 

Amazingly, when I first started setting things up it seemed that I had things better than I do now, even though I don't think I've even changed anything.  The computer makes sense to me, nothing new here really.  But I'm trying to connect my phone (Nokia N97 mini) with the computer.  They recognize each other and I've now got them 'paired', but I still can't transfer anything between the two.  Seems I need the 'driver' for it, but it searches for it online and installs it, yet then doesn't work.  I am also trying to get the computer to connect to the keyboard, but I can't get it 'paired' so I don't have to install it each time (not gonna be desirable if in the woods with limited internet access). 

The worst things about all of this is the stupid phone!!  Not that there's anything wrong with the phone itself - I'm sure its more user error than product error - but I just am not interested in spending so much time trying to configure things over and over again.  I set up Facebook and it worked Friday, and then not yesterday, and now does today?  My email is set up, and loaded everything/was working Friday, but now nothing loads as of yesterday.  I set up the wifi to work and despite being connected, it isn't always working even though it says it is connected.  The keyboard won't connect either.  I still seem to need that pairing number.  I thought of something new to try but now the phone doesn't even seem to be able to find the keyboard.  I just don't get it.

Why aren't these things simple!?  lol.  Its amazing that as all these things that are invented to make our lives "more simple", the more complicated life becomes, and its not like I'm so old that this technology is beyond my generation.  Am I supposed to spend so much time working on this, contacting, and paying for professionals to make my life easier?  It seems the more I try to get these things to work, the further away I seem to get... 

Guess I'm gonna have to start reading the instruction manuals... ;)   lol...  :)   ahahahahahaha...

Another day in the life...

And as is life... with every positive, there must always be a negative, for you can not have one without the other as life could then never find its balance...

The day (Friday) was going so well.  I had been in the city in the morning, walked across Manhattan, gotten my visa... jumped on a train back upstate, and even got to Beacon and found NO parking ticket for my forced night in the city!!  Good stuff.  I said my hello's to my people in Beacon, went into Mountain Tops and poked around, tried on the Vibram treks, chatted it up, and then headed out.  I grabbed a snack on my way towards taking the scenic route through Wiccopee and where the Appalachian trail runs through it on my way home.  Sun was out, gorgeous autumn day.  Upon getting in, my new phone was there.  I spent the next couple hours trying to figure out what the heck all this technology stuff was, and then headed off to spend some time with my grandparents...

Whoops..  Half way there... CRASH!!  I got in a car accident.  I completely wrecked my car in a three car accident.  Everyone else there seemed to by OK (some nice people I might add which don't deserve to have had their day and car's in shambles).  I certainly seemed to get the worst of it, both personally and for my car.  I just sat there completely dazed...  what and end to a day, to a lot really.  But I'll be fine, I've had worse collisions on the football field - and one only a couple of weeks ago.  

The real travesty in all this though is to my psyche and life scenario.  I have struggled for years in always putting my principles and ideals so much above life's practicalities.  Always "living in the world as I want it to be" - which I completely believe in and will continue to do.  No matter what general practices are, I will do everything I can to be honest and ethical, even at my own expense - which it usually seems to be.  This makes life very difficult.  People don't pay people to be nice.  I carry different priorities than most and as a result I tend to have to struggle.  Here I am unemployed, looking for work for over a year, on food stamps, in the application process for Medicaid, and still struggling to put together the funds to go on a three month humanitarian trek in West Africa - a smaller part of my incessant effort to try to make a difference.  All the while I am fielding questions about "what I am thinking", "what is wrong with me", "why can't I just balance my ideals with real life?" (i.e. compromise them).  I am pretty much standing on my own to try to make a difference.  (yes, I do have some great support from a few... you know who you are!!)

Anyway, I have been running completely against the grain for years, I have no money, that car was my only real asset, I am staying with my parents, taking state assistance (and hearing about it from people), and all the while trying to make the world a 'better' place for the future of humanity, and to get myself better qualified to do this.  But I just... can't... catch a break.  Living in the Hudson Valley you have to have a car.  I am already losing friends and contacts because I live a long way away from people and am not in a position to spend money on gas versus money on this project.  Yet, if I take a job for a couple weeks or take a job that sacrifices time and compromises principles, then I am not living by my beliefs or example.  Now, with no car and no public transportation in the area, I am in a really tough spot.  Never mind when I return.  I had work set up, but now have no car.  It changes things.  I had security to return to from this incredibly insecure venture.  Now, I almost have to either come back from Sierra Leone with a job here, or find one there.  Both my personal and emotional safety nets vanished into the back of that minivan...

But it is tough times that challenge us and make us stronger.  I feel at times like I am doing nothing but "training" to make myself stronger, yet I'm never actually getting to use my strength.  I just can't find that place within the system that allows me to shine and do the type of work I believe in and am capable of.  That day, of course, will come... but it wasn't yesterday...  ;)