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, November 20, 2010

What was that for exactly?

So I have been running around today, this and that. Got the two MOU's together and signed. I'm coming back with two pieces of paper to show donors that we've got partnerships to work with. I went to negotiate with the money changers, shady characters... Then on to the police. I of course need to get a copy of the police report. They have been telling me to come back everyday since Tuesday, but there are no more days now. I leave tomorrow for Freetown.

Of course this doesn't necessarily matter as they have no power so they have to go to a private party to type the report. I told them I could do it. They said they need to follow protocal and I can't type it. But it would help if I paid to get it typed, 5-10,000 Le. I gave him 5, and he said come back in two hours. Hmmm...

So what are the odds that I just paid a filing fee for a typed report (non-standard here), or that I just paid a bribe?? They really have no computers, and an hour at the internet costs 6,000Le. No matter, in my heart it felt more like it coulda been a facilitation fee at the time, but as I write this, it certainly feels more like a bribe now... We'll see in a few minutes when I go back to pick it up!!


Bribe. So I got back there and he was gone and had just handwriten what he wanted me to type. I stood in front of him with 23,000 Le and told him I had this much to get to Freetown and Lungi and eat. So he took 5 in stead of 10. Coward.

So from there I had to go to the chairman's house, get the generator turned on, type what the policmen wrote and then take it back to him. He wasn't there, and then there was an issue with the name I was given as signatur. So I had to run back to Eric's, a kilometer maybe, and change the name, then run back to the police station with the new print outs. Of course he was still not there. But the other people (less power, much nicer) where there to help. They know my sob story, and when I told them about the 5000 he wanted,they were genuinely concerned about me getting to the airport safely.

They kept working for me though, and got the document in front of the actual head of the Makeni Police. He of course said the other one was absolute crap and he'd redo it. I of course then had to type it. So I had to run back to the chairman's house, fire-up the old generator, and... Whoops... No fuel. So they send a little kid to get some more. Once it's running it his not running smoothly, every hickup turns the computer off!! (insert four letter words of your choice) Eventually I get it typed and printed, and get to running back to the police station... The locals must have thought I was nuts by then, running back and forth!! But this time was it, the supervisor had waited just for me. He read it and signed!! Yes!! Until I get out the door and realize, he didn't stamp it!! Back in, get it stamped... Sigh... Long day...

From there off to Apex to meet with my expat crew. Dave and Gary, and now Ray again. He's been recovering from malaria and typhoid, so not much around. Also my new white knight Kate. When I was a mess yesterday watching bad movies at Wusum she sat down and helped me out, bought me dinner, and was really just there. Thanks!!

But the day wasn't over. Off to meet Yapo!! No money and no hardrive from Kaps. He is just playing me. That 450,000 Le was just blood money to keep his ass out of jail. I'm fuming at this point. He won't answer the phone and isn't gonna pay me for bringing the drives, never mind the stolen money. Fine, get up early, go to police. Enough. But... Of course I talk further to Yapo (the chairman is away). He says, Tim, there are other ways. We don't have to deal with the police, but we can just make it difficult for him. All his projects go through the council. Nothing needs to come of him and his kids, but he has to work with us...

And all I keep coming back to is, Eric learned his politics in Moscow... So it is on this note I head to bed... Up and outta Makeni in the morning!! Be on a plane in less than 48 hours. Gonna miss a lot of things here, but not more than I want to be home right now!!

An uneventful day

Bucking the trend of sudden plot twists, today was a completely uneventful day (comparatively). The police still don't have my report typed up, no surprises there. There was no more money from Kaps, no surprises there. So I went to Wusum and sat on a couch and watched football (soccer), old movies, and wrote. This was of course until a really nice South African women (Kate) I'd met previously stopped to say hello and was horrified by my week. She sat down and saw to it that this day would be better - watched a little TV, bought us something to eat, and basically just provided some quality company/conversation.

She works for Adax. They are an agricultural operation with ~90,000 hectars of land to grow sugar cane to make ethanol and also to generate their own power/put some back into the system. Sounds like a very good operation, worth learning more about...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spam and coffee

So given that I am now staying with an important "big man", out come the big gestures!! Last night's dinner was a special affair of course and fabulous. Breakfast was no different, out came the spam and the coffee!!

Now everyone that know's me knows I've got food allergies, spam is about as bad as it gets for me. Preservatives galore!! It was a nice scrambled eggs, onions, and spam breakfast with some bread on the side. And then to top off the allergy mountain, not hot cocoa, but a little instant coffee!! I'm of course terrified at this point that I'll actually have to drink it!! But I was eating by myself and they left it up to me to make it. I assure you I will do EVERYTHING I can to not drink coffee!! The smell alone turns my stomach. So I mixed up some hot water with a sugar cube and some condensed milk and drank it. When I got to the very bottom I dropped in a couple coffee granules and feigned it!! Lol. Gonna have to try to keep that up for two more days!! Please please please... No coffee!! Lol!!

The chairman

So despite all the days fireworks, last night brought some semblance of normalcy. I went to the police station to pick up my pick pocket police report, it however has still not been typed yet. I offered to type it for them!! They may actually be ok with that, lol. So I still have to wait on that one. Then I walked over to Apex (the expat place) with a friend I've made from one of the street stalls. He is an aspiring musician and going to give me his CD. I can't go anywhere without people calling my name now. Whether it is motorcycle taxi drivers or random people on the street. It is not a big city. I am a friendly white guy that talks to everyone. I don't know why, but I keep having the words from a song by Nas pop into my head: "In the streets I'm well known like the numbers man!". It is refreshing, and it makes me feel good.

Anyway, Wusum(Apex) was good. The staff knows me, and we get on well. It is the only place I know with consistent power to charge my phone. I went to charge and write. Then the Hispec guys, Gary and Dave, came in. Gary was at the expat evening that that other post was about, he was congratulating me for standing up to them that night. Thought I was spot on and that the others were rude and ignorant. This made me feel much better about that evening... These two are really good guys.

From there I headed home for a feast with the chairman. No rice and plasas here. Three full grilled fish, homemade french fries, etc. We sat and talked for two hours. This is a man that I truly respect. He went to University in Moscow in the mid to late 80's and then stayed on to work at the Sierra Leoneon embassy there till 1996. He was there through the collapse of the Soviet Union. He is well travelled and extremely well educated. Talking to him about development is a true learning experience for anyone. Not to mention that we have a lot of similar view points. Especially on letting Africa develop in an African way.

He had one good story of an NGO in Kamakwie. 700,000 euro budget, 6 expat staff, four land rovers. They are there to build wells and do agricultural work. But what do they need so many land rovers for? Get rid of two and you've got maybe 10 more wells or more. And what about six salaries for westerners?

Another story of the World Bank looking into city water in Makeni. They spend 2.5 million US dollars on feasibility studies and then to try to run water from 23 miles away. All the villages in between want it as well, pipes are tapped into, whole thing falls through as not feasible. As the chairman says, this is not what people here want, build wells for everyone from the source to Makeni with some of this money and use the rest on schools and such. Not engineers and WB executives.

And he's upset because what the West then concludes is its "corruption". The money went in but nothing came out. But they were bad projects that someone in the West thought people here needed. And the money was not spent in an efficient way. It also was not what people here wanted/needed. Life here is lived differently, they are Africans, not Europeans or Americans.

I like this man. Yeah, there's probably a skeleton or two in his closet like most everyone, but he has some good ideas, and I believe the absolute best of intentions. I just hope that we can now get these projects together and funded. Going back to the US not only with no money to incorporate but now in debt from the flight change does not help. But we will persevere... ;)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Well, now we know

WHAT A DAY!! Actually tops the rest!! If you can believe it!! So I woke up today, did my thing, chi gung, little reading, nap/more energy/chi work. Body's been feeling run down, so focusing a bit on taking it easy, health work.

Got to be 12, the time I gave to Kaps to have some money for me. I started getting ready to go to the police station and then it dawned on me, I don't think I can turn in family. I don't think I can do that to the whole family. 9 kids, Moma, Kaps. If Kaps goes to jail, his whole family suffers, all the kids. A quick consultation with my mom... Maybe the best thing to do is just to report it, and not name a suspect (which is a big thing here).

But here's the sudden twist in the plot... I get a text from Lindsay, and she says, "hey, what's happening? Gotta go to Freetown tonight, you sort out the rest of the week? I'm gonna need my key!" Huh? Plan for the week? When the rest of my money was stolen you told me I could stay there till I left for the plane Sunday or Monday and I could even get a ride half way Monday morning with you... Yeah, apparently not.

So she gets home and says, yeah, I need to take my key so can you find somewhere else to go? What!?! Are you serious!?!? I have literally no money and everyone I know is implicit in this thievery scenario!! And now she walks in and gives me about three hours to get out. 15 minutes of explaining my options, trying to find a solution - of which there were several - but nope, nothing was acceptable. I don't have words to describe my feelings and towards her at that moment. My knight in shinning armor has just stabed me and thrown me off the white horse.

The issue stated was there's only one key to the front door of the two bedroom apartment. We had just been leaving it with the director JMK or Papi (the do everything trusted guy who just brought $1000 back from Freetown on a bus in a bag). But she is all of a sudden not comfortable with this. Not acceptable. I'd be there till Sunday, she's back then or Monday. Nope, not acceptable. Then there is a key for the room doors. She lost the other keys though and had to break in one night. So she can't lock her door. Why not switch rooms? Naa... Not really what she wants to do. I mean not to absurd things, she was leaving with the key, she wanted me out.

I am pretty emotional at this point, not to tears, but a few chokes. How does someone do this? This was the last thing I expected, and the last thing I ever expected a Westerner to do. Shameful. She did seem concerned as to where I'd go though. The chairman was the only option I could think of. She was concerned whether he was trustworthy. I don't know, I thought I could trust her, I thought I could trust Kaps.

Anyway, so I head to the chairman's and sit out front and chat with him for a bit. Good conversation, he says you are staying with me. Yapo shows up and says of course to wait on the police. I go back to Lindsay's, pack my bag, and for the first real time in the trip, I've got my pack on and I'm walking!! Amazing scenario.

I got back to the chairman's and dropped my bag off. I was about to go to the police, but Yapo said, they've got some money for you. Kevin's on his way, shows with 450,000 Leones, just over $100. They owe me $500. But this is a step. This is for the hard drives, almost 2/3 of it. So I tell Kevin, fair enough, I will go to the police and report it, but not give a suspect. He seems happy with this. Kevin is a decent person.

But, I thought, why not get the chairman's advice. He smirks, "if you don't give a suspect, they'll go arrest everyone in the house." What?!? No investigation it seems at first, just arrest them and ask questions later!! Dilemma. The chairman's view is that he's coming up with the money, give him another day... So I am.

But think about all this. After yesterday's post about Africa and the Africans versus whitey and the whiteys. Where are we now? The Brit tosses another volunteer aid worker out on the street with no cash, and the African chairman rescues him. On top of that, the accused African criminal gives some of the money back...

Ahhh... How the world turns....

What's worse?

So much is written about Africa and Africans. So many people, news organizations, governmental organizations, etc, talk down upon Africa saying the problem with Africa, is it's full of Africans. But it is also full of Westerners. I spent the evening with a group of them last night. I am not sure what is more a hinderance to 'development' here, the "Africans" they speak of, or some of the 'whites' that are here trying to 'develop' 'them'.

The group that I was sitting with was in no way a holistic group with one view. But the discussion put together a solidly "what Africa is not" argument rather than seeing Africa for "what it is". They have mostly been here two to three months, are in the medical field, and for the most part VSO (British volunteer org)workers and were from the UK (plus less vocal ones from Holland, the Philipines, and Canada).

They have some valid points, and I would never say their experiences aren't accurate, things here can be tough. But everything they were saying was completely ethnocentric and sounded to me to be colored by an almost imperialistic colonialesque arrogance. Now this is not to say everyone was directly engaged in this conversation, some just listened. But everything was about how the West did it, and how 'they' don't do it like that here. NOT about how 'they' do it here and how you as a 'helper' can assimilate your ways and teachings into another's way of life - without just bludgeoning them to death with Western principles while looking down upon them for showing some cultural resistance.

We talked about Africans mostly, but I realized that it wasn't actually about Africa doing it "wrong" (though that word was used), when they lambasted me for not being on anti-malarials. I am from the West, and I follow Eastern medicinal principles for the most part. So when the stuff hit the fan over my decision not to take them, I realized that it was not about Africa, but "their" way, the British way. They didn't want to listen and question to clarify, they simply heard and judged via their vantage point. No real questions or intrigue in an alternative medical approach, but even anger. They didn't even have an ear for the concept of integrative medicine. They didn't want to hear ANYTHING that was not what they thought was the right way to do things.

This is a huge hinderance in Africa. Western pessimism and negative judgment on the 'African' way of life. The world is full of variance, divergence, and assimilation. They were literally spouting colonial rhetoric about bringing civilization to Africa. Like Africa was all just barbarians with no reason for existance unless they could be taught how to "do it right".

They come here to help, which must be commended, but can't come here expecting home or expecting people to be like or become like them. Don't even expect them to want to. Even if 'they' may want some Western things, that doesn't mean 'they' want to be Western. They want to be AFRICAN. And to come in from the outside and think otherwise is not to be here for "development", but as an imperialist and/or colonialist...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Empty pockets

So as I was walking the streets of Makeni yesterday I came to a name for this book some day. "Empty Pockets" their's, mine, and really the whole development communities'!!

Today has been interesting. The support from the rest of the community has been amazing. Not just the people that I know, but the people that I talk to on the street. They are upset, even the beggars that ask me for money are upset. Once I tell them why I am here, what I am trying to do for their community, everyone is angry. People with really no money offering to give me money. It is amazing.

I called Kaps first, and he had no answer. He said hard drives by tonight, no money for them though. I had given him till today at midday. That is when we spoke. It was the same words I heard yesterday. Which obviously looks to me, that as he knew I was to leave yesterday and he still doesn't have the money; did he ever intend to pay me? And then money goes missing at the same time? Yeah...

So from there I met Yapo and we went to the chairman's house. He was very sympathetic. He has offered to try to get me to the airport and a hotel room near the airport for Sunday night. He said he would do whatever he could to help me out. He also advised me to give Kaps one more day and that it would be sorted out. I don't know how, but I would imagine he has a strong voice.

The last thing they want is for me to go home with negative thoughts. They see me as a guest here, and not a guest just 'here', but a guest trying to help them. They SEE this. Everyone here sees a person here to help; and they appreciate that. Yes, there are a lot who are here to work, only some to help. They want both, but they really like the latter. Good thing I'm the later!!

Going to dinner at some friends house tonight. Will be nice distraction, counting the days...

New home

So it's 6:13 and I've been up for a bit, but it is much quieter here than at the old place. No mosque call to prayer, no 6am family prayer session, no rooster in the house, no one cleaning the house by 6:30. Much calmer here.

I am stayng at the Hanci Sierra Leone/Street Child compound. It is actually a much better set up than where I was. It is basically a two bedroom apartment (no kitchen) with a nice little living area with soft couches!! (Haven't sat on something soft in a while). Lindsay has been staying here in one room with the other room spare for other volunteers (or stranded crazy Americans!!). There has apparently been a mouse/ rat problem, but I saw/heard nothing last night.

Their operation here takes children that, for whatever reason have been living on the street, and tries to reunite them with family. They also put them through a support program that includes psychological counseling, mentorship programs, job training, and will actually give micro-finance support to the families the kids are reintegrated with. They are run here by a local man "JMK". These are the people I went on the trip to Tambaka with.

There is a big difference between this NGO and Kap's. This one is UK funded and partnered with several organizations at different levels. They have a consistent funding source, well defined project/aims and seem to be doing very good work. They also fund schools in rural areas (the place we were the 1st white people). They have almost doubled enrollment in some of these schools.

But anyway, this is my new home for a couple days (which I am counting down). I can't express how grateful I am to them. This obviously has been a hard couple days for me and Lindsay (who is a volunteer assessing current and prospective projects for them), JMK (John), and the rest of the people here have been very accomodating and friendly.

As for the other side of my affairs. I will not be climbing Mount Bintumani now and am VERY disappointed about this. I went to the police yesterday to file a report on the pickpocket stuff and will have to go back today to (I think) pickup the paperwork. I also told them about the other scenario at Kaps' house, but that I was giving time for possible resolution. I am however not holding out much hope right now on that. It is just sad given what that money was earmarked for. I will now get off the plane literally without a dollar in my pocket. Not the best way to get a business started.

But all told, I said that if I got on the plane January 17th with nothing but the shirt on my back the trip would have been a success. Yeah, it'll be a few weeks earlier, and its sad to have money disappear without material benefit, but the value of that money's disappearance is actually much more valuable than the money itself was. I will be coming back with two Memorandums of Understanding to do work with the local development council and have another possible project to bring solar street lamps to the city I've been in, Makeni.

I've had a crash course in Sierra Leone that I never got in all the academic work I did on the country. It has been tremendously educational and tremendously motivating, but I am ready to get back to the US. Of course though, I still have to get to the airport and don't have but 100Le ($25) to last the week on - food and then get to the Freetown, stay the night, and get to the airport!! But hey, what good would an adventure be without the adventure!?! Lol!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why keeping money at home is desirable

Oh wait... Almost forgot about yesterdays incident!! Almost topped by today's. I got up and moved myself out of Kap's house. I packed up my big old bag and headed out. I got on the back of a bike with way to much weight on my back, unsteady holding on for dear life. Made a quick stop for bread and eggs for my new roommate Lindsay and I, and then got to her compound. Now of course it should be said that whenever a white person stops on a bike looking for something they are swarmed. Bread, eggs, sweets, money changing, whatever. From there Lindsay and I headed to Wusum hotel for some power (where I wrote this mornings post). I stopped to change some money on the way there as all my Leones had been stolen, swarmed again!! From Wusum we went for lunch back in the center. As we sat down, I realized the pocket I was carrying the rest of my money in was open and the money was gone. $220. @?&$%

Are you kidding me!? I never get anything stolen, and here I am twice in 24 hours. $560, gone. Plus the portable hard drives that I haven't been paid for yet. Amazing. But you know what, it makes me want it even more - to find success here. I have given up every financial thing I have, comfort, etc. All I have left is my heart, and that can never be taken from me!!

Gone stolen

So the next day comes, and the only change is the story. Yesterday there was an implication of theft for the rent. Today there was talk of him being upset that I implicated him and of tracking down and finding the culprit!?!? The gist of today though is that yesterday I felt that money had gone missing, today I feel that somone has stolen from me.

I am of course hurt by this. I have made sacrifices to be here, and as most everyone knows, I basically have no possessions or money of my own. I have sacraficed my well being to come here for other people and to work to make their lives better.

This is of course my motivation. The motivation of people here is to survive that specific day. To provide for their family. I must admit, I would do nothing different, I believe in trusting, and this family has been very good to me. They have fed me, housed me, even called me at night and gotten worried about me being out too late. They are my family.

I decided after speaking to Kaps this morning that I would leave their house though. I don't feel comfortable there. I packed my things and left. But good bye was horrendous. Kaps berated them about this is what happens when someone steals, when a thief is about. He then left and went inside. I said goodbye to the kids. They were all crying. Even Moses. I really feel for him. We really bonded. We ran together ever other day, he took care of me. He is my brother. He cried. I was truly moved, I just held him.

His father had said I was leaving because of this theft, but I was going to leave today anyway. I told Moses this and his eyes brightened a bit. I would do whatever I could for him, and all these kids. It was a sad moment.

As it is though, Yapo says that the money will come back, and I need to trust him on this. As I haven't received the $175 for the two portable hard drives yet either, the total now has another $340 on top. They owe me $500 now. Even if they wanted to pay, that is 2/3 of their yearly rent check. How do they come up with such money? If Kaps took it, the money is gone/spent. If someone else took it, what are the chances it wasn't spent yet? And what are the chances they'd give it back. This is a big test for a culture. I don't like generalizing like that, but imagine if they did get or give it back? That would be amazing.

That money as well was to directly benefit them. $75 would've stayed with Yapo for business expenses, $375 for my flight change, and the rest towards incorporating the US non-profit company - which is needed to get donations for our projects here, that would directly benefit them!!

But so now what?! I would imagine most people would tell me don't trust them. You can't do business with people like that they'd say. But think about it. If it was Kaps, or anyone else in the house, they know me. They see me daily, we laugh, we joke. And this culture is not like ours in the US. There is a very community based feel here. It is not like there is a whole mass produced culture of violence beamed to everyone electronically. There is only daily survival, and their cultutral norms which are incredibly friendly and hospitable, and even disciplined. The balance between these things basically makes up the security apparatus of society. Most things are self policed, and there is little need for "security" measures, except when it concerns "need". My experience is that people here would only steal if they had to. Not for want but for need. It is not a desired or glorified profession like in the US. You take away need and you can minimize crime even beyond where it is now.

This what I've learned. That there is even more need for work here. If your family can steal from you. If need can push someone to that level, then it is through desperation.

I also think that no one would ever admit to taking this money. It would always be denial, even as they handed you money. And this is what I will wait for, money in my hand. I told Kaps if I don't have either the hard drives and the money, or the money for both by tomorrow mid-day then I will report it to the police and the chief as well. If he shows progress I may wait till Thursday, but I am now leaving Monday. Thursday and Friday are the last days to report things. Then I'm off to Freetown somehow and a flight home.

Which, yes, I'm looking forward to now. Ready to get home, regroup, catch breath, and then get after it, or at least that's the hope. I mean lost in all of this shuffle are yesterday's meetings. They were great. I will be coming home with two MOU's and a great lead on solar street lamps for Makeni.

Uhhhh... crazy 24 hours. Sigh...

Gone missing

So the day started out tremendously. Met with bankers here, got their terms of service ("bastards no matter where they are" I quote Dave the self proclaimed capitalist here). But decided not to open a bank account as we needed to supply our constitution and meeting minutes. Which we don't have and formalizing them means formalizing our board - which I was not ready to do. As I said to Yapo, I do not trust Kaps and am not prepared to put him on the board. I said, in two or three months, time will show where he stands, and I think it will not be on the board. Turns out it was only 2 to 3 hours.

But anyway, back to chronology. We headed to the mayor's office, met with the city development guy as the mayor was out. Good conversation. Then out front we saw Eric (the chairman) right as we were trying to call and find him. Perfect!! Went over to his house and talked solar, diaspora funding, and MIT. He loved it all. Best meeting we've had. So we ran straight out and wrote up a memorandum of understanding for the diaspora funding and managment program. Great!! Two MOU's and a whole lot of excitement.

From there I was supposed to stop at Lindsay's and get my shirt back she used in the first white people villages, she wasn't home so I headed back home to start thinking of packing and check on a flight change. Got in, did some things, talked to my mother about the flight, then gave a call to Cheap-o-air!! Sorted, headed back in two weeks time. They had a flight for TODAY, next monday, and two monday's, took the 29th. (still feel like I'm cheating... Even though it is the best business decision).

Anyway, packed my day stuff (always take journal, charger, etc.) and headed to Lindsay's... Wait, outta credits after calling the US twice and sitting on hold. Let me grab some cash... Ummmm... Feels a bit light.about $300 plus dollars too light. Someone stole some of my money. The money to pay for the ticket change. But then they left some as well, huh?!?

My money is in a money belt which was tucked/zippered deep into a pocket in my bag. You'd only find it if you were searching for it. I got upset, I left the house, saying money was missing to Mama on the way out.

I went to Yapo's and told him. He was upset. We then saw Kaps, I told him. He looked down and seemed very concerned about it. We went back to the house. I was angry. Kevin was there then, he and Yapo were trying to figure it out, be consoling. But I knew. I knew exactly where it went.

I went out to Kaps and told him: "I have no reason to suspect anyone but you Kaps". But then asked him to look me in my eyes, and I said, Kaps, but I understand why someone would take it, need it. I understand conditions and things here. I told him about Jean Valjean and Les Miserables, stealing bread to feed his family. I told him I don't see much of a problem with it under such circumstances. Desperate times call for desperate measures. To which he responded: no Tim, stealing is never ok, I disageed, but agreed that it was not right.

I wanted him to know that I didn't blame him. Just as you can't blame the capitalist business manager for laying off workers (its his job and family on the line if he doesn't), you can't blame a poor person for doing what they must to survive and look after his or her family. We all do what it is that we must to advance and/or survive in the world's we live in.

So I said to him, Kaps, I just want it back. That is the money to change my ticket so I can go back to the US and get us all money and jobs. Then he said, Tim, the land lord came today, he is raising the rent. We can't afford it. He never admitted guilt, but what else could it mean? He had just come from meeting with the landlord though, so where do you think that money had gone and now was? Kaps knows me well enough to know what I am here for. I am here to try to help, to try to help everyone, including him. I love his family, they have treated me like gold. What a shame.

I told him, I am leaving to go to Lindsay's. I will be back later and I don't care how money gets in my pouch or who puts it there. I will ask no questions and we can go ahead exactly as planned. I understand, it is ok.

I would respect him SO much for taking ownership of it. Accepting responsibilty and giving it back. It takes a far stronger person to admit to a lie than it does to even be honest. But that was not where we were when I walked in tonight. Nothing. I must say though, I doubt he has it. He also owes me $175 for two hard drives still. $500.

The biggest thing with all this as well is that I was aware of all this and of all the naysayers that told me not to trust people. But I made a conscious decision. I am living here, they are feeding me, I can't carry my money belt everywhere, I will trust them.

"if you don't trust the people, you make them untrustworthy" -Lao Zi.

It seems from either side the old man could be right. I lost trust in Kaps, and where are we now? Or was it that I never should have trusted him? I chose to trust, that is the world that I want to live in, therefore that is the way I will live my life. As it is, for right now, this way of life has left me with less money, but an opportunity for something more. Yapo thinks the money will be returned, he thinks it is probably Kaps that has done this. He is sick, this is not what he wants me to think of Sierra Leone. But it is where we are. Tomorrow morning is different. I still hold hope in a lesson learned, in an understanding given, and better people emerging on the other side. As I said to Eric about our plans today, "It is a dream, but it is a nice dream!" Shall we live it? I would hope so.

Needless to say though, I am a bit sick with it. I need to catch up mentally and emotionally, and I am very low on money. So I changed my flight to next Monday. It wasn't too late, costs the same as in two weeks. I still want to climb the mountain, maybe I will. But I don't think I'll be into it. Won't be able to just let go and enjoy. We'll see. But I'll be home Tuesday. So soon...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bits and Pieces

So I finally realized what it is that has been subtly bothering my digestive scenario since day one here. They have this spice called "magi" here. They use it in everything. It finally dawned on me the other day that "magi" sounds an awful lot like MSG... Turns out because THATS WHAT IT IS!! The horrors. I thought it was the water, the oil, the casava leaf, whatever, but its just some imported flavor enhancer pushed upon them with out care for effects beyond a profit...

Did you know that most of the eggs sold in towns here (usually individually at street stands) come from India?? They sell one boiled egg for 600Le (less than a dollar for six). Apparently it is cheaper to ship and import eggs from abroad because they just can't sell local eggs at a competitive price. The chickens need a good protein rich diet which is expensive and hard to get here, medicines are tough to come by (and cost if you can find them). Not to mention infrastructure, etc. WOW!! How is that possible?! Can we make some local chickens and eggs!?!

I forgot the other one... Exhausted... Good night.


So it is always amazing how a nights sleep so easily sets things down in such an easier manner. I have purposely made this scenario of the last few days very public here on this blog. I have come upon something within me that I see as weakness, and perhaps most people wouldn't expose. But I expect more of myself than what I have come to here in the last several days. I feel I can do anything, but I have wavered in this scenario. But the true test of a situation is not always just via your own heart and/or eye, but through the eyes of others - Friends, family, etc. And you all have been great, I asked for advice, and got it from every corner, and it was so helpful to hear that people are happy for me to be me, as I am, and happy with me. That it is not failure to leave early just a reaction to simple change. "You are NOT a failure if you never take out your stove or hammock or even do any walking!! The goal you went with was to help people in need, that you are succeeding at with flying colors." This message was throughout and means a lot to me. People who's opinions matter. This is what makes us all stronger - supporting each other, loving each other. By sharing the load, I have been able to shoulder the burden.
The essence of the dilemma as it seems, is that I have read and read, learned and learned, theory after theory, yet even as I "knew" things, seeing and being them is still different.

"With much learning comes little wisdom"
-Lao Zi

This trip has forced me to reassess my ideas on life and development. Ideals change with the introduction of new ones. This trip has taken a lot out of me, but it has added a lot as well. The final decision making on leaving early is that I think I need to sit down at a table, when 80% of my energy isn't spent on daily survival, and reform my strategic plan of action for making a difference. The concept I came with needs to be changed. Then I can come back and make things happen, working from a better gameplan with a more stable foundation.