Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Daily life in Sierra Leone

Food in my room - cucumber, oranges and coconuts. From Miscellaneous

I have gotten a few questions about my daily life here in Sierra Leone, so I thought I would share how I go about some of my basic tasks.

Food and Drink
I generally eat pretty well here, although I suspect that I am consuming a lot fewer calories here than I would at home, simply because there is less variety and availability of food. I do not often feel very hungry though, which is a good thing. The custom here is to eat one big meal a day, usually in the mid to late afternoon. I get my meals in Mapaki from the Chief’s kitchen (photos of the kitchen to come soon). They make me breakfast as well as the main daily meal. I have learned to keep a few other items on hand in my room (right now I have: bread, cucumbers, oranges, coconuts, some trail mix, peanut butter and granola bars brought from home, and some crackers and laughing cow cheese recently purchased in Makeni), which I usually eat around lunch time. Then I eat the main meal for my supper. So, here is a typical day of food:

Breakfast – One or some combination of eggs, fried plantain (yummy!), corn meal porridge with bread, or some combination of the above. Along with my instant coffee of course (have I talked about coffee a lot so far? Feels like I have. The true sign of an addiction to caffeine :-)

Lunch – One or some combination of bread, sometimes with peanut butter (not every day as I’m trying to stretch it out), cucumber, oranges, coconut, laughing cow cheese. I now have some mayo and ketchup as well and I may try adding these into the mix too. Perhaps I’ll get myself some spam for sandwiches too.

Supper – rice with some kind of plasa (sauce) with meat. The plasas are groundnut (peanut) soup, cassava leaf or potato leaf, squash or sweet potato. The meat is fish, chicken or some other unidentified red meat (probably bush meat of some kind).

As you can see, there isn’t much available in terms of snacking and treats. It’s a pretty basic diet, and there is definitely a lack of vegetables, although I try to eat as much as I can. Next time I’m in Freetown though I am planning to stock up on a few other goodies, perhaps some nutella, cookies and whatever else might last in the heat and taste good.

For drinking, in Mapaki I stick to bottled water, coffee, and tea. I probably drink 2-3 litres of water in a day. Pop is available here, but it’s not cold. When I was in Makeni I drank A LOT of coke because it was nice and cold, but I don’t want to make that a habit. The local beer here, Star, is also quite good and readily available many places in Makeni.

Water and Sanitation
There is no running water in Mapaki. Some places in Makeni have it when there is a generator to run the water pumps. I am lucky enough to have an “en suite” bathroom, which includes a place to bathe and wash clothes and dishes and a toilet, which is flushed by pouring water into it. Most people would have outdoor pit latrines, not indoor toilets.

In the rainy season (which it is now) water is generally not a problem, although there are shortages here in the dry season. My water for washing comes from a well just across the street. The well is chlorinated, well-maintained and protected and the water is clean. People here drink this water; I don’t because it could have microbes in it that my body isn’t used to that would upset my stomach, and I figure better safe than sorry. There are a few containers in my bathroom which are filled with water. No, I do not get my own water – Mabinty brings it for me. Some day soon I will learn how to pump water from the well though.

Despite Mabinty’s protests, I do my own laundry. There is a line in my bathroom where I hang it to dry. I try to do it on a regular basis, every day or two, so that things don’t pile up. The line is only so long, so I can only hang a few things to dry at a time. Mabinty takes care of washing the sheets and things like that.

As I mentioned before, I now use my handy dandy shower in a bag to bathe, which is awesome. Before that (or if I’m somewhere without my shower), I took bucket baths. This involves pouring water over yourself with a cup, soaping up, and then rinsing. It’s hard to rinse with one hand while pouring water with the other. This is one of the things I appreciate the most about having the shower.

The only downside of being in Mapaki is that it is off the highway, so it is much more difficult to get places. Luckily for me, the road between Mapaki and the highway is in pretty good shape, and I have access to both Carolyn’s motorbike (with Kouame driving) and the Chief’s vehicle if needed. Fuel is about 15,000 LE per gallon (about $5 Cdn). It takes 3 gallons to go to Makeni and back in the car, and one gallon on the bike. I could also get a ride out to the highway and try to catch a taxi or a motorbike from there into Makeni, but that might prove difficult. For getting around in Mapaki I use my feet. There is also a bicycle available, but I’m not sure what shape it’s in.

Exercise has been woefully lacking over the last few weeks, although I did manage some yoga, but now that I am back and settled in Mapaki for a little while, I plan to get into a regular yoga and running/walking habit. Plus I hear that somewhere around there’s a chin up bar that was built for Gerald van Gurp when he visited last winter. I might have to give that a try as well. I am finding my back a bit sore from the lack of ergonomically correct chairs and the soft beds, but I’m hoping regular yoga and exercise will help with that.

Did I miss anything? If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

p.s. a few new pictures from Makeni and elsewhere are up on my photo page,

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