Friday, September 25, 2009

Krio in Makeni

On Tuesday morning I came to Makeni. I will be here for a week doing Krio language training and working in the office with Heidi (she works in an office that is available to NGOs in the UN compound here in Makeni – there is power, internet and best of all, air conditioning!!). Makeni is the capital of the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. The population is about 200,000, so it’s MUCH bigger than Mapaki.

There are good things and bad things about being in Makeni. The city is loud and much more crowded than Mapaki, and things are further away from each other of course. I am staying at Heidi’s house, which she shares with a few other people. The house is great – lots of space and conveniently located close to her office (it has no running water or electricity though). The only unfortunate thing about the location is that they are close to a mosque, which has prayers every morning at 5:30 am. These are quite loud and have been waking me up. I’m hoping I’ll get used to it after a couple of nights and am going to try sleeping with ear plugs tomorrow night.

On the plus side, there is much more available in Makeni than in Mapaki in terms of food. You can get vegetables (lettuce, tomato, carrots, cucumber, beans), fruit (apples, bananas, plantains, oranges, grapefruit) and a lot of other stuff – chocolate powder (to make cocoa), coffee, soya sauce, tuna, eggs, etc. Some of this is available in Mapaki as well, but much of it, especially the vegetables, is not, so that part is a treat. Yesterday I even had ice cream! I think the box said that it was egg flavour, but it was still yummy :-) Something cold to eat on a hot day is always nice.

Speaking of hot days, it hasn’t been as hot here as I initially expected. I don’t have a thermometer, so I’m not sure of the temperature, but I would guess it’s usually in the high 20s or so. It’s not usually super muggy, although some days are worse than others, but it does rain almost every day. It’s nice when it rains because it cools things off a bit. The cloud cover that we often have makes it feel less hot as well – yesterday it was sunny and it was wicked hot in the sun. I’m sure as the rainy season comes to an end (October) and the dry season starts, it will get hotter.

One of the other things I have been enjoying about being in Makeni is getting to know some of the other expats working here. There are several VSO volunteers working for local NGOs based in Makeni. Amy and Rabia work for Future in Our Hands, Sahiel works for MADAM (I can’t remember what the acronym stands for but it’s something to do with development and agriculture I think), and KK works for CAFOD (Catholic Association for Development).

The Krio lessons are going well – so far we have learned basic greetings, how to ask for a few things, for directions, food, prices. We did a whole thing on how to bargain, which is key here. Some prices are fixed, like for smaller food items, or in some of the shops, but you really do have to bargain for any larger items. I don’t consider myself a good bargainer, but perhaps now that my Krio is a bit better I will have more opportunity to practice.

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