Monday, September 14, 2009

Mapaki – September 12 and 13

The morning of September 12 (Saturday), we had a staff meeting of all the cdpeace staff in Mayagba (see the “people” post) for a list of most of the staff. The staff meeting was really good – gave me a chance to meet everyone and to hear a bit about the work that is happening so far, and for me to introduce myself. I’m looking forward to hearing more from the staff about what I can help them with in terms of training. Some of us are meeting again on Monday to plan something for International Peace Day. Should be good!

After our meeting, I went to Mapaki with Sally Conteh (the Chief’s wife) and Mabinty. It was very nice to finally get to Mapaki and be able to unpack and settle in somewhere, rather than lugging my stuff around all over the country. The handle of my suitcase broke on the journey over, and I think this suitcase has seen the last of its travelling days (it’s lasted me 6+ years and many trips, so I can’t complain), but it still needs to make it home again! It’s a relief not to have to drag it around any longer though.

I began my stay in Mapaki by inadvertently doing something to the lock on the door of my room, AFTER I had put all my things in it so that the lock no longer worked. The carpenters had to come and remove the lock and put on a new one. Sigh. But I got in fine in the end and have now settled in quite well to Carolyn’s room in the Mapaki guesthouse, which is very comfortable :-)

Mapaki is the capital of the Paki Masabong Chiefdom, one of the areas where cdpeace works. TMT (Thomas Turay, one of the founders of cdpeace), grew up in this area. It is about 17 miles (I think, have to double-check that) from the Azzolini highway to Mapaki, and the road, although dirt, is quite good. Apparently the chief lobbied the government quite hard to get them to repair and maintain the road. There are a few potholes because it is the rainy season, but for the most part the road is fine. Makes the journey so much easier!

Mapaki is fortunate to have both a guesthouse and a library, newly built by the community in the last year or so. Both have access to power from a solar panel and a satellite internet connection. There were some problems with the internet over the last few weeks, but it seems to be working now, so I should have relatively reliable internet access. It is for this reason that Mapaki will be my home base while I am here in Sierra Leone, although I will be spending time in Mayagba and in Gbonkolenken chiefdom as well.

Yesterday afternoon/evening was pretty quiet, just spent mostly settling in. Today was much more exciting! The morning started with the sounds of drumming and singing outside the guesthouse. Mabinty came in to tell me that they were drumming for me (I didn’t realise that at all – thought it was something to do with church since it was Sunday). I went out and got to dance for a bit (fun!) and then we had a community meeting to introduce me to the community (similar to what was held in Mayagba). It’s really a humbling experience to be introduced to a whole community as someone who can help them, and I hope that I can live up to their expectations. I’m very interested in learning more about all the communities I will be working with.

I also had a tour of the village today, courtesy of Kouame and Sorie. I saw both the Mapaki schools (primary and junior secondary school), the court and jail, the community centre, the church and the mosque, the site of the new youth training centre that is currently being built, and all the important houses. I met many people, although I’m afraid I’ve forgotten most people’s names . . . I really need to carry a notebook with me to write these things down!

After a few hours on the internet (oh how I missed the internet! SO happy to have it working now!!) and a yummy supper, I spent the evening sitting on the front porch of the guesthouse. I read until it started to get dark. As dusk fell I just sat and listened to the sounds of the village. I can see already why Carolyn loves it here so much. It is a beautiful place, and all the people I have met so far are wonderful! I know I am going to have an amazing experience here.

No comments: