Saturday, December 19, 2009

Departures and Arrivals

Tomorrow I am leaving Sierra Leone. Hard to believe that my time here is almost over. As I get ready to leave, here are some thoughts on the things that I will miss in Sierra Leone, and the things about going home that I am looking forward to.

Things I will miss about Sierra Leone
The people: I have made some wonderful friends here, both locals and other ex-pats, who I will miss a lot when I leave. I’ll miss the kids I say hello to in Mapaki every morning. I’ll miss all of the cdpeace staff, and the teachers I’ve been working with. I will miss all the people of Mapaki, even the ones that I don’t know well. People here have been so warm and generous. I’m always amazed by those who have so little stopping by to bring me a small gift of fruit or corn or a coconut. Everyone here has made me feel so welcome, and it will be very sad to say good bye.

The weather: I think I probably picked the nicest months to be in Sierra Leone. It really has not been as hot as I thought it would be, and in the part of the rainy season I was here for it rained mostly at night so it didn’t affect me too much. I love being able to go out without even thinking about needing a sweater, jacket, or even a long-sleeve shirt. I love being out in the sun, or sitting in the cool shade on a warm day. I could live permanently in a climate like this, that’s for sure. It’s going to be a big shock going back straight into winter.

The food: I have come to love the food here. The rice I eat is mostly the local rice, and it’s really good. Actually, all the food I eat in Mapaki is generally local – it’s nice to know I’m lowering my impact on the planet by reducing my “food miles” while I’m here. I love the different sauces (groundnut soup, potato leaves, cassava leaves, squash) and will have to experiment to see if I can reproduce them at home (I know you can get cassava leaves in Halifax, so am looking forward to that!). I also love the fresh fruit here – oranges, grapefruits, papaya and pineapple have all been in season while I’ve been here. There’s nothing like the taste of a fruit that is fresh off the tree. I’ve never had such delicious pineapple and papaya or such flavourful oranges and grapefruit! The coconuts are great too.

The sense of community: there is such a strong sense of community here, in Mapaki and in the other communities I’ve visited. People look out for and care for one another. Decisions are made together by the community after discussion and debate. Problems are resolved locally by elders. People know their neighbours and greet them every day. I will definitely miss this when I go back to Canada, and I think I will work harder to get to know my own neighbours at home.

The sky: the sky here is often so amazing to look at. During the rainy season there were piles of clouds that looked so different from what we see in Canada, and lightning that would light up the whole sky like daylight. I’ve seen beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and the stars in the night sky are incredible. That’s one of the benefits of not having electricity – without electric light, the sky is so much clearer and more beautiful, especially at night. I never knew there was such a difference in light at night when there’s a full moon in the sky compared to when there’s no moon.

The music: I love the fact that people here are always singing, dancing and drumming. Even though they don’t have much, they always find a way to have fun, and they love to dance and sing! I think if people in Canada sang and danced more, we all might be a little more relaxed about things.

Things I am looking forward to about going home
Family and friends: Of course the thing I am looking forward to the most about going home is seeing my family and friends, and especially my husband. Even though I have made new friends here, I miss my people at home a lot and can’t wait to see everyone again!

Electricity and running water: A close second on the list of things I am looking forward to at home are the modern conveniences of electricity and running water (hot showers, here I come!). Actually, I could probably live for a long time without running water, especially in a warm climate. Here in Mapaki I have my shower in a bag and my indoor toilet, and someone else carries my water in, so I really have it pretty good. I don’t miss the hot water because it’s usually too warm for a hot shower anyways :-) If I had to use a pit latrine or haul my own water every day, I guess I might feel differently, but as it stands, the running water I could live without. Electricity, however, is another matter. I never realised how much I love and appreciate having regular electricity. It especially makes a difference at night. When it gets dark at 7 pm and you don’t have electric light, there aren’t too many options except to go to bed. Also, the lack of regular electricity can be a big barrier to getting work done and being efficient. Electricity is definitely one of the things that I have a new appreciation for after being here. I’m also looking forward to the other modern conveniences that come along with electricity: washing machine, coffee maker, refrigeration, microwave, etc.

Food!!!: Although the food here is tasty, there really isn’t much variety in the diet, and it’s not all that healthy. Vegetables are not readily available in Mapaki, and the cooking is done with a lot of oil and salt. Along with specific foods like broccoli, asparagus, cheese, and yogurt, I have really missed the food variety I am used to. I am looking forward to cooking for myself, grocery shopping, and accessing the wide variety of foods we are lucky enough to have available to us in Canada. I also desperately miss real coffee (I’ve been drinking instant since I got here) and am SO looking forward to my first cup in many months in the airport at Heathrow when I arrive there :-)

Being ignored: One of the things that is difficult about being here is constantly being noticed as a white person (see my previous blog about this – I must admit that I am really looking forward to being able to blend into a crowd again. To be able to walk down the street without being called after, and to not being particularly noticed everywhere I go. I am sure that I will appreciate anonymity even more now than I used to.

Comfort: Sierra Leone is not the most comfortable country. The beds tend to be either too hard or too soft. My working environment is not very ergonomically correct and this causes me some problems sometimes. There is never a couch to lie down on, only chairs to sit in. I am looking forward to sleeping in my own comfy bed, lying on my own comfy couch, and sitting at my own desk in my own office chair, all adjusted for me. I’m even looking forward to snuggling up in my housecoat under a blanket because it will be cold winter when I arrive home (brrr!), although I’m not sure how long that will last!

1 comment:

Moms the word said...

Clare you captured all of what I remember from our brief visit to Sierra Leone, the people, the place, the landscape. Thank you for this.