Sunday, September 2, 2012

Epic Trip #2

Hello World,
How are you today?  Great?!  I sure do hope so!  So let me see, when did we last chat?  I think I left off at the wedding.  After that spectacular event, I stayed a little while in the Peace Corps Hostel in Freetown for a very specific cause.  I locked myself in a dimly lit room to think about the future... DUN DUN.  I did some research on the internets and the verdict is in… DUN DUN.  I am going to follow my childhood dreams to become a bus driver.  Some might say, “why?”  And I might say, “So I can drink pop whenever I want.”  (Sabrina and Michael restricted my pop intake as a child for obvious reasons if you knew me in my youth.)
Anyways, that mambo jambo doesn’t have anything to do with me being in the Peace Corps or Sierra Leone or finding the meaning of life while I hang out with African people, because I assume one of those subjects is what brings you to this blog.  After some contemplation time, I went to visit a friend in his village.  He lives in one of the smallest villages in our group and it was cool to see how he lives compared to how I live in Madina.  His village is right along a river and has beautiful swamps where everyone does their farming.  He even has his own peanut farm!  After that I headed to a small village outside a larger town in the north, Port Loko, to volunteer at a summer school for primary school kids with two of my girlfriends.  We did some simple activities with them, but a formal school wasn’t really happening and the girls had a lot of chores to do throughout the day.  One the cute little girls said (and I quote), “Look at the louse.  It goes waka wake (walk) on wi head.”  Nothing like a little lice to spice up your hairstyle.  : ) We, the Pisko ticha dem, always have our expectations low, so we still ended up having a blast despite the lice and downtime.

Tough girls from the school

Some of our new friends
After that shindig, I headed BACK to Bo for another week of being a Resource for Salone 3’s training.  I liked that I had another chance to get to know the newbee’s and to see how pumped they were to move to their communities and start teaching.  The Peace Corps had a formal ceremony for the new volunteers to swear them into service, but the real fun came after the ceremony.  The Salone 3ers had their little dinner than us Salone 2ers met up with them for the dancing part.  There was also a special appearance by DJ Ray a.k.a. I stole the microphone from the club’s DJ booth and broadcasted my feelings about the new volunteers… for the entire night.  I also won the Hat Trick competition (that’s an inside joke that I will fill only my closest of friends in on when I’m stateside again).  Good times! 
During the last couple weeks, I’ve had to say good-bye to most of the Salone 1 volunteers.  Those guys were a bunch of characters doing some amazing work in this country and it was a big hit to have them go.  I know they’re going to do well back in the land of cheeseburgers and apple pie.  Cheers to you Salone 1 and the path you paved for us and future volunteers in Sweet Salone!
After Bo we headed to the third largest city, Makeni, where we had our training a mere one year ago.  I stopped by my host family’s house to greet them and present them with some Bo gari (pounded cassava root).  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the happiest of reunions.  My papa told me that everyone was at the funeral of the 2 year old boy, Raymond, we lived with.  He had just died that day and no one knew what happened.  He was such a cute little boy who was always smiling.  Again, I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know what to say or what to do and sadly not due to any cultural differences.  My heart goes out to Raymond’s family and all of the other families who can relate to their pain.
Abi and her son, Raymond

Raymond with a : )

We checked into our guesthouse, which some might describe as a crack den.  I’m pretty sure it was one of those classy places that charge by hour.  But times are rough and the living ain’t always easy, so we ignored the odor of urine on the pillows, the toilet bowl full of used condoms, and the small luggage locks that were used to protect our valuables and cozied in. 
Today happened to be a big Islamic holiday called Eid-Ul-Fitr also commonly known as “pray day.”  For those of you not too well-versed in Islamic traditions, there is an entire month devoted to fasting, praying, and you know, trying to be a better Muslim called Ramadan.  It takes place through most of August and during this time, Muslims cannot eat, drink (including water, ah!), have sex, curse, be violent, or have impure thoughts during daylight hours.  I’m pretty sure the violence and cursing is supposed to be all day long, but you get the point.  Obviously people aren’t eating or drinking all day, so they can get a little cranky.  Anyways, the best part about Ramadan (in my opinion) is the end, pray day, because after everyone has a big ol’ pray session in the morning they party all day long.  There’s lots of food, lots of soccer, and lots of bluffing, which defines having a good time in this culture, which is definitely A-OK by me. 
Anywho, after the experience with my host family and the fact that we were staying in what could also be described as a condemned ghetto tenement, we should’ve known that this night was not going to be the best of times.  In fact, it turned out to be the exact opposite, the worst of times.  WithOUT that in mind, we headed out to some social establishments to celebrate the Muslim holiday.  While outside in a crowded area in a matter of about three minutes five people were robbed or as we say here, thiefed (pronounced “teefed”).  Alas, I happened to be one of the victims.  I was standing on the street trying to message someone and three guys ran up behind me, snatched my phone for my hand and ran across the street into the darkness.  Cool.  Along with my phone (that had a really cool blue cover and said “Hail to Pitt” on the main screen), a purse, money, a wallet, and a pack of cigarettes were accounted for our losses.  We decided to hightail it out of there and went to another social establishment.  The new place seemed a little bit less risky, but we were all in bad moods and decided to go back to the crack den. 
Before we went back, we HAD to get some street meat sandwiches and as I’m watching by candlelight my mysterious meat being grilled, a couple of guys run up to me, rip my purse off my body, and run off into the darkness.  It was the one of those passport purses that you’re supposed to wear under your clothes, but I was wearing a dress and that would be awkward.  However, it was over my shoulder and right in front of my waist.  Needless-to-say, I was stunned that I got thiefed not once but twice in about one hour.  I was also a little upset that I didn’t use better decision-making skills and go right back to the crack den after the first round of thiefing.  A couple of my friends did have the sense to go back a little earlier and informed us that they had been standing outside the gate in the rain for 45 minutes screaming at the sleeping guesthouse employees to let them in.  Instead of an employee, they were saved by a Guinean man who only spoke French and wasn’t too pleased that he was awoken from his sound stupor in the crack den.  As they’re telling us how they managed to get inside the den, I realized that my key for the luggage lock on our door was inside my purse… you know the one that just got thiefed?  Soooo, we had to break down the door and when I say “we” I really mean my man friend who is pretty strong but he didn’t really need to be.  To top off the night, our street meat sandwiches tasted like swamp…
The ferry to Kamakwie

And I saw this monkey!

From Makeni, we headed to two of my friends’ town, Kamakwie, which was only a short little eight hour poda poda ride on one of the worst roads in the country.  Yay! I really liked their town – mostly because there’s a lot of Limbas.  The highlight of that trip was the boys vs. girls Cranium competition and by no surprise, the girls won three rounds with no hindrance.  Although one of my nerdy friends said it wasn’t statistically significant until we beat them at least five times in a row I am still going to boast that girls are better than boys at Cranium – amongst other things.  Boo ya!  We had a great time and I was happy that the crew was going to be joining me on my way back to Madina.  In fact, my friend planned this little expedition and appropriately named it “Epic Trip #2.”  Epic Trip #1 didn’t actually happen, but we still called it #2.  We all made it to Madina safely.  I loved introducing my Peace Corps friends to some of my African peeps and showing them my town.  I started not feeling well that night, so it was difficult to play hostess but I still managed to make some dishes with food I brought back from America in May (that I was saving for an appropriate American time).
The next day I got them into a rugged-looking vehicle and literally pushed the car out of my town.  They were on their way to other parts of Kambia for a little Kambia United tour.  It was nice to have a couple of days in my town before I had to head back to Freetown for our Peace Corps Mid-Service Conference.  I also had to have my annual medical and dental check-ups.  Let me just say that seeing a dentist in the third world was not a pleasant experience – there might have been some violent banging involved.  Then, we had our conference, which served as both a reflection on the last year and a goal-setting time for the year to come.  As always, I got a lot of great ideas from my peers and can’t wait to see how they work out back in Madina.  Since we were altogether, we had to have some kind of function that involved drinking Star beers, wearing ridiculous clothes, and having a S.N.A.C.K. meeting (again, that last one’s an inside joke that I will fill only my closest of friends in on when I’m stateside).  My friend who also invented Epic Trip #2 came with the idea of a prom.  Some of us took prom more seriously than others liiiiiike me. : )  I asked one friend while he was in America via Facebook.  Then, I realized that we have more boys than girls in our group, so I was ever so kind to ask another friend to be my second date.  DRAMZ ensued.  My first date wasn’t too happy so he had the audacity to dump ME.  Let me just say, that the Rachel Ann Murray does not get dumped.  ROAR, so I asked another one of my friends and he agreed to be my second first date. 
School’s scheduled to start back up again September 10th and I’m looking forward to another year of being called Ms. Rachel.  This school break has been a lot of fun, but I’m a little exhausted from travelling and not being able to sleep in my own bed (and getting thiefed).  I also miss my neighbors, the teachers at my school, my students, people from church, and some other random people in my town I greet every day and sometimes eat rice with (a.k.a. friends).  It will be good to go back and get back into the ol’ routine for a little while.  Also, something I am sort of looking forward to is the upcoming parliamentary, counsellorship, and presidential election on November 17th, which Insha'Allah (“God willing” in Arabic) will be peaceful and diplomatic. : )
Well folks, that’s all I got for you.  I hoped you enjoyed reading about the Peace Corps, Sierra Leone, and finding the meaning of life while I hang out with African people.  As tradition holds, I am going to leave you with the words of someone more inspirational than yours truly…


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