Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pictures Paint Better Words

I’m thinking about what is familiar to me this week.  And I’m realizing that what is familiar- what is normal for us – would seem quite foreign to you.  We have spent more than seven months here in Sierra Leone acclimating to what is common here.  This post will give you a glimpse into some of those norms.

Signs of all sorts are written on all the trucks, poda podas (mini-buses) and taxis.

02.2011 Sierra Leone Scenery (130)
Most signs tend to be of a religious nature, “God bless Islam,” “The Lord is my Shepherd,” etc.
02.2011 Field Service - Freetown (34)
Even the chair in our bedroom at the hostel carried a slogan.
And everyone, who is anyone, has a giant sticker of Madonna, from the mid 1980s. (see upper left corner).
02.2011 Sierra Leone Scenery (8)
The emergency hospital, run by the French, has this notice about bringing your own blood.

02.2011 Field Service - Freetown (13)
This notice was on the door of the hostel where we stayed in February, threatening the management to pay the outstanding balance (the exchange rate is about 4300 leones to the dollar, so you can do the math).
02.2011 Sierra Leone Scenery (129)
All sorts of signs are posted on the streets
02.2011 Sierra Leone Scenery (53)
Stopping AIDS
02.2011 Sierra Leone Scenery (3)
Warning about the dangers of diarrhea (or diarrhoea for my non American friends).
02.2011 Sierra Leone Scenery (35)
02.2011 Sierra Leone Scenery (6)
If you like your taxi or poda-poda driver, copy down his phone number (it’s usually written in pen on the back of his window visor.
02.2011 Field Service - Freetown (11)
Suleiman is a great driver we know.
02.2011 Sierra Leone Scenery (126)
Look for piggies amongst the sewage in any of the rivers or rivulets that run into the city, and eventually into the bay.
02.2011 Gateway Field Service - Freetown (22)
02.2011 Sierra Leone Scenery (20)
You will see just about anything on top of someone’s head.
Fresh produce- some from in country, others that have just arrived on shipping containers from India (eggs) or South Africa (apples) or elsewhere.
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All sorts of used clothing for sale – “junks” – used items from overseas.  They come presorted in 50 kilogram bundles – shoes, women’s capris, white t-shirts, crocs, lingerie, sheets, towels… I’m still wondering where the clearinghouse is for this?
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You don’t need to really “go” shopping, because the shopping comes to you.  Maybe you want a coconut? (25 cents)  Maybe you want just a bite of coconut (4 cents).
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Maybe you want some ground nuts (peanuts)? You’ll just have to “psssst” for the vendor and get her away from the movie playing at the video store.
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The heat & humidity make it hard to resist a cat nap whenever business is slow, as these tailors have found.
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Most babies from age 4 months on are po-po’ed.  This is tied onto the back of the mamas with a piece of fabric.  The babies on the ward don’t like to be held like we would hold them in America- but tie them on your back, and they are content (and often will fall asleep).   The little girls will po-po their dollies here too starting at the youngest age.  (And yes, most of the dollies here are plastic, white dolls with blond hair.
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Wherever there is a bucket and water, there will be a shower. 
Where you can catch a ride, you do.
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Where you can lend a hand (or maybe fetch a free bag of rice), you do.  (And don’t forget that Obama is African, you know! He’s a celebrity here – you can get Obama whitey-tighties, backpacks, socks, shirts, belts, etc.)
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A local soccer stand.
July 2011 AFM Life 009
Watching gravel being made by hand brings a whole new appreciation to the prices we pay.
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Moss will grow wherever it can.
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Anyone and (almost) everyone has a cell phone and buys top up minutes to pay as they go.
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The crowds don’t scare off the locals- you learn to listen for the car beeps, back up with just enough room for them to squeak by your toes, and keep moving.
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It’s a hard, hard working nation- people not afraid to do manual labor, break into a sweat, and push their bodies to the limit in order to survive and provide for themselves or their families.
Houses are made out of a variety of substances – pieces of aluminum, tarpulins, plastic sheeting are common fillers.
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Clay and thatch huts are seen in the outlying areas or near the beach communities.

July 2011 AFM Life 130

After a day of heavy rain, we saw several accidents alongside the road, including this Star Beer transport truck that had tipped.  Many people were willing to “help” with the cleanup of the crates.
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Rain or shine, the vendors sell and buy their wares.
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Need a custom made bedroom set, a pillar, or a giant steel gate?  You can find one for sale along the road here.
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Clothing varies from traditional West African, to “western” (not cowboys and indians, but what we think of as modern clothing).  All African clothing is custom tailored so you don’t see many duplicates (though sometimes whole groups will get the same outfits made – sisters, youth clubs, all the ushers in a church).
At the beach we’ve seen lots of out of the our ordinary sights as well.  For instance, did you know there was a Hard Rock in Sierra Leone?  (Actually, there are millions)…. just at least one that happens to be labeled.

02.2011 Lakka Beach Sierra Leone (39)
Want barracuda?  Just a minute….
02.2011 Lakka Beach Sierra Leone (5)

The fresh catch is now in!
The scenery is stunning.  This is at Lakka Beach,
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Bureh Beach,
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And John Obey (aka Obama Beach).

And then there’s the port life.  We live in the middle of a port.
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Out our cabin’s window, we see this.
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Or this.
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We’ve got some neighbors without much.
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And other neighbors that are loaded.
Some days are pretty murky,
07.2011 Sierra Leone 2011-07-25 022
And others are pretty spectacular.  This is a look at our norm.

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