Sunday, July 27, 2014

Goodbye Salone!

As this post's title illustrates, my time in Salone is finished :( It was a wild few months that I will never forget but due to a number of different things - not least of all the ever-growing ebola outbreak (the deadliest one in history) - I'm back stateside and attempting to now wrap up things from here.

Freetown definitely proved a tough place to be. It seemed I was constantly sick or in the hospital and if not, it seemed there was always some roadblock getting in the way of progress at school. Nonetheless, things did happen, though they were very small and probably don't make that much of a difference. Here are some of them anyways:

The skylights that I had been working so hard to get approved finally were and the difference they've made in the classrooms is literally night and day. Check it out!

Class 4/5 before (on a rainy/cloudy day):

 Ibrahim putting in the skylight:

Class 4/5 AFTER: :) :) :)

Nursery Class before and after: 

Nice, huh? 

Before I left I also had some chairs and desks built for the the kiddos in Class 6, who are rather large people and have to sit in these teeny tiny seats meant for nursery class. Here's the before and after of those: 
Old desk:

New desk:

I also managed to arrange a two day session at school on alternative forms of punishment. It took a little convincing but with some built-in incentives and a few meetings beforehand, they all finally agreed. The sessions went splendidly and though I'm not convinced any of the changes will actually be implemented in the classroom, it was at least nice for the teachers to hear from someone who wasn't a tiny white girl. 

All in all Salone was a fabulous learning experience, one I wouldn't trade for anything, and despite all the setbacks and motorcycle crashes and ebola, I will miss it. Freetown is an exciting place to be; full of life, good friends, good food, beautiful beaches, and so much potential. Before I left everyone kept asking when I would return. I told them I have to be in school for a few years, but that I would come back as soon as I could :) Goodbye sweet sweet Salone!

SO, from Freetown I flew to London, and meet up with Sound Seekers to debrief and have a meeting with some of their projects committee people. I also made sure I went to see Platform 9 3/4, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, and others :) A few days in London was certainly not enough, but it was better than nothing! Before this trip I had never been out of an airport in Europe (though I feel I've been in SO many of them!). London is a gorgeous city and one I most definitely want to go back to when I can (mostly because it's absolutely FILLED with Mini Coopers). Here's some snaps from London:

Where the magic happens

"But Hagrid, there must be a mistake. This says 
Platform 9 3/4. There's no such thing, is there?"

Big Ben!

Buckingham Palace. I believe the queen was home, too.

So I'm in Michigan now, and will be here for just a short while before setting out with Maliza for Maryland, then South Carolina, then Maryland again before finally heading up to Boston. I finally have a place to live in Boston now, thanks entirely to my incredible brother for house hunting and dealing with realtors and just being generally wonderful. I'm not sure how much time I'll have to blog once I get  started in school, but if I can find some, I will.

Thanks to all my avid readers, all two of you (you know who you are)! And thanks to everyone in my life who has helped me make it all the way here: to 27 and lived-in-Africa and starting grad school and just basically having a pretty incredible not-much-to-complain-about life. Love you all loads.

Cheers and happy August!

~ Shub :)

Monday, June 9, 2014


I suppose it may depend on your definition of progress but I do believe things are happening here in Salone :) I've been here just about two and half months now and it's taken that long to start getting things done. The major changes thus far have been the new paint job inside school. What a difference a fresh coat of paint can make! I've found a very good contractor, who is dependable and nice and who's office is right next to school! He also feeds me lunch sometimes so that's an added bonus. My painters are funny guys and though it's taken them some time to realize that I'm a perfectionist when it comes to things like this and they can't just slop on the paint all crazy-like, they're doing a good job now. Here's some before and afters:

Main corridor

Class 6

Class 4/5

If I had enough funding I would just build a whole 'nother school, but we are working with what we've got :) With just a few more rooms to go we should be done within a week. But don't forget, no hurry in Africa. Everyone keeps asking me if we are going to paint the outside too, to which I always have to say, "we'll see!" I'm keeping an eye on the money and if we have enough left after other things then perhaps we'll paint the outside. Though the rains have officially started here, which makes doing any outside work rather tough. I've been told that July and August are the worst for rainy season. As of now it pours buckets at night and very conveniently stops just before I need to go to school. I'm not looking forward to all the mud.

A note about being white: In Kenya the Kiswahili word for white person is "mzungu," and was screamed at me every day, multiple times a day, for two years. Here in Salone the language is Krio, which is a funny pigeon mix of English, French, other European languages, and a lot of African dialects. I'm not picking it up very well and I keep trying to speak Kiswahili to people, which obviously does not go over very well. Anywho, there is a Krio word for white person, but you really only hear it out in the provinces. Here in Freetown I just hear "WHITE GIRL! WHITE GIRL!" Or sometimes they just scream "WHITE!!" Needless to say it's hard to forget how white I am over here. Oh well!

In other news - I've moved houses! I made friends with a very nice American who has a HUGE place that is essentially nicer than anything I've ever lived in before, in any country. I walk in and instantly feel like I've stepped out of Africa, which is not always a good feeling. It's also a bit farther from school. BUT I can't complain; air conditioning and 24/7 power and the kitchen of my dreams. I miss the guys that I used to lived with but I'm going to keep going back to bother them as often as I can. 

Even more news! - I know that most of you probably don't want to hear this, but I crashed on a motorbike last week. Not my fault, or my bike driver's; a van merged into us on the highway and we both ended up on the sidewalk under the bike. My pride was hurt more than anything seeing as how I was wearing a skirt and flashed the crowd of people that were watching as I rolled off the street. I just ended up with some cuts and scrapes on my right leg, which was funny because I had just fallen on some rocks the night before and scraped the crap out of my left leg. It was definitely not a great start to the week. Anyhow, everything was fine until Friday when one of my cuts opened up and got infected. When it wouldn't stop swelling and oozing I decided to go to the hospital and have since been taking tons of gnarly pictures of it that I would love to post but will spare you from :) The hospital wanted to keep me overnight but I didn't want to pay for that so we just agreed on doubling my dosage of antibiotics and that I would come back if it didn't get better. Thankfully, it has, and though I was rather excited about the prospect of a prosthetic foot, I'm glad I get to keep mine. Let me know if you want to see the super-gross photos. They're awesome. 

Here'a  few more photos to round out this month's post:

Workshop at my contractor's place. So many old timey power tools!

Friday means pink and yellow shirts! The backs of 
their shirts say "Deafness cannot stop skills!"  :)

And as always, the obligatory kitten photo. 

When I'm not at school painting or enjoying sleeping kittens I've been house hunting for my new place in Boston! I've gotten connected with some of the other girls from my program at BU and will be living with them in hopefully a super awesome place. I can't wait to go to Target and Ikea and shop for home furnishings!!

Ok, gotta run back to school! Love and hugs and all that jazz <3 p="">

Xoxo ~ Shub :)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Updates and observations from the Sierra Leonean adventure!

Things are moving along here in Salone, albeit very slowly. People in Kenya always used to tell me "No hurry in Africa" which I'm finding to be the case on this side of the continent as well. Perhaps it's the perpetual and unrelenting heat, for which I don't blame people one bit when they move slowly. Kenya was essentially the lap of luxury compared to here. The power in the house I am living in comes on maybe once a week, if I'm super lucky. In fact I don't think it's been on at all the last two weeks. We do have a generator, but can only afford enough petrol to run it for about three hours every evening. So I've become a regular at some of the air-conditioned, wifi-enabled coffee bars/restaurants in town. I'm relatively certain the owners of these places are getting pretty annoyed with me, seeing as how I seem to spend more time on the wifi than what the food I buy is worth. Oh well. It's working for now.

I've been here over a month now and sometimes feel like it's been MUCH longer. Work is progressing slowly, as is my fluency with the kids at school. I'm finding all the same issues with the kids here as I had with my kids when I first got to Kenya, only it's more so here because these kiddos are younger and have less language and vocabulary. Even simple things like asking "why?" or "how?" seem to not make sense to most of them. But with time my kids in Kenya and I came to understand each other perfectly, so maybe that's all I need here, too.

I have lots of things to say, mainly general observations that seem interesting to me, and might be to you as well, my dear readers. So here they are, in no particular order.

- Water comes in bags here. Sure, you can buy bottled water, but the water everyone drinks is packet water; little sealed 500ml packets of good, clean water (as far as I know, clean!). One huge bag of about 20 packets is 3,000 Leones, which equates to less than a dollar. I think at a country concert I paid $8 for a bottle of water one time. Crazy. Anyways, I'm finding the packets are actually much easier to carrier/store/have and I now seem to not be able to leave the house without one in my mouth. At least it's easy to stay hydrated!

- Speaking of money, the exchange rate is anywhere from 4,200 - 4,500 Leones to the dollar, and it all depends on where you change your money. There is an official exchange rate, I believe, but it doesn't seem to matter much to anyone. The banks like to make money off their exchanges, as do the guys on the street who change money as well. There's also an issue with bills that are dated before 2006. You get less for them, for some odd reason. Luckily, I've found a nice supermarket where they change my bills for 4,500Le every time. I will keep going back there. Plus it's air conditioned and has every cleaning supply under the sun, which I love.

- Speaking of supermarkets, Indian are to Kenya as Lebanese are to Sierra Leone. In Kenya it was always the Indians who owned the big supermarkets and shops and restaurants. Here, it's the Lebanese. I've met some very nice Lebanese people while being here, who were born and raised here, second or third generation Sierra Leonean. They all seem super pleasant and have been giving me good exchange rates, so I like them :)

- Continuing with the money, EVERYTHING (besides packet water) is expensive here in Freetown. I had to pay $35 for a pillow and a carton of strawberries I saw at the supermarket near my house was about $19. Phone credit is expensive, internet is wildly expensive (and horribly unreliable), and because just about every decent food is imported, it's all expensive as well. So crazy.

- I seem to get stared at less here, which is nice, and unexpected. I've had other white ex-pats tell me they get bothered SO much here, but I really think Salone is nothing compared to Kenya. I couldn't walk into town in Kilifi without getting at least one marriage proposal, a multitude of kids chasing me for money or sweets, or just 20 different people who wanted to say hi to me. Here that happens MUCH less frequently. I think a lot of it has to do with the lack of tourism in Sierra Leone. I could be totally wrong (and perhaps this is rude), but tourists generally have a different mentality about foreigners, especially in Africa, and it really comes across in a place like Kenya. Here, without all the tourism, the white people only come to work, and get stuff done, and I think that makes a big difference. Either way, it's kind of nice :)

- Everything here is spicy, and I'm slowly acquiring a mouth of steel because of it. Sierra Leonean people put SO many tiny hot peppers in every dish ever, that it's hard to actually taste what you're putting in your mouth. While eating I spend half the time wiping sweat off my face and blowing my nose, all because of the spiciness. Dad, you wouldn't do well with Sierra Leonean food :)

- What's the staple food here, you ask? Well, besides tiny hotter-than-hell peppers, they eat rice. Also rice. Oh yeah, and rice. Sometimes with the rice you get chicken or fish, and that often comes in what's called "groundnut soup" which is basically a spicy peanut sauce, or ground up cassava or potato leaves cooked in copious amounts of palm oil. And peppers. Did I mention they use a lot of peppers? I've been told palm oil is super unhealthy because of all the fats that are trans or saturated or something, but a few months of it won't kill me, right? I also eat a lot of mangoes and bananas, and pasta, and a LOT of bread. At school for lunch the kids who don't bring their own lunch eat bread. Sometimes there's butter (solidified yellow fat from a tub) or mayonnaise with the bread, but mostly it's just bread. At the beach I eat lots of fish and chips, and occasionally I pay a boatload for a relatively mediocre salad. Needless to say I'll be needing a few weeks straight at a salad bar when I get back stateside.

- My brother asked me a few weeks back what the craziest thing I've seen so far was. I told him it was tied between two things: 1) I saw a guy carrying a fridge on his head. Mind you everyone carries EVERYTHING on their heads here, but this was not a dorm fridge or something half-size. This was a legit full-sized refrigerator, and he just walked on by me like it was made out of foam. The funniest part was he had a little entourage of kids running along behind him with the inside parts of the fridge of their heads. Super cute. 2) People in wheelchairs have a hard time commuting from one side of town to the other, or at least getting into a taxi. Their solution (as I've seen multiple times) is to roll into the street and grab onto the back of a moving taxi or bus and just speed away. Obviously this looks incredibly dangerous, and surely is, but I guess if you gotta be somewhere you gotta be somewhere.

- Freetown is like an African San Francisco: SO many ridiculously steep hills! I believe "Sierra Leone" comes from the Portuguese phrase for "Lioness Mountains," which is very appropriate. So other than increasing the size of my thigh muscles (either from holding on for dear life on the bike of a motorbike or actually walking up the hills) this lends itself to some breathtaking photo ops.

So all in all things are good. I've been making lots of plans for projects at school and balancing that out with numerous days at the beach and lots of local beer :) I've got funds to get some renovations done to the school building (which was built in 1961 and has had precisely zero maintenance on it since then), purchase some ASL dictionaries and find a way to get them here, do some teacher trainings, and more. Fingers crossed I actually get something accomplished!

Hope all is well wherever you are, whatever corner of the world you may be in at the moment :) I will leave you with a classic Shub photo of some super great deaf kids.

Love and hugs from dusty and unbelievably hot Salone!

~ Shub :)

PS If you haven't checked out Facebook for all the photos, do it now! Go on! Do it!