Friday, December 22, 2006


Merrry Christmas

Good morning. The picture was taken just now and shows me in my Makeni made African shirt and sporting the local hairstyle already two weeks old. I arrived early at the UN so that I can use the internet and post this message. I havn’t been very good at keeping up my blog. The year end has been pretty hectic. Getting things done is painfully slow here and when there is a deadline it seems that the process slows down even more. It is easy to become frustrated.

Add to this is an injury to my foot that seems now to be recovering. I obviously didn’t take enough off road motor bike lessons from Honda and I lost control rounding a sharp turn, into an unexpectedly large pothole. Nothing too serious apart from some bruising but it put a damper on my long walks. I have to rely solely on the local hondas and their drivers to get me around town all of which is a bit nerve wracking.

Christmas preparations are rather different in Makeni compared to those in London or Toronto. There is a distinct lack of decorations or lights (no electricity !!) and food is the main source of celebration. Also about 60% of the population are Muslim. Strangely though both religions are very respectful to the extent that Christmas greetings and small gifts are exchanged by all. It is really very nice to see. Typical gifts are of food and a really nice gift is a live chicken. Today I have a cooked lunch that I made for one of the ladies (Mariatu) who helps out here – my special of pumpkin and eggplant stew, mashed sweet potato with groundnut paste, and rice. I have arranged for two chickens to be delivered to my confreres at the City Hall. They know that I am not a meat eater and I am interested to find out what my gift is to be. I am secretly wishing for a replacement to my wind up radio that died an untimely death due to some over vigorous winding. It doesn’t hurt to wish!!

Caroling is a popular activity. Last night at 11pm we were woken by a five piece band – trumpet, trombone, cymbals, big drum and one singer holding a candle - otherwise complete darkness. The tunes were unrecognizable and the lack of practice was obvious but this did not mar the pleasant surprise. I was also pleased to see that they were collecting for the home for the deaf across the road – an often forgotten group in a world of more “popular” issues such as those people with Aids or the all too frequent amputees. The NGO’s seem to cater to these groups rather more.

Those of us staying at the Catholic Mission have planned a Christmas meal for a pile of volunteers some NGO people and some locals. I still have to go to the market today and buy some lentils, rice, peppers and some pumpkin to do my bit. I will also reluctantly share my Christmas cake and pudding with the crowd but I think that others will be bringing some goodies as well. Gifts are all locally produced and are more practical in nature. For example I have asked a local tailor to make up a blouse for Psyche from some material I bought. Jim wears a dreadful knotted handkerchief under his baseball hat to protect his ears and so I have asked the tailor to make up a special tilly like hat. Rachel wanted a table and there are some local woodworking shops where a nice round table can be had for $10. I have even found a local wood carver to make up some poro (secret society) masks. The day should be fun.

I’ll post some pictures on this blog later.

Today is the last day at work till the New Year. We did manage to get out all of the tax notices – all 5,750 hand delivered. However I did have to employ some of the local youths to help out for a small fee. Interestingly, no young girls responded to the job despite my request. At the Council meeting yesterday the councilors applauded the job and I felt good that the effort was recognized. The proof however is in the pudding and we’ll see how much is collected. After all, my job is revenue mobilization. I have started on the “sensitization” with three local radio interviews. One local radio station is “Radio Maria” a Christian based Italian charitable organization and I was interested to see that they have an office at Lawrence and Dufferin in Toronto. Can someone look them up? I have also arranged for the Town Crier – a man on a pedal bike with a loud speaker – to tour the busy market areas with a prerecorded message. The local youth groups have agreed to do some street theatre and this should be fun over the holidays. Overall I am seeing some progress and I am having some fun despite a lot of frustrations.

Merry Christmas / Happy Chanuka and any other felicitations to all.


Love that photo.Just a bit more tan and you are THERE Paul!!

You look 10 years younger than before you left. We hope, that Africa will have the same effect on us...
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