Wednesday, May 16, 2007


A day in the life of .....

The VSO organization prepares 6 month reviews of it’s volunteers and the employers and I had mine last week. Unfortunately I wasn’t fired and so I wont be returning back home to the warming climate above latitude 45 degrees until the end of June. The review is an open session facilitated by a VSO manager and with the most of the Makeni Councilors including the Mayor. Everyone seemed happy and wanted me to extend until next year to see the full results of the new program. I also had to bargain rather hard for a few small details like getting water at the house, refunds of money and some form of consistent transportation. After 6 months I am almost taken for granted now and the Council, always low on funds, has been trying to see how far to stretch the “opporto”. Thanks to VSO the result was good, I got what I wanted and I am planning the final stages of the project.

Part of the preparation for the review is to describe for VSO a typical day in the life of a volunteer so I’ll copy my contribution here. I’ll add more pics later

The day begins refreshingly early since without electricity, retiring in the evening prior is also early. The dark silence is broken gradually by the call of the muezzin and then the church bells, the screech of the cocks and the barking of dogs as activity starts and the first light appears. Rising at about 6:30 I go for a jog around the local football field and enjoy the company of locals now almost a club of early birders. A quick trip to the well to gather the water for my bucket shower is followed by a breakfast of local bread and ground nut paste. By 8:00am I am ready to leave and the girls at St. Joseph school opposite my house greet me with the chorus of the national anthem before school begins. A brisk 15 minute walk to work at this time of day when the sun is low is comfortable and I wave to the passers by and answer in Temne to their greetings. Children shout “opporto” from the Portuguese derivative at the strange sight of a white person and I smile. I arrive at work in a lifted mood and think how different and more pleasant this is compared to turning up for work in Canada. I chat with Pa John who takes the attendance and share a philosophical thought with others who are early for work. Planning depends largely on the availability of generated electricity and whether the councillors of the municipality are available. The training of various teams in the proper identification of homes and the working of the GPS machines is key responsibility today. Meeting with the deputy mayor to report on progress and also to remind him about his attendance at a radio interview that I have organised. Lunch is a large bowl of cassava leaves with rice and 5 spoons and we all share and whilst this might seem a strange manner it is now quite comfortable and very social. The heat of the day is greatest in the afternoon but it seems that generally this is the best time for field supervision. I take the local bike taxis around the city and meet the field staff to exchange information and handle any problems. Back to the office to do the paperwork and prepare for the next day. Every day is somewhat different and this has to be expected and enjoyed. After work a visit to the local market where I buy my rice and a local gourd called pumkin, some eggplant and some groundnuts which are ground to a paste. I chat with the market ladies practising my newly learned word for the day and typically they laugh cheerfully at my attempt. A walk home along the dusty roads and I am looking forward to dinner and a shower in the now cooling part of the day. I pass a fullah tribesman selling his stick bread and pick up a loaf. As the sun sets the call of the muezzin strikes up again and the sky is reddened. I will remember this pleasant feeling for a long while. Dinner takes a while longer on the kerosene stove (as everything does it seems) and allows the anticipation to set in. Afterwards this evening I have to attend the local radio for an interview with the Deputy Mayor to announce the major new program of re-numbering and identifying all the homes. The interview room is extraordinarily stuffy but the 45 minutes goes by quickly and I feel very satisfied that the effort seems to be working. Certainly the deputy mayor seems to think so and I feel happy that my contribution is noted. The ride back home on the back of the bike is in complete darkness and I arrive home to light the candles, have a bucket shower again and turn on the BBC for the 10 o’clock news before retiring under the mosquito net.

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