24 August 2010


Yea so Im now officially a Peace Corps Volunteer!!! Just thought Id let you guys in on that small little fact. It has been almost two years since I first began the application process, and those of you who were privy to all the ups and downs I experienced during this time, Im sure you will appreciate just how much this moment means to me. I have actually been at my site for over a week now. We swore in on 13 August, and it is good to finally be on  my own and away from the pleasant but often suffocating experience of living with a host family. I can actually leave the house when I want, eat the kind of food I want, without having to worry about offending anyone, which is very easy to do. I can't tell you how many times the locals here when we were served an oily plassas with rice (Plassas is a general term used to refer to any soup that accompanies a rice dish, the staple grain in Sierra Leone: Cassava, Potato, Groundnut, Kren-Kren), how concerned they would be over the fact that we were not eating, you would think that the sky is crashing down, with the amount of concern they would express. And it feels awesome to be able to move about my house without having to worry about people watching my EVERY MOVE. Life here for alot of people can be a bit monotonous and having peace corps volunteers around serves as constant entertainment for almost everyone.

Surprisingly I have not been too bored at my house, there is always something for me to be busy with: laundry, cooking, fetching water, talking with my neighbors who are really entertaining, especially Alfred Turay who is a teacher in Agricultural science at my school. I have had alot of interesting discussions with him about the kinds of crops grown here in Bumbuna, and he his going to be a valuable resource in helping me learn about the different varieties of crops grown here in Bumbuna, and the problems present with fertility of the soil, crop productivity, and adequate storage of sustenance crops, which is lacking here. I have found out also that the international presence here in Bumbuna is pretty extensive. Most notably the World Bank is involved, indirectly through a local development agency, in a lot of projects. There is a major damn operation here in Bumbuna that supplies most of Freetown with its power, is being operated by an Italian company. However, in the process of constructing the damn, alot of residents had to be relocated, and as a result, lost their income generating potential, almost exclusively in the form of agriculture (rice growing). The region I'm in also is rich in iron ore, the extraction of that ore has resulted in alot of environmental degradation. With Sierra Leone being last on the UN development index and its recovery from the devastating 15 year civil war, alot of international organizations have been assisting Sierra Leone in getting back on its feet. There are alot of opportunities for me in my village, and honestly I don't know where to begin: Mango trees are BOKU (Krio for alot), and during the harvest, alot of them just go to waste. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way for them to be preserved so that their beneficial nutritional qualities could be enjoyed at all times during the year?; Basic habits regarding hygiene and sanitation that we take for granted in the West simply do not exist here. Wouldn't be nice if people here understood the direct relationship between lack of latrine use and the increased prevalence of intestinal diseases? Or how about the fact that in my village, there is not a library? (There used to be one, I was told my Alfred, by neighbor, that past PCVs in Bumbuna started one, but it was destroyed during the war) Even with agricultural products, no reliable method here exists for the their storage. Cassava and rice are the main staples and I know that with cassava it is relatively hardy, especially when compared to other tubers like potatoes, and yams, but cassava and rice are not the most nutritious source of carbohydrates. To be frank, malnutrition is a HUGE problem here in the rural areas, and even in parts of Bo I noticed it, especially among the children. In a country where food and land are abundant, malnutrition should not be as pervasive as it seems to be. Maybe there are other larger structural factors at work here? I know that at least in my village Bumbuna, wouldn't it be nice if people had a basic working knowledge of the more nutritious foods available to them in their community and understood the benefits of increasing the consumption of those foods? Especially for the peekin dem? (children)

A full plate indeed. 

Small victories thus far?

-Learning how to use a coal stove

-Finally purchased a gas burner, but Im still missing the propane tank and regulator

-Getting excited and intrigued by the smallest of things....i.e. the gradual diminishment of boredom

-Recovering from a bout of Giardia

-Getting my laundry done

-Finally putting up a new blog post!

-Meeting up with some PC colleagues/friend

-Drinking fresh palm wine...straight from the source...not watered down...It's not bad!

I'm writing this post from Magburaka, Sierra Leone, and it looks like this will be the place where I'll be blogging from/using the internet so all I have to do now is get into a routine. My life has been hectic these past few weeks with training and getting adjusted to my site so once I get settled in, expect more regular post updates...with pictures of course.

Gavina, Arteeca, and I during swearing in ceremony.

Albert and I at the house