Monday, December 13, 2010

This Time of Year

>> So this is difficult. In case I gave you the impression that the Peace Corps was easy, it was really hard for my parents to call on Thanksgiving and not be present. For some families, I know that Thanksgiving is an excuse to drink, but in my family it's been the same since I can remember. Waking up early, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, helping cook, watching the football game, engorging in some amazing meal, then either watching football or "A Christmas Carol" preferably with Scrooge being played by Alistair Sim. (Alastair Sims?)(Alistar Sim?) If I had google, I could check that. My point is that it was difficult to hear from home. BUT. We made our own Thanksgiving. At Andre's residence, we killed a duck, cooked breadfruit (?) and a variety of other items and made a feast. We said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the Sierra Leone National Anthem before we ate, which I thought was pretty amusing, given the amount of children staring at the copious amounts of food we made. And then devoured. Such is Africa. // The end of my first term teaching has brought a lot of reflection. A new plicy meant that students were broken up and spread out and enabled me to see a lot more of the cheating, stop them from cheating. The grades on my test were way down. Depressing. But, some kids continue to genuinely shine- one student aced my exam and many others did well. It is exceptionally encouraging to see students that not only understand the material but are passionate about it. I can only hope that they have the opportunity to *do* something with this desire to learn although in many cases, it's simply not the case. Again, such is Africa. // I'm at IST now, (In-Service Training) in Makeni which is great because we get to see all the volunteers again! and sucks because we get to see all the volunteers again! and is annoying for the same reason. We shall see. It is hard for me to believe that as of December 14th I will have spent four months living in Gbendembu and will have been in Africa for six-and-a-half months. I hear that winter has hit my home of Chicago and that Chicago sports organizations have decided to become awesome in my absence. Thanks, guys. Really. I was the one cheering on the Bears regardless of the record (usually 4-12) and now that you're 9-3 (10-3?) I'm not there. Harumpf. // I will not be able to post again before the New Year or Christmas so I will wish you all a very happy holiday season and a prosperous new year. I implore you to focus on what is IMPORTANT this time of year, not gifts, not bargains, not alcohol (although I'll approve celebratory champagne) but spending time with your loved ones. I am not looking forward to Christmas (I'll be in my village! :) but I know I'll be thinking about all my loved ones at home. I will be coming home in mid-July 2011 and I continue to look forward to (but not too much) to seeing you all again. Again, a shout-out to Jimmy, Jessie, and Andre's parents- We had a great Thanksgiving although I was feeling under the weather and we continue to be close. Finally, in closing, I have not had diahhrea in three weeks! Three WHOLE weeks! If that's not a Christmas present from Africa, I don't know what is :) I love and miss you all :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bryan and the Case of the Undisciplined Students

>> So. Let's get caught up. School has gone very well. I've given a few more tests, and my students have honestly begun to respect me, that is, my SS2 students. (JSS1 to JSS3 is from age 13 to about 16, give or take a decade, and SS1 to SS3 is 16-20, give or take a decade. I have a 30-year-old student in SS3). My SS3 kids were very disrespectful for a few days in a row, giving me flack, talking in Loko behind my back because they knew I would not understand it, etc. I came out of the class fuming and the principal noticed (My friends have sometimes noted either a feeling of cold or a feeling of heat waves when I'm angry) and asked what was the matter. I informed him about their flagrant disrespect, ESPECIALLY given my status as, you know, a young volunteer thousands of miles from his family and friends, you know, no biggie. My principal was VERY upset. He wanted NAMES. The next day, the worst five, (which became nine), got yelled at, eventually turning into a hunt to see who had taken down my notes. Out of the 51 students, only 18 had. The others? Of COURSE causing problems. Caught. Their punishments can't really be revealed here, but the school farm looks superb, and my compound is very clean. Their uniforms were also changed to match the younger students. They pleaded to me, "Mr. Meeker, the younger students do not respect us in this uniform!" to which I replied, "Oh? You're upset because you're not getting the respect you feel you deserve? That must be AWFUL." They prompty left. Treated. // My laptop refuses to charge. A technician in my village, Jerry, has taken her down to the motherboard and found multiple problems that coincide with someone dropping it. I have NEVER dropped it and am usually careful (as careful as you can be here) with it which means that someone else dropped it. I would be angry, but there's no real point. My life goes on. I hope that Jerry can fix it, because I miss movies and writing and mixing music, but if he can't, I'll survive. It's just frustrating to have an amazing poweful laptop essentially reduced to a shiny Sony paperweight now. Sigh. // There was a Muslim holiday here a few weeks back which involved me going to a nearby village for an awesome dance. We were treated like royalty (Jimmy and I) and we had a lot of fun although real-world problems came back at the conclusion when our ride was inebriated and our options to get the seven miles back to Gbendembu were limited. Needless to say, we walked a large chunk of that (as the sun set) and then I managed to find transportation. The day and dance were fun, but to have real-world problems like alcoholism hit you in the face was depressing. // I had giardia a week ago, you can look that beauty up, and it was awful. I know that I always seem to be writing about when I'm sick, but that's just because it's what I remember. I'm healthy and happy 85% of the time :) but the giardia was bad. I had terrible diarrhea and felt like vomiting, dry heaving, like my insides were on fire. I called our medical officer and took 4 pills of 500mg antibiotics (which honestly would kill anything) and felt better slowly over the next couple of days. I don't know if I've mentioned it here before, but being sick here is a HUGE depressing situation. Whereas in America you can drive to CVS or Walgreens or wherever and get some soup and some medicine, that's really not an option here. Your choices are, call the doctor, take the medicine she prescribes, and wait it out. Such is life. // Foday showed me an awesome dish that I will be sharing with my parents when come to visit me in late March. Papaya, red peppers, lime, salt. It sounds maybe a smidgen like guacamole or a smidgen like fruit salad, but it was REALLY good. The Mende pastor, which whom I've been spending Monday or Tuesday evenings with, continues to spoil me with amazingly good food. Her last dish I christened "Spicy Mende Chicken," which she loved :) She is also an example of the village beginning to like me- she came to my house when I had giardia and prayed over me. Wonderful experience :) I have to give a shout out to the BB parents of Jessie, Andre, and Jimmy, my family here in Sierra Leone. Your kids love you, and we're having a get-together tomorrow for Thanksgiving. It was hard to miss Thanksgiving, especially since my parents called, but I know that we'll make up for it with our own unique version tonight/tomorrow. I love and miss you all :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Mr. Meeker is a Good Teacher!"

>> That's right. The students say I'm a good teacher. The first four weeks have gone really well, I've given three quizzes and again gotten bell curves on them, with their "big" test coming up on Tuesday. It's really not much bigger than the quizzes (a limitation on these not being printed tests but being me writing questions on the board so you can' really ask more than seven questions) ((I'm asking seven questions)). The last few weeks have of course had their share of memorable moments, a small spell of sickness (less than a day) in which I felt so dizzy I thought the bed was flipping over sideways. Fun. I drank beverage with complete strangers in my friend's village, watched some tremendous thunderstorms, made friends with some of my fellow teachers, and on Thursday the 21st, my birthday, watched as about sixty Africans converged on my property and danced into the night. Staff members arrived first and we requested some music on Capitol Radio (my favorite) and then the children arrived. They are continuously amazed at my dancing skills (skills? hmmm.). I got to DJ for about ten minutes and loved it although the kids didn't know the music (of course) and it's not what they're used to (of course) but my friends were going crazy and it felt amazing (and like home :) I would write more, but my battery is dying. Such is life. In conclusion, I did not think I would be celebrating a birthday (ever) in Africa, but I found myself having the time of my life here and as I've said before, for every moment that I struggle, waiting just a little amount of time usually lends itself to something amazing and beautiful. I love and miss you all.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ikenna is Generous

>> Ikenna is letting me use his laptop at our favorite Makeni hang-out, where internet is down, but somehow up at the same time. In this case, his laptop is invaluable. Thank you, Ikenna. Now, to me. The more important volunteer. Teaching has gone well, but let me tell you more. The first week involved me awkwardly sweating, dealing with diarrhea, and teaching students things they already knew. The second week involved me hitting my stride. Students that initially were apathetic found a focused, non-diarrheal, still sweating volunteer in front of them, ready to teach. I gave a quiz on Thursday (as I did not have them on Friday) and grades were remarkably just what I wanted (aka a bell curve with some doing great, most doing okay, and some not so much). The third week, this past week, has also been great. I delayed my next quiz until Monday (because the students lied to me about an assembly. thanks.), but they seem to be interested in the material and some have even asked intuitive questions. It remains to be seen how much detail I can go into biology at a Baptist school where on my first day I was questioned about my religious tendencies. As in America, I plan to teach science, and only science. I was worried about teaching because of horror stories I had heard from other volunteers, of taking many months to realize how to teach effectively and while I do NOT believe I am at the apex of my teaching prowess, I feel like I have settled into a nice..groove.. already. On the home front, I am having some chairs built for my parlor and received a bookshelf, toilet seat, and some wooden boards I wanted. I have now posted the postcards and letters I have received from home and anytime walking down my center hallway makes me smile. I will not be online again until November, which will be after my birthday and a party at my mansion on the 30th. Thank you again for your responses and comments and I love and miss you all :)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Long Time No Post

>> Sorry about the delay. In Africa, things are difficult. Ill be brief because I can be back online next Saturday. Teaching is going wonderfully so far, and Ive really settled into my village. Foday was transferred to the village of Makago so we do not see each other as much as we did. I went through a bad bout of ..something.. but with the help of Cipro (a great antibiotic) I got over it. I have never felt so helpless as I did in my latrine at 2 in the morning unable to defecate normally. Sigh. Besides that, everything is wonderful. I am looking forward to my party on October 30th at my house and contemplating that I have now spent four months in Sierra Leone. Amazing. A better blog post next time, I promise...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ah Hah...

>> Why is Blogspot talking to me in Spanish today? Such is life. Thank you all for your kind comments and words of encouragement. Along with the e-mails and Facebook comments, they help to keep me grounded that you all still *do* exist, just across the ocean :) I have "settled" in a little bit more since my last post. I feel that my villagers may have come to understand that expecting me to learn all of their native languages in two weeks may have been slightly presumptuous and they are now happy with my basic greetings and a smile. My Loko is far improved (modesty) and I can now remember who speaks Limba (and who doesn't) and I've even made a friend where I greet here in Loko, Temne (Themne? It sounds like Temm-nay), and Limba and we both get a laugh out of it. Foday continues to be a welcome resource and we spend most nights relaxing on my veranda with beverage and Bob Marley / Capitol Radio playing into the night. Most volunteers have a very 'public' setting, but my mansion is set back from the road (behind Foday's house) and faces *away* from Foday's house and into the relative jungle. This means that sitting on the porch is a relaxing affair and not so much an invitation for endless conversation (which of course is nice, but I'd rather have people come to me when they want to talk to me as opposed to, oh! i'm walking by! there's that nice plump American! let's chat!) Not that I'm not social, but the privacy is wonderful. I'm excited for the school year to start. It should start September 13th although I've been informed multiple times that students take the first week as 'vacation' so I shouldn't expect any serious classes until Stepmber .. sigh. *September 20th. As great as integrating into my community is, meeting people, touring the village, etc., it's not **really** the reason I'm here. I'm here to teach, to hopefully help out a broken education system, and learn something in the process. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm ready for my new routine- the one I'm going to have for most of the school year and most of my service. I know what you're thinking.. 'the petete leaf is always greener on the other side..' but that's just the way I am. I love and miss you all :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lots to Catch Up On

>> Quickly. The internet is far more difficult to get to now; instead of being 22 minutes away, it is now 22 miles away, a long ride in a vehicle without really *something* to do in Makeni besides checking e-mail an updating this blog. I will do my best. Don't hate me. My village is amazing. My house is beautiful and the people are especially welcoming especially my neighbor Foday who has basically walked me around the village and made my (already obvious) presence known, but now instead of me walking around and awkwardly saying 'hello' in up to six different languages (Limba, Loko, Themne, Fula, Krio, French, English..) Foday is by my side to make up for when I falter and to smooth over when I mess up. The village life is isolating, but also freeing- I have my own two-burner gas stove and I cook what I want when I want (I sound like the freshmen at college who gets an apartment for the first time) but it's honestly really great. Most of the volunteers (i.e. those that actually care) have stayed in touch and even visited, which has made the adjustment easier. I have to keep telling myself how far I've come and now how far I have to go. My parents will be visiting in early April, my friend Jessie's birthday is in two weeks, mine in six, etc. you see my point. Keeping something on the horizon helps the spells of lonliness pass (not that I get them much, please don't imagine me crying over my palm wine. Unless the palm wine is empty. Then yes, I'm crying. Then Foday brings over more palm wine and we turn on the radio, peel a cucumber, cut it up, add peppers and salts, and mix. It's delicious. Now I'm hungry.) My point is: I can see why some volunteers early-terminate once they get to their sites. Without someone to talk to, some sort of interaction, it can be very isolating. I understand that some people live their whole lives alone (and in very fulfilling ways) but these people are not surrounded by jungle, six foreign languages, and a delightful dog named Justice (Foday's dog). Okay, Justice might make things better :) I love and miss you all.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Home Stretch

>> We're in the home stretch. We just got back from Freetown for a nice get-together with our country directors, and this next week is our LAST in training. On Tuesday, I have my official advising meeting with the top people of the staff in which they will talk to me about my training, about my strengths and weaknesses and ultimately if they believe I should swear-in as a volunteer or consider going home. If I pass their judgment, I will swear in as United States Peace Corps volunteer on Friday, August 13th. I'll be off to Gbendembu on Saturday, August 14th, and then have some weeks in town to relax and settle in. What happens next is a little hazy. I'm going to be teaching SS1 (9th grade-ish) Biology (and maybe Chemistry, Trigonometry, Calculus, Statistics, Physics,....) but SS1 students don't come back to school until November (because they're waiting on exam results) so I'm not sure what I'm going to be doing until November? I'll be getting an answer to this question soon, trust me. But, that aside, I honestly have mixed feelings about the end of training. I've made some superb friendships here, albeit two of my best friends have early-terminated and gone home already (apparently I'm not a good friend), and I don't know how I feel about being so far away from them. But. I need to understand that it's happening to everyone and not just me- that we have cell phones- and that I've been alone and living on my own before (it's just that I could always get Dos Reales take-out if I was feeling really down....) so here's to you, my friends. We've gotten past the first BIG hurdle, and now it's onto the actual MEAT and POTATOES (rice and sauce) of my Peace Corps experience. A strange village. A strange language. No friends. Alone. No one to get water for me. No one to cook for me. No one to clean dishes for me. Ready, independence. Ready, United States Peace Corps Volunteer. Go.

The Village

>> Alright. I wrote this blog post a week ago and the Sierra Leone internet ate it. It was hungry and I decided to be a humanitarian and allow it. But now I have to write it again. My village is awesome. (1) The village has a multitude of shops and stalls and plenty of places to buy almost anything I'll need. "Weird" things, like toilet paper or ketchup or salt/pepper or potatoes or beans, etc. would be from Makeni, 22 miles to the south. However, you don't go through a bottle of ketchup in a day, so hopefully those trips would be few and far between. (2) My principal is amazing. He's very progressive, against corporal punishment, pushing for solar power at his school, and open-minded to almost any topic although when I mentioned my membership with the ASPCA and that my dog sometimes sleeps on my bed, he scoffed. Maybe someday. (3) My house is beautiful. The house has six rooms, four of which are habitable, the other two are not finished and won't be while I'm there. Most Peace Corps houses only have two rooms. I have a well five feet from my porch and two shower drains/two latrines in the back. Some people have to walk to the center of their village to get water. I have to barely step off my porch. The house is brand-new. No one has lived in it yet. I am the first. Now, downsides. The village is a pain in the tush to get to. From Bo, it is AT LEAST a 4 hour ride to Makeni. It's 82 miles. In America, on I-57, from Champaign to home, I did 82 miles in about an hour, give or take a police officer in the median. Here, 82 miles takes AT LEAST four hours, and that's just to Makeni. Once in Makeni, you have to wait for another vehicle and then THAT journey takes AT LEAST another hour and a half if not two hours. The first day, leaving Bo around 9:30 AM, I arrived in Gbendembu around 5:30 PM. That's one LONG and PAINFUL day. So, the village, once you're there and not in a poda-poda (a stretch E-350 van with AT LEAST 18 people in it) is great. Getting there is hell.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

End of Summer School / Site Introduction

>> The second week of summer school did not go as well as the first for me. My students were far more inconsiderate and they received a far more difficult test from me as a result. I still remain positive about teaching- this simply gives me perspective that school is not always going to be rewarding and hopeful and that there will be bad days, or weeks..
We also learned our sites. Let me elaborate. The first ten weeks are training, where I'm with a host family and trying to learn the popular language (Krio) while learning customs and culture and preparing for being on my own. This is where I am now. It's been relatively easy because my family insists on doing most of the work for me. These next four weeks are going to be insisting on learning how to do chores and tasks so that I can do it on my own at site. After the ten weeks, we move to our site. Each of the 38 (we were 39, I miss you Mylinda) of us has a different site although in some villages there are two volunteers. My village is in the north of Sierra Leone and I'll have to learn the Loko language. Here in Bo I speak Mende and Krio and English, so Loko will be starting over. I can't wait. My next blog post will be at length about my site because I will know much more about it by then. We have a site visit in which I'll be spending three nights there, so I'll definitely be able to tell you much more about it!
I love and miss you all :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

They call this the Honeymoon

>> So, let me explain my post title. I'm happy :) We just completed our first week of teaching summer school and not only did I (admittedly) do very well, but after grading my tests, I have a very respectable curve of children that understood and those (that sat in the back) that did not, aka, I'M A GOOD TEACHER! I was so worried after the Micro Teach (see previous blog post) that Summer School was going to be a disaster, but the experience has been really rewarding already. The students call me "Mr. Meeker" with respect in their voices. My colleague Erin's lecture was greeted with talking and jeering throughout her lecture so when it was my turn I scolded the children. You could hear a pin drop. When I finished my lecture forty minutes later, the children stood and clapped for me. Perhaps a little much, but it was encouraging to have the students respect me. Most of the trainees have settled in pretty nicely, i.e. we're past most of the initial bumps and are sailing until site. I'm concerned about my site, actually, because only 28 of the 39 sites are ready for us and also the general lack of information thus far disclosed about them. We go on our site visit in a week or two and it's apparently usually a big let-down for trainees because: (1) They get to the smooth-sailing part, get comfortable and then (2) encounter a site that doesn't meet their expectations and (3) begin to worry about it, etc. WE SHALL SEE. My family continues to be wonderful as does my love for the people here- there is ALWAYS music playing and it is ALWAYS in regards to a celebration. For example, at a party I attended for a child's first birthday, where in America you might have some music quietly in the background, Sierra Leone means that the music is LOUD and it is BANGING, aka not appropriate for anyone under 17. (I hope you get my meaning as to the vulgarity of the music) but my point is, MUSIC is HUGE here and I LOVE it. I continue to want your letters and e-mails and messages; they keep me sane and make me smile :) I love and miss you all.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'm Mediocre

>> So while learning how to teach, we're doing two different approaches, something called "Peer Teach," which involves teaching to our Peace Corps colleagues and "Micro Teach," which involves going to a local school and teaching to actual Sierra Leone students. I am really great (okay, pretty good) at teaching Peace Corps colleagues, mostly because they're all college-graduates, intelligent, and know the subject matter. I am really terrible (okay, really terrible) at teaching Sierra Leone students. Whilst teaching in my Micro Teach, I had more blank stares than I've ever seen before and this was after slowing down my speech multiple times, writing on the board, and then repeating, etc. It was frustrating up to a point and then humorous. I turned to the chalkboard and whispered, "Deadmau5...Deadmau5...Deadmau5..." and everything seemed better. The students are not at fault. The problem lies in the disconnect between my teaching skills / language differences and them, not to mention that the topic assigned to me was far too advanced for them. In my future? One more Peer Teach and then Summer School starts on Monday (i.e. a "Micro Teach" environment but everyday. Wish me luck)

I couldn't get to internet last Saturday because we had to go in for work and Sunday the internet was down, so my apologies. I am concerned about my potential site because conversations about it have ranged from a 2-hour-bike ride to internet to a twenty-minute walk to internet. I don't consider myself to be dependent on internet, but if I don't have ANY access to it, I can see my own potential stress levels becoming difficult to relieve, etc.
There's not much else notable to report although I did give my African children glow sticks for the first time ever (in their lives) and played an m5 mix on my laptop for them. They went absolutely crazy and passed the glow sticks from person to person and they ALL danced like crazy to it :) I wish I could upload the pictures from that night, but the internet here barely holds together long enough to write a blog post, nevermind uploading pictures.
A final thought- I had initially planned to come home in the summer 2011 but it now seems as if we will be helping to train the next batch of Peace Corps volunteers coming in, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to come home, (but you can bet that I'll hedge on earlier rather than later and that I'll give you plenty of warning :)

I love and miss you all.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Settling In

>> So I've been here two weeks now. I'm adjusted to the food, to my wonderful family, but the weather still gives me pause. My mother is under the belief that I could drink a gallon of water each day. She has found a small towel for me and insisted I buy another (for the sweat). I don't want to say that I'm melting, but I'm melting.
In other news, the training is going really well. We're finally beginning to specialize, i.e. not learning about education in one large group but breaking off into our individal groups (science, math, english) and learning techniques and strategies to teach it. My homework for this weekend is to prepare a fifteen-minute lesson plan on metamorphosis (caterpillar to butterfly) for young students. I'll be giving it in front of my fellow volunteers and then, as the weeks go by, longer and longer lessons with more and more feedback. In two weeks, we'll begin working at local summer schools and I'll be relatively on my own- preparing lesson plans, homework, and even a final exam with grades and all. No pressure.
The weather here, excluding the relentless heat and humidity, is amazing. Last night I was awoken by a thunderblast that may have actually terrified me. These aren't your run-of-the-mill storms, even the fun Champaign storms. These are rumbling crackling storms you see and hear coming for half an hour and whilst in America I would make popcorn and sit on the porch, here I sit inside and hope I survive. It's relatively epic.
My language studies are going slowly. My family speaks English and Mende first, and Krio second. My instructors have insisted on teaching Krio, but it is relatively ineffective at home, so I speak broken Mende and English. We've already had some wonderful conversations about American politics, the economy, and my home life. One of the main goals of this organization is not only me being immersed in Sierra Leone culture but for Sierra Leoneans to learn more about American culture. I'm doing my best. (My family was AMAZED that I am from Chicago, which they quickly pieced together to be where OBAMA is from. They insist that Obama and I are brothers. I agreed.)
Last night, I made my first walk from Kebbie Town (Apologies for calling it Kebbitown) to downtown Bo. This journey is some miles and while fun during the daytime proved relatively scary at nighttime but, with the company of other volunteers, we sarcasmed and laughed our way home on the pitch-black road, being passed by motorcycles and cars (which all honk whenever they pass anyone so as to inform you of their presence) and watching the sky ahead of us crackle and light up as yet another storm approached.
I'll close here. I love and miss you all. :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010


>> Hi! We made the long bus ride from Freetown to Bo after having spent four (five?) nights in the Stadium Hostel. The Stadium Hostel is the hotel that is next door to the National Stadium of Sierra Leone. Yes, the NATIONAL Stadium. We played frisbee on it. It was nice to get out of Freetown simply because with our lack of Krio language skills and general American-ness, we would be easy targets in the city and so we were not allowed to leave the compound.

Bo is wonderful.
A typical dinner consists of rice and a sort of sauce. Last night was rice with a fish sauce, and the night before was rice with a beef sauce. Breakfast, after I suggested to Sitta that I'd rather a smaller rather than larger breakfast, has shrunk to eggs and fresh potatoes today, plantains yesterday, etc. absolutely delicious. If you're wondering as to whether my body has been able to adjust to the new foods, the answer is yes. Our nurse gave a long discussion on diahhrea to all the Peace Corps volunteers but no concerns just yet.
My family (the Gandies) are incredibly caring. The mother's name is Sitta and the father's name is Aruna and they named me Joe Gandie after their first-born son. Unlike some of the other homestay parents, they allow me to be independent, decide when to go to bed, decide what I want for meals, and let me make some decisions. Other Peace Corps Volunteers have felt rather stifled in this regard. I think I just got lucky. Our house does not have electricity nor running water, which means that by about 8 PM the house is pretty dark and I'm heading to bed to read via my dynamo-powered light or to listen to music while my electronics still have charge :)
Classes have been pretty straight-forward. We learn from about 8-5 everyday with a few short breaks and a long lunch break. At this time, people usually rehydrate and nap and try to stay healthy. There are a lot of budding friendships although some people are beginning to show their true colors now that they really are 'in the thick of it.'
I'll close here. So far, Sierra Leone has been welcoming and yet incredibly exhausting. I find myself constantly sweating but smiling. These people have a LOVE for music, for dancing, for praise and love, something I can definitely get behind (PLUR)
I love and miss you all :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010


>> Yesterday involved our actual training- working with the other Peace Corps volunteers on various teamwork and friendship-building activities. While I was skeptical about this part of the program since I've done a bunch of these icebreaker-type activites, this was actually a really great time. We laughed a LOT and a lot of friendships were born. We went to a reception at the Peace Corps Headquarters in downtown Washington, DC and were greeted by the Chief of Staff of the Peace Corps as well as a variety of other dignitaries.

Whilst eating some authentic Sierra Leone food, I flipped my plate over, sending cavalla leaves, meatballs, rice, etc. onto the floor and rolling away from me. This happened JUST as the local NBC camera-woman was walking past our row. I frantically try to cut her off and she laughs and says, "I stopped, don't worry." So, I start to clean up my food. (Meanwhile, Regan and Dane are CRYING with laughter). Whilst I'm cleaning, one of the higher-level Peace Corps guys walks up and begins a conversation with the now-calm Dane and Regan while I'm cleaning up my food off the floor not six inches from his shoes. The NBC woman is back and videotaping and is desperately trying to film Regan, Dane, and the Peace Corps representative without getting me in the picture. Feel free to laugh. I certainly did :) After the reception, we went out again to a few bars and enjoyed our last night in the USA. We may or may not have participated in karaoke. I plead the fifth.

Today involved going to the Department of Health and Human Services Building, going through security, and getting our yellow fever shots. The shot was painless but necessary. We proceeded onto Dulles and here I sit, stealing some of Regan's paid Wi-Fi and keeping you up to date. I won't have internet for the next two weeks guaranteed. Let's see how that goes. I love and miss you all :)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hooray, Washington, DC!

>> I made it to Washington, DC! Despite a very difficult goodbye to my parents amidst O'Hare Security and a frightening descent into Washington, DC, everything is going well. My hotel roommate is a guy named Tyler, a nice guy who agrees with me on.. everything, including the frustrations he too had with the application process, which was refreshing, because I thought it might have just been me. We and the rest of the Peace Corps volunteers went to registration and got our Peace Corps debit card, which came pre-loaded with $160 and instructions to immediately withdraw the money and to spend it on whatever we wanted, which we did on a pizza dinner and drinks at a local bar, the perfect time to begin to make friendships, find similarities, and discuss our fears and hopes for our time in Sierra Leone. Laying on a soft bed in the Holiday Inn, it feels like a nice vacation, but I know that this is the 'posh' part of the trip and that soon, writing on my blog via WIRELESS INTERNET on a soft bed with AIR CONDITIONING cooling my feet will be a thing of the past...

Sunday, May 30, 2010


>> For the Peace Corps, we are allowed to bring two checked bags and one carry-on. The two checked bags cannot total more than eighty pounds. As you might guess, this makes the packing process more difficult. The frustrating part of packing is knowing that upon arrival, there will be items I've packed that were a mistake and unnecessary and that there are items that remained at home that may be important and necessary. Previous Peace Corps volunteers have stated that it is often the little things that are most important, i.e. electrical tape, bobby pins, paper clips, a stapler, etc. So, in light of this, I've been trying to think of the little things which is why our living room is a pile of odds and ends. I'll be packing up the bags today and tomorrow; we'll see how much of it actually makes it onto the plane...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Getting Things Done

>> Well, I'm slowly beginning to chip items off my huge to-do list. I officially set a stop-date for AT&T and for Ameren, and I got sized for a mountain bike and helmet. I bought a new cord to go from my Zune to my computer, something I lost awhile back. My laptop is on its way although the keyboard protector arrived today, apparently impatient. I'm going to Chicago this coming weekend for perhaps my last weekend of luxury for a long time. Finally, I bought my mother flowers for Mother's Day, clearly the most important task I've completed thus far.

Friday, April 30, 2010

So Much To Do

>> It seems like the amount of things I have to get done between now and June 2nd is completely overwhelming. I need to purchase a laptop, solar charger, clothes, and then there's the debate ongoing about textbooks and materials for the forthcoming education work to be done in Sierra Leone. I also have to clean and close out my apartment whilst trying to maintain a semblance of a social life and saying difficult goodbyes. A lot of decisions had to wait until we were sure about being selected, and now all of those decisions are suddenly having to be made. Harumpf.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Wait is Over

>> It took a long time, but we're finally here. I received my invitation packet in the mail today and I'll be in Washington D.C. on June 2nd and from there onto Sierra Leone. I hope to keep this blog updated although if other volunteers' experiences are typical, you can expect an update every two or three weeks. The most important part of this blog is the dialogue between me and you. Please don't hesitate to leave comments on the blog posts. Thank you again for reading, and I look forward to hearing from all of you.