>> and now i go back to my village! on friday, i'll be going to makeni for the swearing-in of salone-2, the next group of happy-go-lucky peace corps trainees soon to become volunteers. i haven't decided about my plans that night. it sometimes maybe perhaps becomes a large party the night of swearing-in, but it's not really my / our party, it's theirs.. we'll see. i'll either go home that afternoon or saturday morning, and then be in my village for a few weeks. back to freetown on august 31 for our september 1st and 2nd mid-service conference. after that, i'm not sure when i'll be in freetown again.. i begin teaching again middle of september and i have renewed vigor to finish my ambassador's special self-help fund grant and to do more development work with an initiative i'm working with from my home state. something i noticed on the flight back to sierra leone was a general lack of 'I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING' replaced with a 'oh, right. i got this. no problem.' i'm looking forward to getting back to my village (where i belong) and falling back into my normal routine. not sure when my next post will be, so until then, i love and miss you all.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
>> did that really happen? i'm not entirely convinced that i went home for two weeks. the trip back had its ups and downs. departure from o'hare was painless, the eight-hour flight seemed short (because i kept falling asleep and waking up to find everyone else eating or drinking. all i had was a pillow imprint on my face and drool). arriving at heathrow was fine, but i ended up getting lost. a kind british heathrow worker directed me the right way. thank you, heathrow. the gate for the plane to freetown was 33A. we didn't even get a whole gate. i found this amusing. the people waiting for this plane were a smattering of english miners, ngo workers, africans, and people like me, (haha no no im kidding. there's no one else like me.) so, we board. i have a seat by the window,... and we're leaving! the plane was easily half-empty, which means the aisle seat next to me because my junk depository space. this flight also seemed shorter than its six-and-a-half-hour length, although again i kept falling asleep. (i had been out late many nights with friends during my two weeks..my body needed some catch-up). also, the flight attendant was cute, but that's neither here nor there. filled out my landing card, got off the plane. (imma be honest. i DISLIKE STRONGLY lungi airport, especially at DARK). it's dark out. went down the stairs, inside the muggy, dimly-lit arrivals area into a long line, moved through and gave the attendant my arrivals card and passport, she barely looks at it, waves me through. i'm stopped rather roughly by a man demanding to see my world health organization card. i show it to him. he barely looks at it and waves me through. i'm stopped again by a man demanding to see everyone's passport and visa. barely looks at mine, waves me through. now we're standing in front of one small slowly-moving luggage carousel, like one of those moving walkways except filled with elderly folks that aren't moving. slowly and slower the luggage moves around. then, and i always feel like i have this, EVERYONE ELSE is getting their luggage. do you panic at this too? i do. not to mention the absolute mess that would create. but, my worries are for naught- there are my bags. my ride to take me to the ferry? not there. phone call. his friend? okay. solomon takes me to an air-conditioned bus, puts my things onboard, a few more people, and off we go to the nassit ferry (not the one ive taken before, superb..). we board, solomon tells me he's not coming over with us, but here's the number of a driver to take me to the compound. (great.) i'm in the first-class lounge. i get a star beer, feel a little more at home. there's an old movie about guerilla warfare on the flat-screen TV. (dear nassit ferry, maybe we could show something more like a 'welcome to sierra leone! land of peace, love, unity, and respect movie?) i go up to buy a bag of chips. a SMALL bag. i'm told they cost 10,000Le. you must think i just got here. i go outside, watch the waves go by, see freetown looming larger on the horizon. our arrival at government wharf is more-or-less a crash, and that's not just me.. sierra leoneans around me are yelling 'EASE UP! EASE UP!!!!!'.. then we crash. the cement columns holding up that particular part of the dock nearly fall over sideways. but they don't. everyone looks around with a look of,.. 'we're okay. we're okay.' the bus we rode on in is downstairs, he turns the behemoth around, we walk down the slippery ramp (i nearly died here. slippery. dark. tricky.) and the bus lumbers off behind us, scraping its front fender and looking altogether ridiculous coming off the rusting ferry. he stops, the driver helps me with my bags, and now i'm looking for my 'driver' in the darkness of government wharf. oh how i LOVE sierra leone. a man approaches. 'bryan?' i nod. i know his name is supposedly ibrahim. 'ibrahim?' he nods. we go to his red taxi, he puts my belongings inside, and off we go. we have a great conversation about him being susu, peace corps, etc., and sooner rather than later, we arrive at the peace corps compound. i disembark, pay him more than i should because i really just want to get inside the big, safe, blue peace corps doors. i walk up the hostel, talk with some volunteers there, update my facebook status, and collapse. i loved going home, but travelling in and out of sierra leone is about as much fun as a migraine. i love and miss you all.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
>> the days home were spent well. i saw many of my friends. some things i had been looking forward to, notably, driving, a margarita from dos reales, air-conditioning, my own bed, etc. were just as great as i remember them. other things, like the city of chicago (which i was uncomfortable with for the first time in my life), and some foods that i may have made phenomenal in my head when in reality they are only average (i'm looking at you, taco bell). i had moments where i missed africa, something i didn't really expect. i missed my slower life, my dogs, Foday, palm wine, my home... in the social category, i found myself trying my best to fit right back in, with some success. i found myself healing old wounds with friendships. i found myself changing how i felt about some of my friends, not so much in a judgmental manner but simply in the way we've begun to move apart. i fell in love again (this would be #4,302 for those keeping track) but it was bittersweet knowing my departure was looming. and now, in my last few days home, i'm saying goodbyes all over again, which doesn't seem to be as wrenching as the first time, but still hurts. i'll stop bitching about that now. i loved my trip home. i'm glad that i did it. seeing my family, my dog, my friends, driving my car, laughing and cuddling and flirting and enjoying my life again with the people that matter to me was / is priceless. to those that i was able to see while i was home, thank you. it means more than you know. i love and miss you all already. :)
Monday, August 8, 2011
>> when we last left our hero, he was aboard an airplane, turning the light above him on and off just because he could. the man next to him, an employee of the british department of international development ( i think ) provided good conversation until somewhere around spain we both passed out. heathrow was incredibly overwhelming. for all of the plane's conveniences, heathrow was full of (yes,..) white people, lights, cleanliness, electricity, tv screens yelling at me, shiny things to look at, cookies, drinks, glassware, ice.. completely overwhelming. i checked in my bags (thanks british airways for charging me $75 for my second checked bag. really appreciated that.) i moved through, enjoyed a glass of champagne, and waited for my gate announcement. once there, boarding the plane and moving to chicago was relatively painless although i already began to get annoyed with some people (standing in the aisle of the plane instead of letting people pass / a woman complaining about the airplane being crowded, etc. LADY, get on a PODA-PODA with 35 other people and some GOATS.). we arrived in chicago a little bit late, and then, that magical moment of leaving the baggage claim to find my parents waiting for me on the other side. that hug, with my mother, and then my father, was pretty emotional / amazing. we got to our car (which weirdly enough was made this decade, and was next to rows and rows of OTHER cars, on a FLAT surface with lines? my parents called this a 'parking lot.') we drove on home, i went out to see a friend, and my mind generally tried to comprehend that i was not dreaming and that when i woke up i would still be here and not underneath my mosquito net with a chicken crowing outside, covered in sweat, with my dog queen snuggled against my side (because i LOVE a warm dog in the african heat..) so now i'm home. the next post will be better, yes?
Sunday, August 7, 2011
>> so this trip started with domingo and i struggling to find a taxi. i had my bags, my optimism, my worry, (for the worry, you have to keep it in a 3 oz. container for the airplane apparently, whatever..) and we were in front of the peace corps compound waiting for someone willing to take us to the ferry. our plan originally had been for domingo to drive me in a friends car, but those plans fell through. yes. i was as surprised as you are. finally, we found someone willing to take us (for a price, ugarti, for a price) and off we went down the hill. coming the other way is a purple mazda miata convertible. domingo stops the taxi, flags down the miata. it's the friend and the car we were supposed to use. we leave the taxi, hop in the miata, drive the friend down the hill, and off we go to the ferry, top down, music blasting, suitcases in the trunk, feeling like a dang celebrity. africa notices that i am happy. it begins to rain. long story short, we get to the ferry, enjoy a beer, get on the ferry, watch the wind and the waves fly by (and i admit feeling sadness watching freetown fade away..), arrive at the other side, get to the airport (in amazing time, SO much fun...), and drops me off. i sit down with my bags, enjoy another beer, and wait. a few hours later, i am checked in, continuing to read THE GODFATHER by Mario Puzo, which you should read, I think it's my third time reading it, and then meet some of the Friends of Sierra Leone members. We adjourn upstairs to the restaurant, enjoy a meal, talk about our experiences (similarities and differences) and finally, at 11PM, move into the rain, aboard a bus, aboard a plane (AIR CONDITIONING, LIGHTS, COMFORTABLE SEATS, COLD WATER, !??!), and at 11:30 PM, fifteen minutes early, took off for London-Heathrow, leaving my home behind..