extra cold guinness

tuesday, july 17. so i am no longer in the second poorest country in the world. instead, i’m sitting at the heathrow hilton lounge sipping the title beer that is apparently only available here, in probably one of the most expensive cities in the world. drastic change and a sobering depiction of imperialism.

so anyway, i managed to transport some african wildlife into london, because little bugs keep crawling out of my computer. i probably forgot to mention that while in africa, these little guys loved to congregate beneath the keys of my laptop. i hope i don’t start some sort of a pandemic here in the ‘civilized world.’ also, my B.O. reeks of cassava in this sterile environment. i had to duck into the bathroom to put on a new t-shirt and some deodorant.

so i have approximately another 5 hours before i can board my flight and thought i’d throw an update at ya’ll. i know i stopped at week five in pictures (by the way – does it take everyone an extrodorinary amount of time to load that blog?), and will get more up over the next month or so. the reason for this lapse in pictures is that paul dixon arrived at the YMCA and became the resident photographer, as he was in freetown to teach the art to kids there and is good at it. so i’m waiting to get all of his pics which are awesome.

so no sleeves bradman is picking me up from JFK later tonight around 11:30pm and we’re straightlining it back to the city of brotherly love, i seriously can’t wait. i can’t wait to skateboard. i can’t wait to see my friends. i can’t wait to be in my own bed. i can’t wait to see my cats. i can’t wait to not have my pores smell like african food grossly transformed by my  bodily processes. i can’t wait to chill out until i return to work. i can’t wait to be home.

after being in london for a few hours, i realized how much i don’t know how to conduct myself ‘respectfully’ anymore. i found myself eating the hilton breakfast buffet like a maniac, i laughed out loud to myself, further enticing stares from the uppity observers. fuck em though, damn sausage tastes good after 2 months of nothing but leaves stewed over rice.

i guess that’s about it for now, i will leave you with some quotes from a book i read while over on the dark continent. it was written by ryszard kapuscinski, the first polish correspondant to report on africa. he arrived there in 1957 and spent the next 40 years traveling extensively around. his book is called ‘the shadow of the sun’ and i highly recommend it as a very applicable view into the inner workings of african culture, experiences traveling there, and hypotheses of progress, stagnation, and hope. enjoy and see you all soon hopefully.

about the civil war in sudan: “whoever has weapons, has food. whoever has food, has power. we are here among people who do not contemplate transcendence and the existence of the soul, the meaning of life and the nature of being. we are in a world in which man, crawling on the earth, tries to dig a few grains of wheat out of the mud, just to survive another day.”

about somalis not leaving their camels. he gives an example of finding half-dead men lying next to their camels, taking them to a rehabilitation camp, and later finding the men escaping the camp (where they get fed every day) to risk being with their animals without a secure source of food: “hamed is not surprised at this. ‘that is our nature,’ he says, without resignation, with a touch of pride even. nature is something one cannot oppose, attempt to improve, or free onself from. nature is decreed by god, and is therefore perfect. droughts, heat waves, empty wells, and death on the road also partake of that perfection. without them, man would be unable later to appreciate the true delight of rain, the heavenly taste of water, and the life-giving sweetness of milk. a beast would not be able to rejoice in the succulent grass, or relish the smell of a meadow. man would not know what it is to stand in a stream of cold, crystal-clear water. it would not even occur to him that this is simply to be in heaven.”

this is a quote from one of mengistu’s main men, who is now in prison, about his regime in ethiopia (mengistu was a very evil man, look him up): “history is an intricate process. it errs, advances and retreats, searches here, there, and sometimes gets trapped in a dead end. only the future can judge, can find the appropriate measure.”

about heinrich barth – a european traveler who explored the saraha circa 1850: “for five years he journeyed alone through the sahara, keeping a diary  in which he described the desert. several times, sick and pursued by bandits, he bad his life farewell. dying of thirst, he would cut his veins and drink his own blood to survive. eventually he returned to europe, where no one appreciated the unique feat he had accomplished. bitter, worn out by the hardships of his voyage, he died in 1865 at the age of 44, not understanding that the human imagination is incapable of traveling to the frontier he had crossed in the sahara.”

about life in africa in general, in the last chapter of his book: “the african always feels endangered. nature on this continent strikes such monstrous and aggressive poses, dons such vengeful and fearsome masks, sets such traps and ambushes, that man lives with a constant sense of anxiety about tomorrow, in unabating uncertainty and dread. everything here appears in an inflated, unbridled, hysterically exaggerated form. if there is a storm, then the thunderbolts convulse the entire planet, the lightning tears the sky to shreds; if there is a downpour, then a veritable wall of water pours from the heavens, threating at any moment to drown us and pound us into the ground; if there is a drought, then it is one that does not leave a drop of water behind, and we die of thirst. there is nothing here to temper the relations between man and nature – no compromises, no in-between stages, no gradations. only ceaseless struggle, battle, a fight to the finish. from birth until death, the african is on the front line, sparring with his continent’s exceptionally hostile nature, and the mere fact that he is alive and knows how to endure is his greatest triumph.”

week five coming at ya like cleopatra

monday, june 11. so alfred’s neighbor came by with some bags for sale.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

alfred bought one he thought was “verrrrrry nice.”Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

the walls were progressing smoothly and kembei started up with some scaffolding.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

the view from the back, down the field.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i went to the store and came back and the masons were flying through it, utilizing the scaffolding well.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

francis had the septic tank up the grade already. sheat!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

good progress.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i even got in the mix.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

hah!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

here’s my best friend ibrahim. pretty much the cutest little kid you could imagine. he comes and just sits by me every day, content to be next to me.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

usual status. he rarely smiles, but i know he’s happy.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

ok i guess cici makes him smile!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

tuesday, june 12. alfed got me some awesome rain man crackers.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

there’s multiple varieties but they both tasted the same to me.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

harry came to the site and gave me the rest of his mango juice. it was quite delicious.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

harry snapped this one of the walls and i really like how it turned out with half a passerby.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

so they have hamburgers here. i know you’re probably thinking “oh, awesome nick, at least you get some comforting food to remind you of home.” oh how wrong you could be. a hamburger here involves a friend chicken leg (with bone and all) shoved into a bun with spaghetti, mayonaise, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, beans, and spam. mmm!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

you gotta just get right in there, but be careful you don’t break a tooth on the chicken bone.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

we moved the block factory into the building so we could keep the walls coming up.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

so the bag lady came back again and harry took note of a fake leather attache type conveyance he wanted me to buy.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i thought it not a bad purchase for $2 USD and showed how i would walk down the streets of philly when i got home with it.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

how i’d say hi to people i knew while walking.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

this kid walked by while harry was taking pictures of me and wouldn’t leave until we took his picture. freak.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i went home and had some mangos waiting for me from my friend philip. these were the best ones i’ve had yet. here you can see how small they are.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

same with the bananas, equally small but also the sweetest in the world maybe.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

here’s the statue i got in lakka over the weekend.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i got these sweet flip-flops for $0.66 USD but the foot tan line was free.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

wednesday, june 13. i got wolf’s paint and brushes and wrote him a note of his own.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

more progress on the walls.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

the view from the back again. walls at 8 courses all the way around.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

lahai was doing curls with blocks and insisted i snap him.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

pretty progress.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

hahaha lahai stealing a 2-year old’s ball and pushing him out of the way when he wanted it back. little cici just looking on (although she’s equally violent and kicked amanda in the shins). kpaka almost out of the frame picking up a wheelbarrow. a lot going on but it’s just a typical day on the site.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

alfred and amanda and woody from toy story.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

sunset on the drive home.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

thursday, june 14. got my hair cut at a local “barbing” shack. generator run clippers with music blaring. they hooked it up and all for $1 USD. ok so he burned the back of my neck getting my hairline tight, but what do you expect?Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

pretty uneventful day otherwise. it started rain pretty heavily at the end of the day and we bounced. here was the rain about to set in.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

friday, june 15. i’m not quite sure why this is the only picture i have from this day, but it is. and it is awesome. blurry, but awesome. i think i stayed home sick again this day.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

saturday, june 16. i returned to the site on saturday to see that our water reservoir collapsed during the night, knocking into the structure and breaking one of the walls. bummer!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

ahh sweet justice though. as you can see, the reservoir failed because the old contractor’s foundation crumbled. you can see it in this picture. good thing i didn’t continue building on it!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

some kid came by with a bird on a string. no, i’m not kidding.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

as you can tell by my face. thoroughly confused yet absolutely in awe.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

forming and pouring the columns.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

some lintels too.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

repair of the wall that got knocked.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

view from the road. changes…Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

in the afternoon this parade came by the road. this is an african devil on stilts. he danced around and was pretty much awesome.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

word!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i found this bottle of gin on the ground.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

after the parade all the kids stuck around and kept yelling “snap me! snap me!” craziness. yes, they sell cotton candy here?Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

someone came by with a container of fish on their head and harry peeled back the paper to inspect.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

he asked if i wanted some. i said no, my stomach thanked me.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

harry loved it.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

we got high enough on the walls to put the vent block i bought in. i put this around the hall and bathrooms for ventilation.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

ok that’s it for week five. i don’t think i did much sunday cause i don’t have any photos. can’t remember at this point. i’ll have weeks six and seven soon, including my week in the hospital. today is friday and i’m going to the provinces this weekend! finally getting out of freetown and i’m stoked. we’re going to visit harry’s village, outside of mekenie, one of the 4 major headquarters in the country (freetown, mekenie, bo, and kenema). in other news, we had our “unofficial” opening ceremony yesterday because our executive director happened to be in town, and it went AWESOME. i got the most recognitions and was very pround. lots of those pictures to come, no doubt. people are stoked and so am i. oh and i can’t wait to come home either! a little over a week left!!

week four! ahhh!!!!!!

i’m listening to ‘poundcake’ by van halen right now and it’s just adding to my excitement of being able to finally bring you week four. definitely my favorite photos yet so enjoy!

monday, june 4. just another monday morning at the site. middle finger to having to work again.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

ok so now that we got the foundation backfilled, it was time to distribute ball stones (first i’ve heard of these bad boys) as a base for the floor slab (instead of wire mesh as in the states) and crush the shit out of them.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

this literally involved smashing every single stone with a sledge hammer until it was in pieces.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

we set three guys to work to build us a water reservoir so we could have a steady supply for the rest of our work.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i spotted this lizard and got my zoom on. these things are everywhere and scatter around your feet if you walk into some grass or something.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

ok so some kid came by the site with a monkey? i asked him where he got it and he said “in the bush.” duh.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

so rad. this was great because at the chimp sanctuary, i couldn’t get close to them. all i wanted was to chill with a monkey this whole trip! i finally got to do it but he almost bit me so i kept my distance.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

he of course loved his master though.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

he did fun tricks like balancing on his master’s foot, biting some other little kid, and dashing around like a freak. his tail was really long.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

so i’m sitting on my bench as usual when alfred calls me over to him with “quick, quick, hurry!” i get over there to see one of our little lizard friends laying eggs under one of our sledgehammers. ok.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

then it hid under some rocks but still kept a protective eye. too bad it’s eggs got covered with stones and concrete.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

by the end of the day we got about half the building ballstoned.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

tuesday, june 5. i liked this view of everyone’s shoes lined up on the roof of the security shed.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

we get deliveries of cement and here’s morrison putting them into storage. he slowed down his walk to ensure i got the picture of him. what a guy!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

as the guys continued to smash ball stones, i had kembei the carpenter start preparing the forms around the perimeter for the floor slab pour.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

our water reservoir taking shape.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

they began plastering the inside.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

different view of the formed edge and smashed up stone. pretty much ready for a pour.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

good long day. here’s fifty cent throwing up the rocky steeze.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

wednesday, june 6. i wasn’t feeling well this day so i stayed home and put off the floor slab pour for the day. that virus just wasn’t leaving me alone man.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

but ali made my bedPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

and mopped my floor.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

my friend wolf left for liberia and left me this awesome note. we had talked the day before about me picking up some paint and brushes for him, yet this note still made no sense. he’s awesome.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i relaxed and read my book.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

maltina is a deliciously malty beverage (non-alcoholic) that gives you a little energy boost too. yum.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

thursday, june 7. preparation for the pour – making a huge pile of sand, adding 20 bags of cement, lots of aggregate, and eventually mixing water in by hand to make concrete.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

since there are no concrete trucks in sierra leone, it’s all by hand. head pans of concrete through the line to the floor. the videos i have of how quick these guys are with this are awesome.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

tamping it down.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

progress by lunch. my men rule.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

after lunch posing for pour number two.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

to show my appreciation for their hard work i decided to get them some more alcohol. this is beeta cola, which is medicinal while at the same time it gets you fucked up. they claim it helps malaria and one guy even asked me to pour it into his cut. anyway it tastes like rum mixed with gin and i must say i had my fair share with the boys. when i first saw these on the street i thought it was soy sauce.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

when they start slacking, everyone yells “form de line, form de line” and then when they start slinging more crete they all yell “let it come, let it come” really fast.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

view from the road.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

here’s fifty cent, being awesome as usual.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

here’s me being nowhere near as awesome as fifty cent.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

progress by the end of the first day of pouring the slab. not too bad.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

friday, june 8. while the rest of the guys were ready to finish the floor, we set 2 masons and a laborer on starting to build the septic tank up. here’s francis and yayah going for theirs.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

harry got a snack for the boys. it was crushed cassava root which reminded me of cream of wheat. you add water, as shown here, and wait for it to thicken.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

once it thickens you add sugar and go to town.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

hah!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i love my job.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

yeah laugh it up.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

saturday, june 9. here’s a picture of the completed floor slab.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

francis in the pit.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

we wasted no time and began to set the four corners of the building for the walls. ahh, changes, changes.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

here’s another snap of crackers, i really love this guy. pretty much at any given moment, i can look around and find him chilling out close to me. i think he loves me.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

skills.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

have at it.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

good progress and the day wasn’t even over yet.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i like seeing walls come up after 3 weeks of a foundation.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i read some more. man my job’s tough.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

laying out the building finally felt really good.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

ahhh it’s taking shape. by the end of the first day on the walls we had 4 courses around the entire perimeter and all the interior partitions laid out with at least 1 course.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

sunday, june 10. hah! so amanda and i were getting ready to leave the Y for the day and head to the beach again. ansu caught me in the hall and asked me to snap some pictures of him for a website. i had a couple minutes and agreed to it. here’s the best ones:Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

yeah, serious son.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

so the best part is i finally helped him upload his pictures and found out he wanted them on hotornot.com! ahhh ansu.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

on the way to the beach.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

amanda rocking out.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

ahhh lakka is beautiful. beers and muscles that the guy just walks out onto the rocks and shucks them right there with a plate. heaven much?Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

that was it for week four, week five on its way so get ready!!

independence day!

wednesday, july fourth. i will get very drunk tonight, believe it. i must celebrate the independence of my great country, the greatness of which has only been magnified since my stay here in sierra leone. i mean, god bless africa and all that, but america is where it’s at!

the executive director of the NGO i’m volunteering for is in town and i met him for the first time today. nice guy, young – 26 and he’s E.D. of three companies. sweet! so tonight i have to explain why i’m over budget (but on schedule) and i’ll make sure to get good and drunk before i do that.

other than that, everything’s top drawer. no more sickness, i’ve been watching what i eat with no complications. it appears i had a virus in me that never quite made it out. i am getting very eager to return home and have less than 2 weeks til i’m back on american soil! get ready for me…

weeks 4 and 5 in pictures coming soon! hopefully going to the provinces this weekend to visit harry’s family in mackenie. that will be awesome and a total contrast to the crazy city life that freetown is. next week is all relaxation and i’m going golfing on the beach and shopping for my peoples. construction-wise the ceiling is almost done, plastering of all the walls is taking place, and we have a big “opening ceremony” tomorrow. it won’t actually be open until aug. 1 but our boss just happens to be here now. so the minister of youth and sports, minister of development (there’s a zillion ministries here), the ambassador, and the brigadier general of the army will all be there. press and everyone, speakers, catered food, a dancing contest (my workers informed me of this) and everything. so stoked! will take lots of pictures and report back as usual. much love.

week three in pictures!

ok, enough craziness about african hospitals (if you haven’t – read below first). on to some fun stuff! sunday may 27. checking the stacks of cash for the next day’s work.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket monday may 28. so the footing was poured and it was time to start the foundation block. first block layed (or is it laid?)!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket amanda got down with her posse.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket progress by the end of the day.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket not too shabby.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket alfred, my superintendent – pyched and proud.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket so while we had around 3 masons laying the foundation block, there were around 5 guys making block, with 2 kids running back and forth down the street for water. not having a constant water source is a big problem in construction – one i can honestly say i didn’t consider. we made due though – 2 wheelbarrows and 8 5-gallon rubber containers will get the job done. anyway – check the block factory we had going!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket me back at home with a carlsberg and feeling stoked on my work.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket tuesday may 29. first thing in the morning, harry, alfred, and i went to see raj at the building supply store to get cement and some bundles of zinc so we could build our storage shed. up to this point we had various things go ‘missing’ from the site and it was time to secure our tools and materials (nothing up to this point really needed protection so it wasn’t too big a deal). we hitched a ride back to the site on their delivery truck.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket along the way we stopped and got a whole shitload of bushsticks to frame it out with. we paid the drive some so he’d pull over and let us load them on the truck so we didn’t have to walk them all the way back to the site.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket genesis.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket please check out this label on the mineral water bottle. reverse osmosis device machine!!! device machine?Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket this is my view looking down while i work.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket this is my view looking right while i work. harry’s filling out a water application form.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket this is my view (from my bench duh – that’s my job – to sit on a bench and yell at people) looking right past harry. in the foreground is some water in a bucket. behind that are the carpenters next door who make really nice beds. killer!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket so i got home in time to catch a good sunset on the porch. from good -Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket to better.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket wednesday may 30. i didn’t feel bright (learning krio a little at a time – small small as they say) and stayed home from work. these crackers are awesome!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket so are these orange cream ones.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket i took advantage of the time at home and made my bed and folded my clean clothes.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket the mangoes here are really small and pretty much the sweetest natural thing besides pure sugar i’ve ever had.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

got back to the Y and decided to cook some dinner. here’s me peeling some plantains.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

they sell everything in bags. milk, sugar, and even oil.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

this might be too dark, but it’s amanda cutting some plantains up.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

fry them up.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

mohamed and i danced while we waited for them shits to fry.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

it was well worth it.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

me and prince.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

thursday may 31. i got back to the site to witness some improvement on the foundation wall.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket we needed a new wheelbarrow and decided to go for a locally made one instead of from the building supply store. check out this beauty!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket progress on the shed, with lahai looking retarded.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket andrew macarthy. ok, let me pause from the pictures right quick to tell you about this moron. first off, i had fired this kid once already. it was the end of the day and he had ONE more water run to make and refused to do it. everyone was pissed at him, including his friends, and i told him not to return the next day. he sat out a day and then came back and begged for his job. i gave it back to him cause i’m a nice guy, everyone deserves a second chance, right? well again he kept fucking up and i had to fire him again. he was pissed and talked our security guard into letting him sleep in the shed for a night, whereas he stole five brand new head pans, valued at around $25 USD. the money came out of the security guard’s pay, and the incident was reported to the police. drama. well anyway, here’s andrew posing before he got fired. what an ass, he’s been MIA from the site since, obviously.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket the guys wanted something to make them work harder, and what’s better than locally made alcohol?! palm wine is the nastiest shit i can think of and the smell still makes me wretch. they love it though and swallow it down. here’s harry getting his!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket as i said before, block factory status.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket let me introduce you to some of the crew. lahai is hysterical and a really good worker.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket kembei is the carpenter and is young. super cool kid though.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket ibrahim dumbuya is the security guard and a mason as well. horrible managing his money and is always asking me for advances, but besides that a generally agreeable fellow.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket yasir had just started and he was stoked to be included in the photos. since he’s come down with chickenpox, had a falling out with my super alfred, and has been banned from the site.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket this is francis san. probably my best mason, young kid. he climbs into the septic tank pit to smoke joints about twice a day. he’s rad.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket some little lurkers. check the sharing of one pair of sandles! amazing.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket john is one of the community leaders and comes around to see how things are going every now and then, but basically just sits and gets drunk. also a nice dude.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket we got a delivery of sand. this is my favorite picture so far.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket i held the camera backwards over my head and snapped this one. can’t believe i actually him in the shot.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket friday june 1. went down the hill to buy some timber to form the columns for the foundation. this is how they get it to the site. you pay some dude the equivalent of $8 USD to pull it up the hill. holy hell.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket contracted some bros to start digging the septic pit.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket here’s morrison squire. best name ever. another funny kid, one of my favorites.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket the masons are making good progress on the foundation wall. nice and strong and straight.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket it started to pour and everyone crowded into the security shed. imagine myself and 15 sweaty africans in a 12′ x 12′ humid shed in freetown. yeah. after a while it stopped enough for them to start pouring the columns.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

saturday june 2. here are my little visitors who always break up the monotomy of the day.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

began backfilling the foundation. ahhh progress…Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

and progress on the septic pit.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

ok so there was this big to-do about “protecting the site” from the the workers and stephen, another community leader who was absolutely adamant about it. this involved blocking off the local shortcut that ran directly next to my bench and through the site, alfred almost getting into a fight with some crazy old man in the field, and yelling at everyone who walked by to not do it – “GO YONDAH!, GO AROUND!!”. also, erecting these ‘road blocks’ was a necessity (which people just walked around anyway).Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

here’s stephen gettin-r-done.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

kembei eating his lunch. awesome.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

resident chicken, justin (named by me).Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

resident dog, rambo (not named by me).Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

some lady came by selling eggplants.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

harry bought some and was stoked.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

so excited he had to take a nap in the security shed.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

here’s mohamed kpaka taking a quick siesta at lunch. this dude is the best laborer i have easily. strong as an ox and always down to get the job done. lives right next door too.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

alfred repping my glasses.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

most of the crew grubbing down. this consists of putting a large bowl down in front of them and letting them all dig in with their hands.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

dumbuya chilling out hard.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

frank came by. he’s just a friend of alfred’s, but extremely sketchy and recently has asked me for money one too many times.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

sunday june 3. no work! we went to tagagama chimpanzee sanctuary. it was myself, amanda, and mohamed from the Y. this is us walking down the street we stay.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

we walked down to the water in downtown to catch a poda going out to regent where the sanctuary was. alot of drivers out here have awesome things hanging from their rearviews. case in point.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

it is also typical of them to take a picture of themselves with their whip and put it inside on the dashboard. so rad.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

so we wound up the mountain and i got a snap of the american embassy. yup – $57 million of your tax dollars hard at work.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

getting thicker into the forest.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

off the poda and began our 1-hr walk to the sanctuary.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

spirit animal in the road.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

almost there…Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

we saw a cool goat on the way.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

we started up the drive to the sanctuary, it was steep and long. here was a picturesque spot of rock on the way up.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

finally.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

it was worth it.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

hoot means happy!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

feeding time.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

amanda.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

view while stopping to pee on the walk back down the drive.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i bought a t-shirt and was stoked.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

could be japan…Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

check the shirt!Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

on the way home, the little town we were in just had a funeral and it was almost impossible to get onto a poda to get back into the city. we waited for over an hour. finally, one pulled up and people literally rushed the thing. mohamed and amanda got in but i wasn’t so lucky, so i started throwing people out of my way so i wouldn’t be left behind! even then i had to sit on amanda’s lap and several other people were doing this as well. i counted 22 people total crammed into the van. craziness!

that’s it for week three. more soon when i get the time!

warning! never go to choithram memorial hospital in freetown!

tuesday, june 26.

ok. so it all started last wednesday around 6pm. after transport home from the site, i parted ways with harry and met amanda and paul at our favorite dinner cafe right down the street from the Y. they were almost done eating and i quickly ordered to catch up. directly after i finished my meal i felt a cramp in my lower right abdomen and suggested we head back to the Y asap as it felt like i had to – uh – you know.

 so we get back and i do my business, but the cramp persisted. so i thought may be i didn’t get it all out and tried again. nothing – literally. so the pain did not subside and instead grew increasingly worse until after an hour i had amanda hail a cab to take me to the hospital. i almost passed out walking to the cab from being lightheaded from the pain.

got to choithram memorial hospital, up on the hill by the UN and US embassy, reportedly the best hospital in freetown. before i go any further – let me set the scene for the pain i was in. imagine the worst muscle cramp you’ve ever had – in the two lower right abdomen muscles, constantly plagueing you. when you breath – your lungs swell – only exacerbating the pain – making you wish you weren’t breathing.

ok so once at the hospital, i get out of the taxi and into a wheelchair. after hopping up onto the examination table, i promptly throw up everything i had just ate two hours earlier from the pain. the first doctor who saw me was indian and asked me all these questions, suspecting it was my appendix. he presses all over my abdomen and calls in another indian doctor who was to take over my case – dr. shuman. i kept saying it didn’t feel like my appendix (damn vestigial organ) but that gases were trapped in my intestines, putting my muscles into a cramp (which turned out was exactly what was going on).

they take me upstairs to draw blood. the young indian RN doing so stuck the needle in my arm while on the cell phone. he finished his call and put the phone on the desk. it rang again. he picked it up and tried to answer it, but proceeded to drop it on the needle in my arm. i looked up at the wall and saw a gandhi quote about how the patient is a blessing and the sole reason nurses exist. the irony didn’t make me feel any better.

finally into a hospital bed. dr. shuman insisted on surgery to see my appendix and we had to talk him out of it so amanda could call around for some second opinions. they were about to give me some antibiotics when amanda noticed that dr. shuman failed to write that i was allergic to penicillin on my chart (my throat swells up with hives and i stop breathing). she caused a huge fight between her, the doctor, and about five nurses. she demanded to see the stuff they were going to give me, which said directly on the box to not give to someone with a penicillin allergy! i was given some pain killer instead, which was absolutely necessary. nothing to do except wait until the morning when another doctor would come to see me, one recommended by clara, our friend at the american embassy.

i think i slept about 2 hours total that night, in 2 minute increments before waking up screaming from the pain. i felt bad for my bedmates, of which there were two (pratt is the man). so we were waiting for dr. carew to arrive with his opinion, trying to avoid surgery at all costs. dr. shuman kept saying that we had to operate immediately, but couldn’t tell us why. a nurse came in and handed me a razor, telling me to shave my whole middle region (including my armpit?) to prepare for surgery. i did, bent over in a pain-induced stupor. finally dr. carew (a sierra leoneon) arrived and after listening to me contently (NONE of the other doctors listened to me. my instincts have always told me that doctors who don’t listen shouldn’t be doctors at all and you shouldn’t trust them. i’m glad i was right), diagnosed me with innflammatory bowel disease. essentially from all the bacteria i’ve been exposed to – which led to diarrhea – my bowels were hyperactive to such a point they got paralyzed. everything was building up in my intestines and putting pressure on my abdomen. however, he said surgery was absolutely not necessary and put me on a regiment of antibiotics. he said the pain would stop after a day or two at most. not the best, but at least some of my organs wouldn’t end up on the black market.

so another extremely painful night. at 4am i called the nurse in because i couldn’t take it anymore. she told me that she couldn’t give me any more pain killers as per the doctor’s orders. when i said i would like some of the antibiotics because they dulled the pain too, she said as i was being prepped for surgery first thing in the morning, i couldn’t have that either. i flipped out. why was i being prepped for a surgery i hadn’t agreed to? dr. shuman had not been in to see me since 5 in the afternoon, how was he able to determine that the antibiotics weren’t working (it hadn’t even been a course of 24 hours, they generally take 24-48 to kick in) and that surgery was necessary? she gave me some pain killers to shut up and i slept until 7.

i called amanda immediately and she called dr. carew to come rescue us. he was out of the city a ways and would come on his way home, but i had to wait for then. turns out that i wasn’t being prepared for surgery, the nurse misread the chart for the day before. so competent it’s amazing. so i was ok. but they still weren’t giving me antibiotics and couldn’t explain why – since i wasn’t having surgery! when amanda got to the hospital, the nurse she got in a fight with the night before was there and amanda asked her for a cup of coffee. she brought it to her and when amanda took a sip, spit it out all over the nurses counter. the nurse had used saltwater to brew the coffee. talk about vindictive.

towards the afternoon the pain got worse and i could feel the pressure spreading out around my stomach and to my right side. they brought in the ‘head’ doctor to take a look at me – funny, this was the first time i saw him. he felt my stomach, reviewed my two xrays and ultrasound (which showed crazy gas all over the place), and determined that i needed surgery immediately. i said i wasn’t getting surgery until dr. carew (still on his way) confirmed the need.  amanda asked dr. shuman what the purpose of the surgery was for – he said to see what the problem was. she said that was silly and they should only operate if they know what the problem is, but maybe he wasn’t explaining it well. he got really arrogant and said “there is no way i can explain my 20 years of experience to you.” he was right too – he was completely incapable of explaining anything to anyone – because no one ever questions him! doctors are essentially infallable in this country. scary like you wouldn’t believe. so anyway – he got pissy and said it was getting too late to do surgery because he wanted to get home (side note – we heard a story about this hospital from two separate people about spinal anesthesia being administered to women in labor when they come in at night – because the doctors are too lazy to come in and deliver – they’d rather freeze labor until the morning and perform a c-section. more money that way too. anyway, spinal anesthesia has been outlawed internationally for being inhumane – but apparently the doctors at choithram don’t care. so anyway, many women have died because of this and it’s fucked). so he said if we were refusing surgery we had to sign a form saying so and leave the hospital and go somewhere else, as that was the hospital’s final decision.

FINALLY dr. carew arrived, stuck a tube up my ass, and alleaved alot of the pressure (why this was not done on his first visit, i’m not sure). definitely not a pleasant experience, but relatively speaking – well worth the pain and uncomfortable weirdness. we packed up and went to his clinic and i recovered over the next five days with the love of about 10 awesome nurses and dr. carew’s staff. they taught me krio and loved it when i sang their local songs to them.

so anyway – i’m back at the Y after a week in the hospital and feeling like myself again (except for the anal rape). it was an absolute nightmare, but one so crazy that all i can do is laugh. seriously, i wouldn’t believe this story if someone else told me. and being delerious from the pain most of the time made it even more surreal and nightmareish. oh and i almost forgot – i got traveler’s insurance through AIG before i left and they were calling every hour to see what was going on. their head doctor in houston was talking to both dr. carew and shuman, getting his opinion of their competence. when he asked dr. shuman what surgery he was to perform on me – he fucking lied and said laproscopy (this was the advanced surgery he couldn’t explain to us stupid americans). funny thing is, the hospital doesn’t even have that equipment. awesome.

over and out. third week in pictures… NOW (for real this time). post script – please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors as the spellcheck isn’t working and it’s the least of my concerns after that shit!!

brief update

alright, ok. so after a couple bouts of insane stomach fucked-uped-ness, i’ve decided to really watch what i eat. no more cassava leaf over rice from the little lady next door to the site for breakfast. just bread and this weird cream cheese / butter combo thingy that’s actually really delicious. the spices they use here, besides being extremely hot and good, tear your stomach up if you’re not used to them. even my indian friend rinku said it destroys him (and he’s from india!).

i had met this german bloke named wolf while staying at the ymca. he’s a war correspondent and correspondingly crazy, but in a good way. anyway, he was born in namibia and his family owns 26 square kms and a ranch on a mountain top, complete with 40 horses and a dam. i was planning on going there for 2 weeks after i complete the building here, and was very excited. i found out yesterday however, that one of my cats almost died (thanks jay)(you’re the scapegoat, you know that, right?) and monetarily it just wouldn’t be worth it. you’d think it’d be cheap to fly around africa, but it isn’t. so anyway i’ll be leaving here july 16 and should be home by the 18th at the latest. i kind of can’t wait.

it’s been a really great experience so far and i’ve learned alot. about myself, about this country, about the world, about life, blah blah blah – but there’s no place like home. you know, that feeling you get just walking down the street like ‘yeah, i know this place.’ familiarity is often taken for granted. this country is so fucked up it’s not even funny. besides the insane corruption that goes on at higher levels, keeping the country’s (very massive) natural resources from the citizens, people at all levels have a similar mentality. for instance, i send my workers to negotiate prices because if they see me it will instantly be double. and everything is negotiable. in fact, if you don’t negotiate and take the first price they throw out, they give you a funny look. it’s the culture here, it’s very face to face, no trust over the phone, it’s all brother to brother. and you have to know how to talk their talk or else they won’t respect you (like other places too). it’s a very young capital city, most people are aged on average 25 years old if i had to guess. the pop culture is very american bad rap – fifty cent, tupac, and r kelly (yes, r kelly). i’ve seen the following items with fifty cent logos on it – jeans, shoes, undershirts, flashlights, and my one worker’s arm.

the good thing is that there is also a massive air of hope and the want for change in the air. the elections are this august (i better get out soon!) and people are pysched. although i’ve already heard stories of the oppositions supporters’ kids being kidnapped (very popular here) and their houses where they’d hold meetings being demolished overnight. the neighborhood i’m working in is the poorest and on the eastern outskirts of the city. at night you don’t walk around there, even my friends who live there don’t go out after 10. you get sacked by the roving theives and the police are all in it for their cut too. my one friend was held up by a police officer.

i’m not quite sure if i had a point to all this, just felt like writing some thoughts down as they came to me. i wanted up put up my pictures from week three but they’re all out of order so i have to get it right and do it another time. stay tuned though, some good ones i promise! lots of good work on the building, we’re finishing up the walls next tomorrow (krio style yo) and starting the roofer, plumber, and electrician after that. home stretch…

much love from mama africa,
n.