Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Turnips, Norway, and Cyanide

After a tortured night from unwittingly poisoning myself with cyanide this week, you’d think I’d learned my lesson. The poisoning seems to be the result of eating a great quantity of barely cooked cassava leaf. Uncooked cassava leaf, it turns out, contains high levels of cyanide and is quite toxic. My suffering was a result of stupidly ignoring the entreaties of the women of the kitchen to cook my greens at length. This morning someone turned up with turnip just harvested from the Maso garden and a basket of crane-crane and after chasing the puppy and kitten out of the smoldering fire pit, once again I lightly cooked up a stew of greens, turnip, onion, tomato, pepper, and sesame and again, was the only person brave (or stupid) enough to enjoy this feast. If you hear no more from me, fear for the worst!

After being very impressed with the experiences and perspectives of a delegation of youth political party members from Norway I met at a council meeting in Makeni yesterday and reading on BBC that Canada might stay in Afghanistan indefinitely, I briefly toyed with the idea of a partial move to Norway, especially as I look into the possibility of community to community twinning. My recent visit to our former nurse was to a community that’s twinned with a Norse community and they seem to be doing some very positive work together. With the internet and guest house in Mapaki, and guest houses now available to visitors in Mayagba and Makonkorie, twinning communities is certainly very feasible. As well as twinning with Norse communities, I would love to see community to community twinning with Canadian communities. Anyone out there interested in exploring this?

While limited space and limited access to electricity for light and laptop lessons continues to pose challenges, the library also continues to delight me and many others in Mapaki. When I opened the door this morning to work on the computer, a young mom and her baby came in and I explained how moms in Canada read to their babies on their laps. After overcoming some initial shyness due to her own literacy needs, baby Kadiatu’s mom spent a lengthy time enjoying the books with her baby while various other community members dropped in to have me send emails to relatives, help clean, look for books, and stay to read. The library seems to be occupied more by the children at night and adults when it’s open during the day.

Did I mention how delighted I also am to have found a hand pump and to have rigged it up to an old hose to water our garden? We’ve had no rain now for months and each day need to haul many buckets of water from the stream to our ever-expanding vegetable beds. The boys who were catching fish at the stream (and who explained how they catch the monkeys that end up providing our protein) were thrilled to take turns operating the pump and hose (while I felt a bit like Tom Sawyer).

Tomorrow I hope to meet with representatives from a UN agency to see how we can apply for funding for cdpeace construction, salaries, and development projects. The deadline for hearing from Canada’s development agency (CIDA), passed two days ago with no word and I’m thinking we need to cast our net and spread our eggs further. Tomorrow I also hope to help our young video crew start a “Day in the Life” video series with students at our pilot schools to share with schools in Canada. If you are a teacher in Canada and are interested in getting involved in this, please let me know (cvangurp at

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