Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thanks to all who were concerned…I’m happy to report that I feel recovered now. And, yes I take anti-malarials but they are apparently only about 90% effective. It’s been a humbling experience, especially sitting in hospital next to the woman patiently waiting for treatment for leprosy on one side and half a dozen listless-eyed babies suffering from malaria staring vacantly at me from the other. Makes me truly appreciate the internal resources I have to fight off illness. I’ve also been so very fortunate to have the chiefdom “ambulance” at my service since it arrived. Our last trip made a stop at two hospitals in two towns; taking me to Makeni and a small boy suffering from malaria to Magburaka. The community is thrilled with the ambulance (a lovely used Toyota Jeep), which was formally presented at our International Women’s Day community celebration, where it was described as a child that is in the hands of the whole village where all have a stake in its safe and careful maintenance. Interestingly, the focus of our International Women’s Day celebration was on the right of girls to attend school, very pertinent here where fewer than ten women are literate and where in families that struggle, girls are often kept home to help with farm and household work. I’ve discovered through experience, though, that being literate in a predominantly illiterate country carries its own risks and dangers. Stupid me assumed that I was expected to follow the written rather than pictorial directions on my medication (they didn’t match) and I ended up missing one daily dose of medicine. Anyone I checked with here knew exactly the correct way to “read” the instruction. Another humbling experience.

In other personal news…I was lovingly nursed through my illness by the man I’ve come to deeply respect and love over the past few months. Over evenings of intense Scrabble games, working together on a research project, sifting through our library’s collection of books and DVDs on a range of world issues (oil, mining, indigenous rights, climate change, etc.) and learning a great deal about our respective worlds and cultures, teacher, cdpeace worker and former rehabilitator of ex-child combatants Saidu and I have grown very close. Today I received a formal delegation from his family (some of my best friends here), to gauge my reception to undergoing traditional “ceremonies” to mark our commitment to each other (I said yes…now need to find kola nuts). It’s been a vastly fascinating experience for me to delve into the otherwise unfathomable world of personal relationships here, which seem to function topsy-turvy to much in my experience. I’m sure there will be more updates on this front in the future and wish there were space in this blog to describe all that’s transpired so far. Love to talk over coffee or a meal when I’m back in Canada in May.

Several days ago, Saidu and I were kindly treated to lunch at a high-end hotel in Makeni by a group of generous visiting Canadians, here to support the work of a Canadian NGO (the same restaurant that served my birthday tuna sandwich earlier in the year) and I’ve been enjoying the humour that this event has sparked since then. When we returned to Mapaki, Saidu and Kouame were in hysterics both knowing the average cost of a meal (about $12) at the restaurant. Imagine spending this kind of money on a meal consumed in ten minutes! This line of joking continued long into the night as Kouame and Saidu continued with more outrageous scenarios involving lunches at this hotel and continued into the next day with other customers when we stopped to eat at a regular cookery (where meals average $1). All agreed that the cost of a meal at the hotel must include the right to walk on the shiny tile floor and look at the painted walls. I'm sure they're right.

Yesterday I also had my last “official” meeting of the year with the Gbonkolenken teachers, to read through and review the twinning letters, plan for the “peace art” the students will be doing, provide a small token to the scholarship teachers (still not on salary, unfortunately) and just to say goodbye for now. I’ll be back in Gbonkolenken over the next few weeks but may have a hard time finding students and teachers in class as holidays approach. Schools work is starting to wind down for me also as I also start to prepare for my return at the end of next month. Look forward to seeing you then!