Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Well, I can’t believe it. This is the day that I had planned to return to Sierra Leone and here I still am in Halifax. Health issues (had good biopsy results back this week) and several other factors have kept me here longer than planned. Thank goodness PSI board member Clare Levin has received a CIDA internship to volunteer with cdpeace and will be able to continue with school twinning, teacher support, etc. until I return. Please take a look at Clare’s blog at clareinternational.blogspot.com. Huge thanks to Clare and all who are making her feel comfortable and at home in Mapaki and elsewhere in the two chiefdoms!

In the meantime, I am posting a letter to friends in Sierra Leone, as an update on our Canadian adventure:
For the first time, this is a Canada-based blog for our friends and family in Sierra Leone. We miss you all very much and every day think about the small and big things we miss about Sierra Leone…family, friends and communities (especially our children Umar, Kadija and Helen), sounds of small children playing and roosters calling, smell of the kitchen fire and banter with the women, taste of spicy plasass and cassava leaf. Often we wish we could simply be whisked back to Sierra Leone to touch base with people for a few days before returning to our schedule. So far we’ve had seven weeks of intense travel throughout eastern Canada, and have done presentations at fourteen schools and five conferences in four provinces. We took a few days off to celebrate our wedding with Canadian family and look forward to returning to family in Nova Scotia soon. A huge thanks goes out to all who provided us with transportation, meals, a bed to sleep in and good company and inspiration. Thanks to Children’s World Academy, Springdale, the Lester B Pearson School Board, St Mark, St. Francis, St. Francis DeSales, St. Joseph, St. Joseph’s, Beaconsfield High, Adult Learning Centre, Kingslake, Parkview, Pheasant Run, Little Rouge, the Canadian Society for Studies in Education, Canadian Association for Studies in International Development, ACIC, Queen’s University, UNESCO, the Lakoh, extended van Gurp and Egnatoff families, Kathryn and Helen, Diana and Cameron, Mom, Abdul and many others who go unnamed (you know who you are!). In the coming weeks we’ll continue with presentations and plan for a week-long Peace Art Camp that we’ll be facilitating in Halifax.

Everyone has been asking Saidu what he thinks of Canada and what surprises him the most. His initial impressions are… “Canada has very unpredictable, uncondusive weather, people here eat more vegetables and fruits than carbohydrates, houses are under-peopled (huge houses can have just one or two people in them) and the network of roads and transportation is impressive. My first big surprise was when Carolyn offered me a “Hot Dog” to eat and I wondered if Canadians really eat those well-cared-for dogs they keep as pets (here dogs are treated like human beings with beddings and good care, dog hospitals and operations for things like toothaches. It was really beef). Canadians are very friendly and open and ask lots of questions….they want to know everything. In the school visits I noticed that children are bold and they wanted to know a lot about Sierra and asked many, many questions about children in Sierra Leone, what they eat, how they get along with their families, about the war (were children involved in fighting, who abducted the children, etc.) and much more. I went skating on ice (Carolyn adds “and didn’t fall”). There are many, many places that make shwarma here and in some of the schools almost all the children come from other countries around the world.”

Our plans for the next few weeks…continue with support for school twinning and schools visits (thanks Winnie and Sue!), reflect on what we’ve learned so far, and work on plans for producing and printing books for literacy learning in Sierra Leone. I hope to also be able to do some short term teaching (and twin from Canada for a change!) to generate funds for on-going work. Until I return, please remember to visit Clare’s blog. You can also sign up for an email notice to postings to this blog for when I start posting from Sierra Leone again (see top right side of the page). Happy reading and happy fall till the next post, hopefully from Sierra Leone!