Update 2.14.16-2.16.16

Kushay, my friends!

A LOT to update here. Sorry about the delay, but it has been a decidedly busy week—with some situations still ongoing! *sigh*

Anyway, I have decided (halfway through writing an outlandishly long post) to break this into two updates, but I’ll try and post both of them today while the internet is working. You can choose to read them at separate times (savor the excitement), or read both posts AT THE SAME TIME (like my mother).

This update is sponsored by Elijah Brittain (Or Elisha Nicodemus Martinez, as I have known him for many years). I chose Eli for this particular update, because I felt that he might be singularly appreciative of both me trying to look cool riding a motorbike and of me being an idiot about baked things (thankfully, no scones) and of me complaining about the cost of college. (There’s your post preview.) Eli is pretty cool, pretty funny, uses an absurd amount of hashtags on in his insta posts (this is an intervention), and also donated exactly $27, because he couldn’t bear the uneven total before his donation. Thanks, pal!

Also, speaking of sponsors, because of generous donations outside of GoFundMe, I HAVE REACHED MY NECESSARY GOAL! Thank you all so much! I’m not going to lie. When I started, I thought I would never get the money needed. I am truly and wonderfully amazed and grateful. However, if you would still like to get involved financially, by all means, I recommend donating to Women of Hope and the wonderful organization they are.

Since last you heard from me, much has happened. Here are some highlights of each day (not necessarily every single thing that happened though).

2/14/16

Sunday is my free day off, and so I took the opportunity to connect with the village of Rogbom at their church service. I have been visiting and working in Rogbom ever since probably my fourth day ever in Sierra Leone. So, it was a happy reunion. There were so many pikin who had been born since I was last here and did know at all who the strange white lady (APADTO! APADTO! APADTO! [btw, I have never been able to confirm the correct spelling of this word, so it’s really just written phonetically]) was sitting at the back of the church. Haha.

First, let me back up. I took a motorbike taxi (okadah) to meet up with an old friend of my father, Maligie, who was going to take me the rest of the way to Rogbom (good thing, because Lord knows I wouldn’t have been able to remember directions from my current location after four years of development and extra roads built in Makeni!). I’m honestly impressed that the actually incorrect directions I gave to the okadah driver still got me where I needed to be. After leaving Makeni (and passing Makambo—where I need to visit soon as well), we finally left the highway to continue down a long dusty road. Along the way and close to Rogbom, two teenage girls (who I couldn’t recognize at the speed we were traveling) actually called out my name, and I’m not gonna lie about nearly breaking down in tears right then and there. We also passed the recently built (last year) Ebola cemetery for the district. Too many markers.

We were just a tad late for church (*I* WAS READY ON TIME), but it was such a joyous occasion to see so many friends. Also, Maligie’s children have grown so considerably that I could honestly hardly believe it!

A photo that Maligie took without my knowledge, I’ve been referring to it as “Where’s Waldo if Waldo means blindingly white face.”

Also, for your consideration: The coolest I will ever look leaving a church:

Ignore the fact that I forced poor Daniel (Maligie's younger brother) to take this photo.

Perhaps the most exciting reunion was with Ramatu. She is an extraordinary person, and her story is beyond incredible. A story of physical and spiritual healing—where she went from being “cursed,” hidden in darkness, and in incredible physical pain to now being healthy, appreciated, and a leader in Rogbom.

Appreciate the utility of my clothing choices: skirt and top are "nice" for church, leggings are for the motorbikes, and vest is to carry money for the okadah with my lack of pockets. I thought this one through, folks.

Inspiration.

2/15/16

Monday, Monday, Monday.

My day began with pancakes! Seriously. However, I meant to put cinnamon on them and put hot pepper instead. Whooo. (Literally imagine the people I was with yelling NOOOOOOOooooooooooooo! In slow motion.) Classic Megan with a degree in cross-cultural studies really succeeding at the whole not-being a dumb American thing.  

My day continued with a free okadah ride to the WoH office, because being a young American female in Sierra Leone is the same as being an exotic supermodel in terms of both street harassment and random free stuff. I TRIED TO PAY SEVERAL TIMES, OKAY.

My first task of the day ended up being fixing a printer, because God thinks that’s funny.

Most of my day was spent in trainings and meetings, but I also got to spend a fair amount of time hanging with the fair trade ladies (as the women involved in the fair trade co-op will henceforth be known on this blog). Memunatu (who I spent Saturday with) totally loves me—even if she pretends to be grumpy sometimes. In fact, she has taken to casually (and frankly, rather dismissively) referring to me in conversation with other people as “my white lady.” I 100% accept this designation.

I also spent around six hours working on fair trade quality control and order payment with Kim. That was as much fun as I’m sure you’re imagining. However, I did get to look at the many, many beautiful items the women create. You can purchase some through WoH on Etsy.

After that, we went to the hospital to visit Aminatu and her baby (mentioned in the previous post). She was not doing much better at the time (further updates below). We were blocked at the gate from entering the hospital at first, because it was slightly after visiting hours—but an old man named Waldo made them let us in. Thank you, Waldo.

2.16.16

Today, I got a desk! It is right near the fair trade ladies and we can yell back and forth at each other, so that is excellent. One of the women languidly informed me through the window that I really need to learn to speak Krio better (classic burn!), but she will teach me. I am also trying to remember everyone’s names and that is, quite frankly, terrifying. I remember a few, but I didn’t write them down immediately, and now it’s past the point of no return. I’m also trying to figure out my place in this internship and how I will complete all of my duties. So, it’s been good.

After more fair trade work, some of the women asked to be taken to the hospital to visit Aminata. This request ended with the WoH vehicle literally smashed full of women—to the point that we had to kick out the driver (sorry Sidi) and have Kim drive instead. I’m still not entirely sure how that many women (plus crutches) fit, but somehow we did.

That was an extraordinary sight: a caravan of women marching (as quickly as able) through the hospital. We were all spread out, because of different walking abilities, so it was just one long line of extremely determined women. Although the baby was not doing any better at the time (she was very dehydrated as the IV had blown, and another had not been put in yet), it was clear that Aminata felt very supported and loved by everyone’s visit.

Later that afternoon, we had to go to the market in Makeni. Ruth and I were browsing for cost and availability for items to put into a fundraiser bag we’re creating for Easter (WoH staff in Sierra Leone do a different fundraiser every month with the goal of raising 1,500,000le [about $250] each time). This reconnaissance mission did not take too long, and then we were back at the vehicle (Kim, Les, and Diane were also at the market buying fabric for curtains for the under-construction WoH site [offices, co-op, childcare facility, guest house, etc]). Ruth and I sat in the car with Sidi for about ten minutes, before Ruth was just, “I’m grabbing an okadah, and I’m out of here and going home. Be at the office at 8 tomorrow morning. Bye.” I didn’t think that buying fabric could REALLY take that long.

HOURS, I TELL YOU. HOURS. (2, but that’s still plural.) Sidi and I had a great time talking though. We discussed our own personal experiences with tax rates, the impossibilities of paying for college (his greatest desire is to get his younger brother into higher education), and also how weird it is when people say hi to you and know your name, but you have no idea who they are. We also ate like 25 Starbursts. And Sidi is already bidding on buying my international phone when I leave the country. (I DON’T THINK SO, MAN. THIS IS NICER THAN MY AMERICAN PHONE WHICH BARELY WORKS. I’M KEEPING IT.) Sidi is my fav, because he is very chill and only slightly flinches when you joke about having him drive you to Freetown or Bo (long drives either way). He also takes SO MANY PHOTOS OF HIMSELF IN INTRICATELY POSED SITUATIONS. Like, we were at the site counting windows (for the curtains), and we look over and Sidi is posing nonchalantly on a ladder and getting the contractor to take the pics. (Look for the next update with a Sidi Pose™)

At some point, we ended up going to the hospital again to meet with one of Kim’s friends who is a doctor and who brought some medicine to get the baby’s fever down, stop the itching from the measles, and ORS (oral rehydration solution) to get the baby rehydrated. As of Wednesday, the baby is doing better (more alert, etc) and will be celebrating her 1st birthday this coming Sunday! It’s not over yet, but it is certainly more promising and hopeful now.

Phew! So, that was a few days. Up next, I’ll post about Wednesday!

Thank you always to all my sponsors and supporters. I am grateful for you every day!

-Meg