There aren’t very many things to attach to a state of limbo. I’ve only been back in America for five days. Feels like five weeks My presence in a country that I was in for only forty five days but already very strongly connected to is very much uncertain, as much as I convince myself otherwise. I can only hope for a speedy return.
What being back in country so abruptly does do, is present an early opportunity for me to bring Mama Salone back with me and share my brief experiences. Forty five days is simultaneously nothing and a perfect little snapshot of a culture. It’s especially brief when you have for all intents and purposes mentally prepared yourself for a nearly 800 day commitment. I had frequent trouble in country finding times to get to an internet cafe to share all of the details I wanted. A normal week was anywhere between 30-100 minutes of internet time, which quickly evaporated with my priorities being uploading and formatting 1-2 blogs, and catching up on world news a midst slow online speed. A very good friend of mine sent me an email with a list of questions that I’m not sure I had the chance to answer in more than brief, non-complete sentence answers. What better time than now?
what part of the country are you in???
have you started intense work yet???
whats the climate like???
what kind of internet access do you have??
how many other volunteers are with you??
do you like them?? what are they like??
have you seen any cats?? (obviously bring back a cat with you)
did you forget anything that you need your mom or i to send??
How are the people?? are you fairly integrated yet??
What are the details of your assignment??
What’s it like?
I remembered having all of my senses spiked almost immediately hopping off the jet. The sky had an orangeish-blue hue from the hot tropical sun beating through thin clouds that sat on the edge of a thunderstorm front. We arrived during what was up to that point the strongest point of the rain season. The humidity was intense, like breathing in mist… or at least it seemed that way for someone coming from the land of 95 degree days with 10% humidity.
Sierra Leone smelled so incredibly different. As if all products for life, anything from gas, to soap or deodorant are relative enough to what we know and yet produced and manufactured with different processes and materials than we’re used to out here. I remember more than anything else that I smelled Sierra Leone, not that it was good or bad, but that it was such a powerful sense, unlike America where we are such an antiseptic environment.
What part of the country are you in?
For the first week of the country I was in the capitol, Freetown, and for the next six+ weeks I was in Bo. Freetown is the not only the capitol but the largest city of the country, by far. About one in every four Sierra Leoneons resides in the capitol or its immediate vicinity. Bo, is the second city of Sierra Leone, with a population of maybe 250-300,000 people (to Freetown’s 1,500,000), and sits in the center- south of the country.
I was/am to be stationed in the village of Rotifunk. That’s to say that my Peace Corps service, the actively serving 24 of 27 months are to be in the village of Rotifunk. Rotifunk is in the Moyamba District in the far west of the country, south of Freetown. Rotifunk itself is less than twenty miles from the Atlantic Ocean, and sits just north of a confluence of two streams that join to create the Bumpeh River. It is a beautiful village, sitting in a clearing of dense coastal rain forest, and the largest village in the area, home to a weekend market that brought traders, farmers and fisherman from a large area of the Moyamba District.
Have you started intense work yet?
I had not. We were seven weeks into our eleven week training program, and although we had opportunities to practice teaching in Salone schools and work on community development, we were very much still in the training phase… not to say that it isn’t intense for other reasons.
What’s the climate like?
Hot. Humid. All of the time. Living with high humidity was something I was not used to, and had never been extensively exposed to, so it was a struggle to adjust, and something that I was finally starting to be accustomed to. Most of the country has high humidity, with few exceptions, particularly the mountains in the far east of the country.
We were in the middle of the rainy season, when temperatures are cooler (relatively) and humidity is higher. Most days would hit peak heat and sun between about 2-4 pm. More often than not, the weather would quickly change after the heat peaked, and a powerful storm could form or blow in in a matter of minutes. There were times when the difference between beating sun and torrential black-cloud downpour were only two or three minutes. The rainy season lasts from about May to November, and sometimes the downpours are regular enough to schedule your day around them.
The dry season in contrast lasts from November to May, and in most parts of the country brings hotter and less humid weather. This is not true for all regions, again the mountains in particular, which experience a drop in temperature. One of the defining characteristics of the dry season is the Harmattan Winds, flying east from the Saharan Desert, bringing massive dust clouds with them. For all the dirtiness the Harmattan can bring, it is known for relieving high temperatures between November and January when it does come.
I’ll answer the rest of these questions on my next entry!