25 March 2011

The Birthday Cake

Meg shares a birthday with St. Valentine’s honored day of love. For her whole life the day of her birth was clouded by heart shaped candy, roses and couple’s rushing around making dinner plans. I was determined to remind all of Moyamba to forget cupid and that it was Wuya’s birthday. Most people got the hint. One thing about Sierra Leoneans, that I am sure all your frequent dispatch readers have read time and time again, I can’t say enough about how generous and warm Moyambians are and the whole town I think made her birthday special.


I thought it was imperative we have a birthday cake. Thankfully, Mom Sinning was thinking the same thing and knows I lack significant culinary talents. Mom had sent me some freeze dried camping food. One was a package of blueberry cheesecake. Since, I have yet to figure out how to bake with my charcoal stove, I was ecstatic that bday cake was only a little hot water and ten minutes away.

Like everything we do, it’s always under close supervision of small children. Wuya and I ate some amazing cassava leaves, which were gifted to Meg by her neighbors. When I started pouring hot water into a plastic bag, the kids started to become interested or at least confused. “Fatmata, wetin yu de du?” (what are you doing). I told them I was cooking it. One of the boys goes, ok, so this is how pumois (white people) cook. They waited in apprehension as the freeze dried cheesecake become back to it’s smooth, edible form. After it was done, I showed the boys and they were shocked. “I like the way you cooooook it, I like the way you cooook it” they kept saying over and over. “It’s pumoi magic! It’s pumoi magic” Never knew I could be a magician by adding hot water to a plastic bag.
“If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal” JFK, 1963 Commencement Address at American University

Finding Resolution

It’s somewhat cliché to do the end of the year reflection but I feel it’s necessary to look back where you have been in order to figure out where you want to go in the coming year…So where was I and where am I heading?

2010 started with a vow, a vow to make the last year of the decade better then its predecessor and for once I actually kept a New Year’s resolution. The year found me in some unexpected places; the first being the U.S. Congress.

I spent most of 2009 buzzing around as a Congressional intern, temp and on the campaign trail but 2010 bought a promotion. If you were a senior citizen, a child, disable, unemployed or just plain infuriated at the government, I was your it girl. It was an exciting time to be in government. Healthcare was keeping us all on our toes and my phone never stopped ringing. I learned a lot sitting watching the tea partiers protesting outside and helping constituents solve their issues with various federal agencies. The Government is a well oiled machine that runs at an extremely fast pace. I never had two days twice and would never know what would happen before I walked into the office. I learned to believe in our political system and that Congress is more then just cut throat debates between Democrats and Republicans. Many members are hardworking individuals promoting change. (and all Members of Congress have mercilessly dedicated staff; a little shout out….)

My life as a Congressional staffer was short lived but not because I disliked the job (frankly, I loved), only that a Peace Corps application is not now for the weak hearted and my invitation was finally in my hands after 16 months. Congress taught me to be patient and how to be good listener which in the months after leaving I would need more than ever in my new job description.

After leaving Congress, I flailed around the farm for a few weeks in a panic of having to pack up my life into only 80 lbs of luggage. Exactly six months in the office of a member of Congress to the next six months spent in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I left the tea partiers to picket against healthcare to figuring out the best way to ward off dozens of energetic African kids interested in touching my ‘bizarre’ white skin’.

Peace Corps had been a plan of mine for quite sometime. My cousin Erin is a RPCV and after meeting a recruiter my freshman year at USD, I was more than intrigued. I needed PCV on my resume. As mentioned earlier, the application process is not for those with a weak heart or at least with high blood pressure. A total of 16 months if fretted over my potential PC future but Feb 2010 my blue folder of success had came in. Peace Corps Sierra Leone, pack your bags for June 1 and by the way (it said) you are in training Group One.

39 future PCVs arrived in Freetown in early June. The heat and humidity hit me like a ton of bricks but nothing could thwart my excitement. I was finally here, ready to start my service. Transferred to Bo, things moved really quickly. Training started, I had a new family with little brothers who are much smaller than Alex, could speak Krio (small, small) and learning how to be a teacher. By the end of the 2010 I found myself in Moyamba and teaching 100 teenage girls at one of the biggest Girl’s boarding school in the country.

So….What was actually resolved in 2010?
I will continue to struggle with my restless feet and the urge to be a homebody. It’s easy to be content both at home and in a place so completely opposite to my home half way around the world. I love politics even the constant squabbling between the Dems and Repubs. Eating with your hands is liberating. Teenage girls are the same all over the world and survive on the food of gossip and trouble making. Teachers have the hardest job on the planet. Mende is fun but could fling me into an emotional melt down. I glow in the dark. I have re-cultivated my love for journalism. The world may have been made in seven days but it can’t be changed in that same amount of time. And will unexpectedly face the New Year with a new outlook and a patient wait for the unknown.