Country in midst of hot dry season
February is the month to remember true love vs. controlling manipulative ways. Here in Sierra Leone, it’s the midst of a very dry, hot dusty season! Water levels lessen, swamps shrink, migratory birds flock through this area feeding on creepy crawling creatures (like frogs, lizards, and insects) or whatever looks edible.
Long necked white egrets grace our backyard, stealthing to and fro like herons on western BC beaches. Standing very still then quickly thrusting their heads forward striking their prey in swift snake-like motions. Then they relax, digesting (whatever) after a good strike! A few throaty calls from their ‘scout’ and the flock gracefully glides over the razor-wired wall to a nearby swampy marsh area, to return later.
The smell of smoke fills the air as ‘the burning’ begins of persistent elephant grass, dead shrubs, bushes, dead palm trees (usually from making palm wine); whatever debris that is dropped/tossed onto the road/highway or thrown into the ditches goes up in smoke. Black or grey ashes float through the air like feathers or dried leaves. Laundry is hand or foot washed in tubs, buckets, streams or wherever non-drinkable water can be found. The items are then strewn over rocks, bushes or whatever is available until dry.
Highway travelling at night is a different life. You dare not stop to rest on the highway due to unpredictable incidents whereby uninvited guests may pay a quick and dirty visit. When a vehicle ‘breaks down’ there are big clumps of grass strewn along the center of the road warning oncoming traffic that there’s ‘trouble ahead’. Therefore slow down small, small (a little) but don’t stop, even if bodies are lying on the road ‘resting’. The breakdown could be a car, mini-van; bus filled to maximum capacity with adults, children and chickens or a big delivery truck with a flat tire or radiator troubles.
Meanwhile in some rural areas there are still “ritual killings” of children and youth! Recently a young boy was brutally dismembered while his friend witnessed the killing. Apparently the friend survived because he was considered “deaf and dumb”. He may have been traumatized and temporarily psychologically numbed (dissociated) but he recovered enough to draw bits and pieces of the incident. He had short intense memory clips that painted a nasty scene. With the help of a nurturing psychotherapist he reported all he could manage. A police incident report has been made. Now the challenge is to identify ‘offenders’ in a photo line up. Remember there is only one known practicing psychiatrist in this country. Psychologists have moved to the USA or other country while the odd one returns from time to time to visit family in Sierra Leone.
The City of Rest Rehabilitation Centre is based in Freetown. A new site is in the process of being prepared for at least 70 people who require a refuge due to mental dis-ease, social problems, alcohol/ drug addiction or homelessness. A team of writers has been and is busy preparing a Training Manual for the staff as well as the residents of the City of Rest. The new site is at Grafton, just outside Freetown with some beds designated for youth as well as male and female quarters, a place to grow food, a bakery and facilities for skills training.
There are rumblings of a plan to establish a much needed ‘Safe House’ in Bo for victims of differing types of trauma.
The Mayor of Bo is anticipating communication from the Merritt Mayor and Council regarding the request to consider ‘Sweet Bo’ as a ‘sister city’. There are a number of commonalities including homelessness, restless young people, transients, unemployment, inadequate health care facilities, policing difficulties, small business development balanced with larger corporations (such as mining industries), inter-governmental negotiations, water resource management, electricity business and developing a self sustaining tourism industry!
Meanwhile there are many creative, musical, artistic members of indigenous Tribal groups plus NGO volunteers and staff as well as the growing number of ‘churches being planted’ here and there in Bo.
Njala students have completed their exams and are waiting about three weeks for results before beginning the next semester. Meanwhile in our Bo home Mark is busy sorting, marking and recording the students’ current standings. The local rumour mill says he is doing a great job at Njala University! They know a good teacha (Kriol) when they experience one.
Often the phone rings or a message is sent asking if Dr. Mark’s home or available to check on a child, adult or senior who is suffering from something. It’s very difficult to say “not now” when the anxiety and ‘fear of the unknown’ are heard in the person’s voice. Most often it only takes a little extra mile or so to provide comfort and assurance that the person suffering really does matter and perhaps something can be done to provide assistance.
There are an increasing number of knocks at the gate of our compound daily. Some want to be ‘security guards’, gardeners, drivers or whatever their need to be associated with us might be at the time. The Bo Boy Scouts/Girl Guides came the last Saturday of January to cut down all the elephant grass that re-sprouted along the highway frontage, clean all the debris along the ditch and organize a rock garden we are slowly building. The photos of the troupe speak for them. We are assisting with Regional Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts Planning Sessions for a Jamboree in Bo this year! They hope for some radio time encouraging the youth to join the organization to become involved in events, discipline, commitment development and trust in God processes. They have great energy and talent!
The businesses in Bo are comprised of mining companies, agriculture enterprises, a few supermarkets, electronic shops, a few restaurants, hotels for all budgets, schools both public and private, sports organizations, small businesses, plenty of vendors in kiosks, homemade chop (food) at temporary vendor spots, large public markets some legal and some ‘illegally situated’ often creating traffic difficulties, private training institutions like MAPCO managed by our dear neighbours Francis and Joan Lavally, Bo Rotary Club which meets at the Fairview Lodge (across the street from our residence), many NGOs, many tent type churches that spring up for the weekend, hungry children, unemployed restless youth and transient people trying to survive and learn to live life differently. We are grateful for the welcome from the local Chiefdom, Bo City Council, Bo District Council, the Anglican Diocese of Bo, Rotarians and neighbours.
We miss all our friends and family in Canada, Brambles Bakery, Coopers, Mandolin’s, Starbucks coffee, CPO, St. Michael’s/ Trinity United Church, Merritt Clubhouse, the beautiful Nicola Valley and all the great paved highways to facilitate shorter driving times to Kamloops & Vancouver. Thank God we remembered to pack some incredible NV Herbal Tea purchased at Baillie House, and zip-lock bags to keep small ants and cockroaches out of our stored food.
We are still waiting for an international company to contact us or the Mayor of Bo, Dr. Wusu Sannoh, regarding assistance to develop a recycling business and public education associated with such a business! (Our email addresses are available through The Merritt Herald). The Waste Management program is in the process of developing a much needed separation process for recyclable items, identifying prospective markets to ship items and hopefully develop a partnership with other companies.
Enjoy your winter season, look forward to spring and take good care of all the rich resources in the Nicola Valley, especially the children! There’s always hope for every situation!