Don’t know where the time has gone – perhaps it scurried for shelter now that the rains have come. This will be a June/July (Junly?) update then two more dispatches: our last while in Sierra Leone in August and a wrap up when we are back in Canada toward the end of September.

The rainy season is working up a head of thunder and lightening. The other night there was a terrific display of fury – great flashes of lightening followed by thunderclap as if we had been standing next to a cannon shot. We think there was a direct strike on our power pole outside the house as an electrical outlet in the dining room let out a loud crack and died. Now the power is a little wobbly in the back of the house including our bedroom. Ah well, at least we have power now – a proper bonus to the rain as it fills the resevoir at the dam nearby.

The rainy season here is also known as the hungry season as rice stocks are down and fresh produce is more difficult (and expensive) to find. MSF (Doctors Without Borders) outside Bo is running over capacity with their malnutrition program and will need help from the government hospital to cope. As well this is malaria season and MSF is treating children with malaria four to a bed – again the government hospital will be opening a ward to ease the crowding.

For now the rains are falling mostly at night that pulls away the heat and makes sleeping more comfortable. Locals find it cold this time of year too. The “okada” or motorcycle taxi riders don winter parkas (even down jackets) with faux fir hoods, toques and gloves then try to stuff their helmets on their heads – this gives them another four inches of height.

Mark finished lecturing at the university and exams have begun. Desks have been assembled in two long parallel lines along the covered walkway that connects the classrooms and admin offices. It is probably 200 feet long and there are about 130 desks with a pathway down the middle. Reports are that it gives exam supervisors a better view of those students who may try to, how shall I say, want to have a “discussion” about the exam contents. However it is cooler outside and far more picturesque than the dark, hot classrooms. There wasn’t enough space for all the students along the corridor so some were seated under the large mango tree just outside one of the classrooms. The supervisors had radios to communicate with each other – shouting across 200 feet of exam space would be distracting.

Margaret has managed to put together a decent garden area near the compound gate with some flowering shrubs, two papaya trees and some lovely plants our friend, the mayor referred to as “just weeds”. Nevertheless Margaret has afforded us some green views out the bedroom window against the backdrop of the drab cement walls of the compound. The eggplants that were started late last year have been the garden stars – we must have eaten several dozen of them by now.

Margaret had an exhausting week in Freetown earlier in June giving a seminar to married couples from different church organizations. Since coming home she has been very tired and running one of those mysterious tropical fevers with night sweats. She had blood work done and thankfully she does not appear to have malaria. Enough of watch and wait – she started taking good old Cipro – the tropical traveler’s trusted antibiotic and it seems to be improving her symptoms after a few doses.

Today (July 3) is Margaret’s birthday and we celebrated with breakies in bed and Mark made a “pancake cake”: four large layered pancakes with black current jam in between and the whole thing smeared with “Nutella”, a hazelnut chocolate spread. Later we will go to Kama and Mars café for a plate of spicy chicken and noodles.

We find it surprising that we have been here nine months and can count our remaining weeks here on our 10 fingers. We have been slowly picking our way through the accumulation of things that we won’t be bringing home – stuff that will be given away or sold. We couldn’t possible manage to bring home a generator, water filter and furniture, nor the “dinosaur egg” helmets that VSO wanted us to wear if we were using motorcycles. Our time here has been like riding around on the back of an okada taxi- exhilarating, scary at times, bumpy but we’ve managed to get from A to B. The sustaining light of our experience has not been so much the work itself but the people. For us, Saloneans, despite the hardships they face have been truly wonderful. They have been nothing less than warm, hospitable and friendly and we have made some dear friends and will miss them. We hope that some will be able to visit us in Canada.

Our friend Heleen who lives in Freetown returned to Holland for some well-deserved “R & R” and lent us her vehicle and use of her Freetown place while she is away. So we have wheels for a while – what a luxury! A little grey Toyota RAV – most convenient to scoot around town in. We had a day trip to Kenema – the city to the east and had a lovely drive through green hills -in our own seats, with air conditioning! It is such a step up from motorcycles and taxis. However we’ve managed to shred two tires and had to make do with an oversized tire that gives the car a slightly lopsided appearance – driving on four different treads too. Alas the car affair will be coming to an end soon and it will be back to motorcycles, bumming rides and Mark’s mountain bike with its natural air conditioning.

It rained long and slow last night – like a west coast drizzle and the sun has come out to warm and dry things out. A breeze has come up and is blowing gently across the table where I am writing.