Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Return

The team has officially arrived home safely. Although the teams in country adventure is over, I suggest checking the blog regardless. Each team member of the team will be adding their own personal excerpt and we are finally going to be able to add some pictures! Also, we will continue to keep this updated as the project progresses.

Short update on the last adventure in Sierra Leone

Since our flight was not until 7pm we had some time to kill in Sierra Leone. We broke up in two groups. Dr. L, Bobby, Chris, Sandy and Meghan went back to the market to get more items, and Matt, Mike and Rich went on an adventure to check out some local solar water pumps. When the water pumps adventurers returned we drove to the ferry.

As usual we were bombarded with people trying to sell us more stuff. Mohammed arranged with a nice gentleman to take us across the ferry with our stuff and help us get to the airport safety. Turns out this was a great move, because when we got off the ferry more people tried to get us to overpay for taxis as usual, but our guy helped us to get a good deal.

The Freetown airport was a nightmare and a complete joke as far as security goes. Getting out of that airport is a miracle in itself; just one of the many miracles of the trip.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Goodbye to Freetown

We left for the village of Baoma one last time Sunday morning and arrived before the 10:00 church service began, and boy were we in for a surprise! The service lasted just over 2 hours and their Pentacostal ways were a bit different for us. The singing, exotic dancing, and repitition of shouts was very interesting to say the least. After church, we quickly collected a few last water samples before playing football (soccer) and frisbee with the school children. Around three we started our final presentation to the community. Mike led the meeting with Mohamed's assistance. Meghan, Matt, and Bobby contributed by presenting the assessments of the health survey, water quality, and soil testing. The stage was then open for the community to ask us questions and tell us what they really want or need. There seemed to be a consensus that they need four things: a latrine, better school, water system, and a medical center. After some expressions of appreciation from both sides, Dr. L and Rich presented the community leaders with collared Penn State shirts to show our respect and thanks. We also presented Mohamed and his family with a small lion statue also to show our thanks for their hospitality. It was sad to leave the community, because we knew that we would not see those people again for a long time. We will stay in correspondance so that the distance between us won't seem so large.

Rich, Matt, and Bobby decided to jump in the Atlantic Ocean before they left. After waiting for those boys to get back, we walked over to the seemingly world famous Paddy's night club for dinner...don't worry, the night club part wasn't open when we went.

Today, we are heading into Freetown for some last minute shopping and cement retrieval. Around noon here, we will catch some taxis to the ferry, which will bring us to the island that the airport is on. This will be the last blog before our seven o'clock flight tonight, so we will look forward to seeing you tomorrow around noon (your time).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Bargainers of the Big Market

For the first time this week, we didn't need to go into the village of Baoma, but instead journeyed into the depths of the city of Freetown. We got going out of our hotel around ten and entered the city about a half an hour later. It was interesting to see the beautiful coast and the city from the hills of Freetown. The streets of New York City seem tame to that of Freetown. You have to watch out for cars and bikes that like to pass no more than two inches from your closest shoulder. After walking around through the streets, we found the main attraction (especially among the girls), the "Big Market." There were a lot of African arts and crafts waiting to be bargained for. Meghan took care of most of that. It was a very hectic place. Not one person could stand in one spot without getting asked repeatedly to buy something...ask Richie(Rich Kercher)! After we got away from the hub-bub of the Big Market, we did a little more shopping and got some supplies for the students in Baoma.

Later, we took our on-site correspondant, Mohamed, and his family out for some chinese food right near the beach. Mohamed and his family have been very caring to us since we have been here, so it was just a small token of our appreciation to all of what they've done for us.

Tomorrow is the big day for us in Baoma. We are having our final meeting with the residents about the information that we have gathered since arriving. This information pertains to the health and safety of these individuals, and hopefully they will be open-minded when listening to what we have to say.

We will let you know how the meeting goes, and what happens tomorrow with us. Thanks for reading in, and goodnight from Freetown.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wash your Hands!

Since today is friday, it was the last day to spend with the school kids. In the morning we arrived and split up into teams to complete 3 tasks that we had to complete before we were able to spend time with the kids. Chris and Matt went on a hike up to a water source; they did not return till noon, they left at 9. Dr. L and Bobby went up to a site that was given for the possiblity of new school construction to do a percolation test. Mike and Rich finished up collecting some final data of the area surround the school to create an accurate map. Sandy and Meghan got to use glo-germ. Glo-Germ is a system to teach kids how to wash their hands by putting artificial germs on their hands, which can only be seen when using a blacklight.

After the official business was finished, the team had some time to spend with the kids and there is nothing better than that. It is hard to explain how much the kids love interacting with us, we may be among the first "white man" they have ever seen. Actually, it seems like everywhere we go people stare and wave at us. Anyway, we gave the students all of the gifts that we bought for them. It turns out that that the school was in desperate need for some school supplies and they were very thankful for everything that we were able to give them.

The team left at noon and crammed into a single cab to get back to the hotel... quite the bonding experience. We stayed in the hotel an renergized for a little bit and them went on a taxi adventure. Although we intended to go to a restuarant that was about a 10 minute taxi drive, the guy who negotiated our taxis directed the drivers to a restuarant with the same name but about an hour(at least) away. It took us roughly 45 minutes of going in the wrong direction to realize that it was not right.

Eventually we managed to turn the drivers around... after a lot of confusion... but we had a very nice dinner. If anyone has been wondering what we have been eating, dont worry, Mike has taken a picture of just about every meal so far.

The internet connection here makes dial up seem speedy, so uploading pictures is turning out to be quite a challenge. I apologize but am going to try to find some way to do it now. Cheers.

The stages of poverty
1. Shock
2. Acceptance
3. Sadness
4. Crazyness

This trip is really showing us about the real world and the poverty in third world countries. Above is the stages that we have been going through so far. When we first arrived, I think we were all in shock at what we were seeing. Then we accepted how bad it was and were focusing on solutions. After going through some of the health surveys, we really saw into the lives of the people and it was very sad and depressing. Now, It is safe to say we are all going crazy. I dont think we can go more than ten minutes with cracking up with laughter.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fun in Freetown

Our stay in Freetown so far has been amazing, but the enormity of the problems of the community that we are working with are overwhelming. It is very had to explain everything that we are seeing. As Americans we are always shown what African poverty is like on television, but seeing it first hand is a completely devestating experience. That being said the people are very optimistic, happy and willing to work to improve the future for their children.

Today we went into the community again to finish up taking our technical data for the trip. We have everything mapped out and tested and have completed our community service. It is nice because we also had some time to spend time with the school kids and bond with the community. One thing we did that was different then the scheduled events was we took the names, age, height and weight of each student. We are going to be able to compare them to the average kids in America and also set up each member of EWB with a pen pal.

Dr. L is really experiencing the dynamics of napping. He has found all the best napping spots in Freetown, including nice wooden benches.

Rich is secretly a soccer star and managed to skillfully steal the ball from a group of African children... He is also great at trying new foods and drinks...example Vicco Malt.

Bobby (Auntie Bobbie) managed to use his medical kit for the first time on a boy with a really bad burn from boiling water. Dont worry, we have it all on film.

Uncle Matt is the water expert and successfully used his muscles to lift many many children in the air.

Uncle Chris enjoyed weighing each kid and was an excellent assistant water man. He is also doing a fantastic job of filming all of the most critical happenings of the day.

Sandy has purchased a wooden giraffe and elephant and has successfully disinfected the entire hotel room.

Mike looked like Indiana Jones trying to draw his maps, made friends and has a new girlfriend named Rema... who is 2 and now Chris is fighting with Mike over her...

Meghan has sucessfully managed to give serious sass to the cab drivers "it was a short distance, we are white, not fools" and is looking forward to showing off her "football" skills tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

From Freetown With Love

Today, we woke up early around seven to eat breakfast and get on the road to Baoma. We walked up the trail to the children's school and were greeted by Pastor Martin and his school. The students presented their daily opening exercises to us with great exuberance. We broke up into three teams; one for water sampling, another for site mapping, and a third for community health assessment. The water sampling team visited and mapped three main water sources. Rich, Bobby, and Mike surveyed and mapped the school site. Finally Dr. L and the girls did a community health assessment where they asked a series of questions pertaining to food, health, family size, etc. We had a great lunch thanks to Mohammed and his wife Mildred. It was a very rainy day but a productive one. Sorry for the long periods between blog posts but internet is difficult to find. Talk to you guys soon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Village

Today the travel team made their first voyage into the sierra Leone culture. After an interesting boat ride from the airport to the city of Aberdeen(suburb of Freetown)we finally met our on site contact Mohammad. He set us up in our hotel for the night, and we finally got some much needed sleep.

We had a late start this morning, but we started by shopping and exchanging some money. Now we are all packing some serious dough... the exchange rate is $1=40000. Then we went to lunch near the beach and ended up staying there for awhile and we hoarded by local artisans on the beach.

After lunch we made our way into the community to see the site we would be working with and meeting the people of the community. We had a positive meeting with the chief and the community is excited we are here.

Tomorrow we start the dirty work.

We apologize for the lack of details.... when we get more time we promise we will share more of our experience so far.