Rain rain go away

Well, first things first – made it to the beach! There is a curse that my day off is always the day it is pouring rain. In the many weeks I’ve been here, only yesterday (as far as my days off go) was half sunny! Even in Canada it was always a freak snowstorm when I had a day off (luckily didn’t need to drive to work!). That being said, we made it to one of the nicest beaches around, about an hour’s drive away, by 4PM due to many delays and mostly rain. So no swimming or surfing this time, but a meal on the beach was just what I needed. Luckily the rains have gone from 24/7 to intermittent and not even every day, we are slowly getting there!

Bureh beach is a beautiful (and yet somewhat deserted) place. There are a few beachhouses for rent or you can even bring a tent and stay on the beach for a weekend. Other than a surf club and a few local shacks that serve as restaurants, the beach is pretty much yours. The view backs onto the rainforest coming down the mountain and is just stunning. Phillipe and I partook in a mini-photoshoot against this beautiful backdrop. We also encountered a jacked man who happened to be a yoga teacher (P.S. Sierra Leonians seem to be naturally jacked, no matter what their body type…slightly jealous #skinnyindiangenetics #morethanslightly). We inquired and when asked his name “well, they call me Power Man”. Wait, who are ‘they’? And what is your name?? Turns out he is also an acrobat, and promptly took off his shirt and performed some stunts on a concrete pillar. Apparently most of Freetown knows of the existence of this mysterious Power Man!!!

Me versus Power Man

Proud to say I drove the entire way (and back!) with no issues! I will be a Land Rover pro in no time. Going was fine, except we had to drive through the Waterloo market, where everyone does shopping on Saturdays. The market spans both sides of the road, and there is a steady stream of people and motorbikes crossing between cars inching up a steep slope. Lucky for me, the car didn’t stall so I didn’t create more chaos! However, the way home was pitch black, with many people and dogs on the shoulder of the road. Not only that, there is no anti-glare in the windshield so any car coming towards you temporarily blinds you. And then of course, the rain began and the wipers create more streaks than clear glass combined with the glare of oncoming traffic and AHHHHHH. Well with 3 pairs of eyes on the road, we made it! Another adventure was to be had when Anne and I decided to go to Freetown Friday night for some live music. Well, the blind leading the blind, of course we got lost on the windy roads and ended up somewhere completely different sweating from the stress of surviving the drive hahaha. In the end we had a nice meal with mocktails and cocktails and live music will just have to wait for us to master our navigation. Also, apparently straight means different things to different people. She instructed me to go straight as we approached the roundabout. I was all excited that we didn’t have to enter this chaotic roundabout as the road continued on a tangent. Apparently she meant straight THROUGH the roundabout as in a half circle and then exit…so…yeah…that one was on me.

Bala, the sanctuary director, arrived the following day and we’re finally starting to get things in gear after a month of transition and an entirely new incoming management team. All our questions are now being answered and like Santa Clause, he arrived with a bunch of goodies and equipment that were very much needed! There are still 2 people on their way so I’m sure the adjustments will keep coming.

Speaking of goodies – if anyone has one or multiple laptops that have been replaced by newer ones, we will take your old ones and have them shipped! We are in need of some at the moment. It is also Great Apes Giving Day on October 4th, a competition to raise funds amongst ape sanctuaries worldwide, with lots of great opportunities. Check out the link to our page here and join the event on Facebook.

Zack soaring through one of our forest enclosures

The clinical work continued this week, with baby Sofie’s 1st quarantine health check. She weighed in at a healthy 3.7kg, and got her first set of vaccines and tests, and so far she looks to be in great condition. She will slowly start to gain some independence as she goes through our quarantine. I think I’ve also almost mastered the identities of most of the chimps here. I was making an analogy to someone today, of how its like being placed in a conference of 100 naked people, all with the same skin colour, hair length and hair style, and with no accessories, and having to memorize everyone’s names from a list without talking to them!

WORMZILLA

A new discovery to share – so pretty much EVERYTHING is Godzilla sized here. I came across what I thought was a small snake and no…it was just a big juicy EARTHWORM. A throbbing, pulsating mass of vibrant purple jelly, it was about 1.5 feet long and probably the largest invertebrate I’ve yet to encounter (minus the cephalopods). Terrifying as it was, also super cool and beautiful. Godzilla the spider is still around, apparently multiplying on a weekly basis…Sadly I still have no photos of her but I found a similarly sized spider to share with you all.

GODZILLA

Rainforest living gives one lots of time to reflect on life and the observations of a new country. I have been thinking a lot as to why and how the locals here, like in most African countries have taken minimal ownership of their own country. I’m also reading Guns, Germs and Steel (finally) which through a deep historical and biological analysis examines the ultimate causes behind the rise of Europe and the West as the dominant force in society, while other societies with similar apparent opportunities failed to develop in such a way. These ultimate causes are strongly related to my observations I’m sure, but it perplexes me that there is an apparent lack of opportunity and motivation for self-improvement.

For example, most permanent/established businesses here are run by Lebanese or Indian immigrants with the workers being African. This dynamic is similar in many countries I’ve visited. Why aren’t the roles ever reversed, or at least, equalized? It’s a question that has no concrete answer. Of course, everything these days takes money, and getting enough capital to start something is challenging for local people whose income ceiling is extremely low. Cultural dynamics may also play a role, as here when someone is making money their 50-100 immediate family members all come knocking on the door for support or food or similar. Success is also often met with jealousy and acts of violence on part of the envious friends and family one may share, which is provides negative motivation for doing better than just surviving. The major factors like access to education, internet (super expensive in Salone), and health care are obvious impedances as well. And of course, there is always the colonial history, where the Africans may for a long time yet feel inferior to whites, as well as dependent on them. Established careers are often seen as ‘for white people’ whereas blue collar jobs working for white people is where some people might place themselves, especially if they have limited skills and limited access to education to improve those skills. Colonies and NGOs have also created a culture of dependency where people now expect handouts to survive, rather than provide incentive for self-development and sustainable independence.
Whatever the reasons, it is peculiar that the masses who ARE this country (and continent for that matter) don’t seem to own their own space. They are still ‘ruled’ by outsiders, no matter how unofficial or subliminal, and it’s money that talks at the end of the day. I think, and hope very much that it’s the case, that with the information age and impending technological revolution, that this era will soon be over for Africa. There are many NGOs and other enterprises whose sole focus is accessibility, and who are providing education and internet and basic health services to give people the means to develop themselves. Once a critical mass breaks the current mold, the door will open for everyone.

Oddly enough, it’s yoga that is reaching many Sierra Leonians. There is a yoga training program here, and yoga here seems very popular. Power Man and several others are certified instructors and are spreading the practice of yoga far and wide and creating their own enterprises with the skills they now have.

It’s the small things that often end up making the biggest difference.

With Love,

Izzy

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