I know, I know. It's been a very long time since I've written. Several of you have asked if I ever recovered from my illness---thankfully yes. They were never sure if it was definitely typhoid, but whatever it was brought me new appreciation for good health and also a new humble attitude about sickness in Africa. My sterile American immune system is no match for generations of unfamiliar African germs. Now, at the first sign of queasiness, I immediately stop eating and switch to plain white rice and Gatorade. I avoid any type of salad or fresh vegetables at restaurants and I am careful about eating out in general. You just never know. Some of the people I know even avoid ice cubes when they are out for fear they were made with unclean water. Welcome to Africa.
Here is an update on a couple of things:
I am still running. In fact, I am managing to run the Hash Run every Monday, which is about 5k and filled with lots of hills. We have to walk some, as the run follows through all areas of town, including running through the slums, people's kitchens, the beach when high tide hits, you name it. These days, I dream of running on pavement like a starving man dreams of steak or ice cream. We did have a Halloween run, where we ran on the beach road--which is all tar. The bad part was that we finished the run at dark, so we were running on the road right next to cars, couldn't see the road, no lights on the cars or the road....you get the idea. Welcome to Africa.
Driving to work is a challenge. Driving at ALL is a challenge. On Thursday, I decided to try an alternate route and it took me 1 hour and 20 minutes to get to the Embassy! The drive is usually 35 minutes...in dead stopped traffic. The total mileage is 12 miles. But by the time I got there, my car was almost overheating. I can't run the a/c for fear of going in the red zone, so I'm sitting in my work clothes, getting hot, and praying I make it to work before steam starts coming from the hood. Very bad way to start the day. When I got there, my lazy co-worker decided not to come to work at all, due to an ankle sprain a week earlier. That left all the work to me. We were having a presentation for 100 people at 10:00 so I had my work cut out for me. The presentation was a Health Program outlining the problems and possible solutions for HIV/AIDS, Maternal Child Mortality rates (1 mother in 8 dies in childbirth here), and general deplorable heath facilities (when you go to the hospital here...you have to provide all your own bandages, medication, blood, supplies). The First Lady of Sierra Leone attended and also spoke on her topics of interest. When someone asked her about Female Genital Mutilation (a common practice here...as 90% of the girls in SL are forced to comply with this disgusting tradition), she said the government does not tell it's people what to do and will not go against the practice. I couldn't believe it! If you have any questions, google FGM and see what you find. There is no reason for it, except it's an African tradition to dominate the women. Our Ambassador spoke right up and said that it's the policy of the American government to speak out against such inhumane practices and that they believe it's a violation of human rights to continue such practices. Luckily the program was almost over, or we might have had more of a political clash. Maybe the serving of soda and cookies helped smooth the mood. Africans are always happy for free food.
I am off to the beach just now. I've been home all morning doing house chores...catching up after being busy for the past couple of weeks. Hope all is well with you and I promise to write more frequently.
Oh, and everyone in Sierra Leone is VERY HAPPY that Obama was elected US President. They feel like they have a "brother" in the White House and are very anxious to see what policy changes might be coming. As a practical American, I'm just hoping the economy improves with the new administration. And yes, I voted!! I voted absentee. I have never missed an election in all my adult years of voting.