Tag Archives: weather

The View from the Porch: Around Town

Crest and motto of Sierra Leone.

As the month of December rolls along, seasonal change is in the air here.  This is true both in terms of the weather as well as the energy of daily life in Freetown.  Recent days have been hot, humid, and hazy, with hints of harmattan  dust in the sky.  The streets of the city are  a bit more congested than usual, with peddlers now selling Christmas decorations, shoppers preparing for holidays,  and “just come” Sierra Leoneans visiting from abroad.  (The exchange rate for the leone has dropped a bit in recent days because of the influx of dollars from these diaspora visitors.)   Street carnivals and outings to the beach are typical in December, adding to an atmosphere of festivity.   ‘Tis also the season for “thanksgiving parades,” which means church, school, and other groups marching through the streets complete with marching bands.  On Sunday night, returning to Freetown from Makeni, we ran into such parades at every turn, which slowed our progress through town considerably.  I saw my first Christmas tree decorating a store front the other day, but all in all the atmosphere is nothing like the hustle and bustle and hype of the season in the U.S.

News these days has been dominated by government corruption scandals. The mayor of Freetown was arrested recently and remains in prison facing corruption charges.  (The mayor spoke about community responsibility at the handing over ceremony for Calvary School a couple of months ago.)  The vice president of Sierra Leone was the focus of a recent Al Jazeera (international news network) expose about corruption in the timber industry.    Investigations of the vice president’s office are now underway and it will be interesting to see whether or not there are any consequences in this case. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)  faces considerable difficulties in carrying out its work, and the outcome of these two cases may prove indicative of the authority and effectiveness of the ACC.

Seen around town: Circular Road

Seen around town #2: Ascension town Road

Over the months I’ve lived in Sierra Leone I’ve taken hundreds (and hundreds) of digital photos — of people, places and events.  While it sometimes feels difficult to capture the color and life of Sierra Leone in words and pictures, I enjoy the challenge of sharing glimpses.    I recently contributed a number of my photo files for use on a new ELCSL website.  The site is a work in progress, and can be seen at http://www.elscl.weebly.com.

Alfred Gorvie at Moyamba Junction market. He recently returned to Sierra Leone after studying IT in the U.S. and is the new ELCSL webmaster.

Di lanin boy den

The Krio translation of the English word “disciples” is  “lanin boy den.”   (Krio actually has different vowels than English so I can  only type this phrase in an approximate way.)  In  Krio, a disciple is one who  is learning (ie, “lanin”).   Last week in Njala, Lutherans came together as disciples to learn:  we were teachers and students together, as well as a community of faith learning from each other.

Lutheran disciples: "lanin boy den." Some of the pastors and evangelists found the weather in Njala to be quite chilly as you can see from the coats and hats. It may have been in the low 70's F, cool enough for me to wear an extra layer too.

The occasion was a week of training for the lay evangelists of the ELCSL.  While some of the original ELCSL evangelists received training 20 years ago, many of those currently serving have never had substantive instruction in basics of the the faith or in the leadership needed to sustain a local congregation.   These faithful men (and one woman) have  nonetheless led and maintained their churches year after year, many without any substantive pay in current years.    The ELCSL, in partnership with the ELCA, recently identified education for pastors and evangelists as a priority for the future of the church.  This is an area I am paying particular attention to in my time remaining in Sierra Leone.  Funding has been an issue in the past, and will remain an issue in the future, but we also need to establish processes and systems to ensure that the mandate for such training is carried out.  The ELCA provided a grant for this particular workshop to take place.

Pastor Hannah Kargbo was ordained in 2006 and is exploring possibilities for starting a new congregation in Waterloo, east of Freetown.She is currently the only actively serving female pastor in the ELCSL.

One of the highlights of the week for me was the chance to see my colleagues in action as teachers.  Rev. Hannah Kargbo provided a lectionary based bible study and insight on sermon preparation.  Rev. Dalton Levi-John taught Lutheran history; Rev. Moses Kobba Momoh taught stewardship; ELCSL treasurer taught financial management; and Rev. Edward Lavally taught leadership.   All are very fine teachers.  My teaching focused on Luther’s Small Catechism and I also did some instruction on issues related to worship.   Pastor Lavally stayed very busy as our host in Njala. His family along with members of his congregation provided additional support as cooks and servers for every meal.

"Support staff," African style. These are just two of the women who prepared food each day for about 30 people. Abu my driver stayed busy with my car transporting 3 meals a day for 30 people from the Lavally home to our meeting hall. As this picture suggests, African cooks are very proficient with sharp knives (they are peeling eggplant for a stew).

The consensus at the end of the week is that the ELCSL should do this kind of thing more often. The evangelists expressed a willingness to meet twice a year — during school holidays, as many earn their livings as teachers.   I would like to see similar programs held on a regular basis for the ELCSL pastors.

The 7 days I spent in Njala last week were the longest period of time I’ve ever been out of Freetown.   It turned out to be a good week to escape the torrential rains in the capital city. We had some rain in Njala, but intermittently so.  I enjoyed the chance to walk in the quiet beauty of a rural, provincial setting,  to do some bird watching in the mornings, and at night to see fireflies flickering under an incredibly vast, star-filled African sky.

The View from the Porch

It has been a quiet and rainy couple of weeks in Freetown since I last wrote.  At times in this season, I can look out over the bay and see that it is raining across the way in Lumley.  On Sunday afternoon,  I watched as the sky grew dark over the bay and the wind started blowing. A couple of  minutes later I noticed a white line moving at great speed across the water of the bay.  I had never seen anything quite like this.   Behind the line the water was white and foamy with the impact of the falling rain.   Ahead of the line the water was steely blue-green, but in less than a minute the rain-driven line in the bay hit the shore and then torrents of rain hit my house too, with power and might.  We had rain the rest of the day and into the night.

Sunday morning, before the heavy rains of the afternoon, I attended worship at Faith in Lumley and was privileged to baptize 11 folks — from shy children to one joyful dancing adult.  Water (with God’s word) has power in more ways than one.

Newly baptized children of God at Faith Community, Lumley, with Bishop Barnett and Evangelist Wilfred Kamara.

Over the past couple of  weeks I’ve been working on two projects with my colleagues here.  We are in the midst of final preparations for a training workshop next week with the lay evangelists of the ELCSL.   23 evangelists  along with pastors-as-teachers will be in Njala for 6 days, and we hope to establish this as an annual training event.  I will be teaching Luther’s Small Catechism throughout the week.   In addition, I have been working to oversee the translation of the English order of worship into Krio, and the first draft is now complete. A  small group will be meeting with the translator this Saturday to review and finalize the translation.  We are anticipating a composition workshop in September to set the Krio words to music.

Bishop Barnett traveled last week with representatives of the ELCSL to Liberia for a workshop sponsored by LUCCWA:  Lutheran Communion of Central and  West Africa.    LUCCWA participants sometimes use “The African Creed” in worship, and Bishop Barnett  introduced the ELCSL staff  to this creed some months ago during our weekly devotionals. We used it today (an inclusive language version)  so I thought it would be worth sharing here. This “creed” is a summary of  Christian beliefs using imagery and language familiar to Africans.   It was originally written by western missionaries working with the Masai in east Africa, and is one example of the way the Christian story has been contextualized.  (For further reference, see Christianity Rediscovered by Vincent Donovan.)

The African Creed

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it.  God created people and wanted them to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the Earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know God in the light.  God promised in the Bible to save the world and all the nations and tribes.

Rainy season sunset over Lumley Beach

We believe that God kept a promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, a human being in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and humankind, showing the meaning of religion is love.  Jesus was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died.  Jesus lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch Jesus, and on the third day, Jesus rose from the grave. Jesus ascended to the skies. Jesus is the Lord.

God's beloved children of Sierra Leone

We believe that all our sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ. All who have faith in Jesus must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the Good News to others until Jesus comes again.  We are waiting for Jesus. Jesus Christ is alive.  Jesus Christ lives. This we believe. Amen.

The View from the Porch

This morning’s air was a cool 77 degrees at 7:30 am and a welcome way to start the day.  We’ve been having rain most nights for the past week, and there have been periodic hints like this morning’s temperature that the recent season of high heat and humidity will be breaking soon.

These men walked down the tree from the damaged roof and spent about half an hour pulling it down to the ground

Last Thursday night I was awakened about 1 am when I heard,  all at the same time,  the slamming of  my bedroom door caused by a strong gust of wind, a  great crack of thunder, and the sound of something crashing outside.  I worked my way out of bed through the drapes of my mosquito net and rushed to close the windows against the coming storm.  As the skies burst open with water  I stood at my window for a while trying to see what might have caused the crash outside, but I couldn’t see a thing except the rain.

In the morning George came by and pointed out the impact of the night’s storm:  one of the coconut trees in the compound blew over and fell on top of the neighbor’s house.  Luckily, the concrete wall of the compound stopped the tree from falling all the way into the house, and no one was injured.

The house damaged by the falling tree is a typical “pan bodi”  or zinc style structure.  I watched parts of the construction in progress last year, so the finished building was fairly new.   This type of house is very common in Freetown as they are simple to build and relatively cheap.  I’m told that some of these “pan bodi” houses are quite nice inside.  Once the tree was pulled off the roof next door, the owner was able to replace and repair the zinc by the end of the day. The ELCSL did assume some liability for the tree and provided some financial help.

One of the more colorful "panbodi"houses. This one is in a growing area in the hills above Freetown city.

Freetown is an amazing jumble of housing:  small zinc “shacks”, mud brick structures, and more expensive, concrete, 2 or 3 story  buildings co-exist in every neighborhood.  There are some distinct slum areas in the city, but for the most part, people of all socioeconomic levels are neighbors in a city where the pressure for land and housing is a growing problem.

Issues related to the cost and availability of land have impacted a number of the ELCSL congregations.  Faith Community in Lumley has been seeking land for some time to build a permanent church structure.  St. Paul’s in Kissy recently negotiated a long term lease for the land they are currently occupying, as they were not able to identify suitable land for purchase.

Kroo Bay slum is a maze of zinc houses. The area is prone to flooding in the rainy season.

The house that was damaged last week by the fallen coconut tree is typical too for Freetown housing in the way that it was built against the compound wall.  By building against an existing wall, the builders reduce the overall cost of construction.  Every year in the rainy season, however,  there are stories in the news of walls collapsing and destroying adjacent houses  and often injuring or killing residents. In the scramble for land and for housing, safety and security are often sacrificed.  Flood prone areas are already congested with housing in Freetown, and the mountains around the city are rapidly being deforested as residential development is rampant.

This foundation of stones at the edge of the bay has apparently been in process for some time. At high tide the water rises around the stone foundation.

Even the shores and wetlands of Cockle Bay by my house recently have become part of the real estate market.  For the past year I’ve been watching men “harvest” rocks and sand from the bay.  I don’t normally pay much attention to the shores of the bay beyond the fence in front of my house, as the area is garbage strewn and smelly.  Only last week did I discover what has been happening on the other side of the ELCSL compound fence.  An industrious and aspiring homeowner has been building up a foundation of rocks and soil against the tides in order to make the space suitable for living.   The same process is going on all around the bay.    Most of the area along the shore of Cockle Bay is undeveloped wetlands, and people are basically taking advantage of “free” land.   But my colleagues perceive the new foundation adjacent to the ELCSL fence to be illegal.  The fact that work there only happens on Sundays (as I learned recently) does suggest that someone is trying to avoid conflict — at least for now.   I expect I’ll have an update about this in coming weeks.

Home again

I touched down at the Lungi airport on Tuesday night and am settling back into life in Sierra Leone after 3 weeks in the U.S.   I spent time with my parents and family in NY and also had a few days of retreat at  Our Lady of Grace Benedictine monastery in Indiana.   The hospitality of the sisters of OLG was wonderful, as always.  Special thanks to Jeff at CPU Unlimited in my hometown for working overtime to shape up my computer and lifeline to the world.

My plane from Brussels landed in Sierra Leone while the sun was still shining, so I decided to take the water taxi across the bay and home.   We watched the sun go down  as we were speeding in a motor boat across the water, and we docked across the street from my house in good time.

Bright colors and new life mark the rainy season.

I feel like I’ve been sweating non-stop since I returned, and initially wondered if my short time away had impacted my ability to tolerate the heat (especially since I needed a winter coat upon arrival in NY and did see a few snow flakes early in May).   But conversations with friends last night set me straight: it is exceptionally hot and humid in these days.  The temperature was 93 degrees (F) at the airport at 6:00 pm when we landed on Tuesday, and the BBC.com weather page reports humidity of 75 – 80% this week.

It was clear that there had been some significant rains in the time I was away, as the bushes, grasses, weeds and trees are green and lush once again.  The lantana bush in front of my house had grown out of control  in my absence, spreading up and out with branches over 6 feet tall.  My garden is full of weeds to be pulled this weekend, although I was glad to see that my mint and basil are  growing well.   I also have a lime tree, a watermelon plant, and 3 or 4 squash vines growing out of my compost heap.   With the start of the rainy season, the compound guard and caretaker George once again planted groundnuts in my front yard, and those plants are thriving at 2 inches tall.

In the past two days George has also been working with a hired crew to brush and scrape and otherwise trim back all the growing things in the compound, in a timely attempt to keep the jungle at bay.  They use machetes and a spade for this work. I smiled to see George wearing a heavy pair of winter gloves  to protect his hands as he chopped and shoveled.      He works incredibly hard with whatever resources are at hand, and I am grateful for his careful tending of life  and property in the ELCSL compound.

George is scraping away the weeds in the yard in preparation for the rainy season. The barren bush in the foreground is what remains of the lantana bush which threatened to overwhelm the porch of my house. The portion of the yard in the background was "brushed" (cut or trimmed with a machete) yesterday.

Traveling Times

As I write tonight the sounds of a holiday party are echoing outside my windows:  African dance music and conversation in Krio to accompany my thoughts for a Monday evening.  Members of the ELCSL community gathered together here late this afternoon for a holiday celebration, and a handful of staff are still at hand  as the party continues in the cool night air of “winter” in Freetown.  In the course of today’s celebration,  I was blessed for my own holiday journey back to the U.S. tomorrow.

Holiday party in the ELCSL compound, in front of the house where I live.

I am leaving Sierra Leone for the first time since I arrived last February. I will be in the States through the end of January, visiting with  family and friends in NY and PA, and spending time with ELCSL partners in the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod of the ELCA.  I will be sharing stories of Sierra Leone in Frewsburg, NY on Dec. 27,   in Lancaster PA on January 3, and visiting churches in the Dallas area on January 10 and17.  On January 24 I will be in Temple, TX, and then back to Salone at the end of January.

Wilfred Kamara, the evangelist from Faith Community in Lumley (Freetown) told me tonight that I am being sent with the fervent prayers of many people.  I have heard this repeatedly in the past few days, and I am assured that as my mind and body turn to “home,”  I am leaving behind a deeply prayerful and graciously caring community of faith who are ready to welcome me back to my “home” in Salone in 2010.

I may blog once or twice in the course of my US travels  (no promises though), and will plan to resume writing about life and faith in Sierra Leone the first week in February 2010.

A final thought from Africa before I go:  a blessed Christmas to all who have been reading On Mission this past year!

While the "harmattan" (cool season) breeze was blowing, I received this Christmas gift from the ELCSL staff. It is a bed covering made by the ELCSL Women's Center.

The view from the porch: bird watching

A scops owl.

This morning dawned cloudy and grey, and a steady, cooling rain has been falling for a few hours — an unusual daytime occurence this late in the rainy season.   At this point in the year, the heavy rains of August and September  have given way to mostly blue skies and humid days, with periodic bursts of thunder and lightning followed by tropical downpours in the night.   Even with the rain, though, today is welcome for the grey coolness and for a temporary respite  from the rising temperatures.

Fishing in Cockle Bay

With lessening of the rains in the past month, a variety of birds have returned to the area.   The herons and egrets are back, in and around Cockle Bay, joined at times by yellow billed kites and a few vultures.  I believe I’ve spotted an osprey once or twice.   There are a variety of songbirds in the compound now as well, cheering me with their musical calls.  The lantana I transplanted months ago in front of my house has grown into a sizeable bush and attracts some of the smaller birds every morning, as well as butterflies throughout the day.  For a few days recently an owl took up residence in a large plum tree behind the offices, and kept careful watch over our comings and goings.

Pied crows are the most common bird I see. This pair nests in a coconut tree by my house. These birds are locally known as "minista birds" (ie, minister birds for their white neck collars.)

In the midst of a noisy, crowded and chaotic city, I feel blessed to be surrounded by the gifts of  creation  in a large, spacious, and relatively quiet compound.   The ELCSL property where my house is located is a sanctuary of sorts — for birds and missionaries both.  Before and after working hours, you’ll find me on the porch, often these days with a borrowed copy of a field guide to the birds of West Africa in hand.  When I watch the birds from the porch, I think of Jesus’ words:  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens, they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much  more valuable you are then birds….”  (Luke 12:22-24)

The view from the porch of a friend who lives in the hills of western Freetown. I live on the bay side of the land bridge separating Cockle Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. Lumley Beach faces the Atlantic on the left. Aberdeen is marked by the small hill in the center.

The View from the Porch: Garden Report

One week ago  on Wednesday (August 19), the rain falling over Freetown was as heavy and sustained as I have seen this rainy season.  The heavens simply opened up and poured forth water.   We’ve been having heavy rains daily for weeks, so Wednesday’s torrents joined  streams of water already  flowing  and overflowing in creeks, drains, ditches, yards, roads and paths in the city.   Reports spread of flooding and landslides, of walls collapsing and of lives lost as a result of the storm.   Many residents of Freetown point to deforestation and environmental degradation as contributing to these rainy season tragedies.    Everyone seems to expect conditions to worsen in coming months and years, as the population of Freetown continues to grow up into the hills and more and more trees are cut down without replacement plantings.

Surprisingly  enough in this month of  heavy tropical rains,   the sun came out late last week and we haven’t had any significant precipitation for the past 6 days.  People are venturing forth without umbrellas!  The view from my front porch indicated that this rain free interlude would be a fine time to reap the produce of the land, so we have been harvesting groundnuts in these days.

This is my herb and vegetable garden in March, during the dry season. The resident goat disappeared in April and George moved a lot of stones to clear space for cultivation in the yard.
The garden in May.  Sad to say, the tomatoes and sunflowers did not survive.

On the left is a newly planted  herb and vegetable garden adjacent to my house.   This was back in March, during the dry season. The resident goat disappeared in April, and George  (the guard and gardener) moved a lot of the stones  to clear space for cultivation of Sierra Leonean staples in the yard.

George planted groundnuts and corn late in April.   Groundnuts appear to grow well in rocky, sandy soil.   The sunflowers and tomatos I planted in March succumbed to pests and disease, but the mint I planted is doing well thanks to the rain and the direct drainage from my kitchen sink.

Tending the yard and garden here has been a fun past time, a good topic for learning and conversation with fellow Lutherans,  and has also offered a glimpse into the work and concerns of a vast majority of Sierra Leoneans who depend on the fruits of the soil for their sustenance and livelihood.  Eating the groundnuts (raw and boiled so far) has been good too.  We’ll plant more in September, consistent with traditional farming practices.

Corn, groundnuts and maize growing in the shade of the coconut trees (July).

Corn, groundnuts and maize growing in the shade of the coconut trees (July).

Harvest time:  uprooting and plucking peanuts became a communal effort last week, including George and Doris from the office.  At the time, we were taking advantage of some dry moments inbetween outbursts of rain.

George the chief farmer, and Doris from the office at harvest time: uprooting and plucking peanuts became a communal effort in between rain storms last week.

We are taking advantage of the sun to dry the groundnuts and also some ears of seed corn.  In the meantime,  I boiled some of the groundnuts for eating. All of this is new to me but good learning.

Taking advantage of the sun to dry the groundnuts and also some ears of seed corn. Zinnias grown from seeds sent from the US are thriving so far.

Rainy days and Sunshine: Welcome to Salone

In the rainiest month of the Sierra Leonean rainy season, the sun came out this week and the sky turned blue for a few hours.  A break in the rain provided a great chance to be out and about without getting soaking wet.  I believe that everyone in Freetown hung their laundry out to dry in the warmth of the sun, myself included.  I have been enjoying the rainy season so far, especially since the temperatures are much cooler this time of year.  But it was wonderful to see the sun and to feel its drying power.

This week I am hosting visitors from Texas and it was especially good to have a change of weather conducive to a day of  tourism.    Niels and Karen Bentsen have been traveling in Sierra Leone with ELCSL friends and have landed in Freetown for a few days before heading back to the U.S.    My guest room has been officially opened — ready to receive others from afar. (It seems you might show up in my blog if you do come for a visit.)  In the meantime, the electricity has been off so I am a bit behind once again in my posting  for the week.

Yesterday morning  we drove up into the hills of the western area forest preserve on the outer edge of Freetown city.   We visited the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, home to over 90 orphaned, abandoned, or confiscated chimpanzees (for more information, see http://www.tacugama.com).  It is illegal in Sierra Leone to hunt, capture, kill or keep chimpanzees, but all such practices remain common.  Adult chimps are killed for bush meat; baby chimps are raised as pets until they too are killed when they have become too big and too dangerous.   Sierra Leone was once home to a sizable chimp population of over 30,000. Today, chimps are an endangered species thought to number less than 3,000 in the country.100_1228

Sierra Leone faces a number of serious environmental issues, including deforestation and ongoing threats to wildlife and biodiversity.  The Tacugama Sanctuary is in the midst of a large rainforest preserve, and their mission is twofold: to rehabilitate the chimps for a return to the wild, and to educate the general public about  environmental issues.  Our guide was clearly committed to the work at hand,  very knowledgeable about chimps, and he even “spoke chimpanzee” (we heard him).  He also offered a very honest, pained and thought provoking comment in the course of our tour.   It was feeding time for one family grouping of older chimps, and they were devouring yams. The guide commented that it was hard at times to realize that the chimps had a better diet and were better fed than many people in Sierra Leone.   Even in the midst of a beautiful tropical rainforest, there is no escaping the hard reality of life in this country.

In the afternoon yesterday, ELCSL Bishop Tom Barnett offered a guided tour and update on the progress of the Jubilee Center at Tower Hill in the middle of Freetown.  This NTNL-supported building project is continuing at a good pace this year, and the construction workers are almost ready to raise the roof over the worship sanctuary.   The sanctuary will eventually seat close to 1000, making it one of the largest in the country.

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Bishop Barnett is looking ahead to November 2010 for completion and dedication of the worship space at the Jubilee Center.  The  building project will then focus  on completion of the administrative wing and basement offices.  In the picture above, the Bentsen’s and Bishop Barnett consider progress at the Jubilee Center from atop the administrative wing of the building. The airport at Lungi is in the far distance.

In the photo below, construction workers greet us from the balcony overlooking the Jubilee Center’s sanctuary.

Please note: the puddles of water in both pictures are simply evidence that we are in a season of torrential rain.  The landscape all around is lush and green as a result.

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The View from the Porch: When it rains it pours, and other current events

As June gives way to July in Sierra Leone, we are heading deeper into the rainy season.  After a rain-filled weekend, yesterday was the clearest and brightest day we had seen in awhile.   A thunder storm blew in during the night, bringing torrential rains which tapered off by morning.   These almost daily storms tend to cool the air, at least for awhile,  until the rain passes and the humidity builds up again.

With these rains, things are growing.   Late in April and early in May, as the rainy season was just beginning, I collaborated with the compound guard/caretaker to transform my yard and other parts of the compound into a garden.   George planted traditional Sierra Leoneon crops:   ground nuts (peanuts) and maize, as well as a variety of greens for cooking (cassava, okra, potato and something called krane-krane).   I am tending (with mixed success) mint, basil, cilantro, dill, peppers, squash, tomatos, watermelon, green beans and eggplant.   George has observed that so far the Sierra Leoneon crops are growing better than anything I planted with seeds from America.  Poor soil and insect plagues may dash some of my gardening dreams, but my learning curve for growing things in the tropics has been a great topic of  conversation with many people.  (I would also note that the garden is home to a fresh crop of baby lizards.  Chasing one or two in my house,  I’ve discovered the phrase “leapin’ lizards” to be an accurate description.)

The crops in my front yard

The crops in my front yard (groundnuts and maize) have grown considerably since this photo. George is weeding the krane-krane. ( I am still trying to get a good photo of him.)

George visits me every morning for a daily conversation on the porch.  He is my primary source of information on many subjects.  Last week he was the first to tell me of Michael Jackson’s death.  (Coverage of this news has been as ubiquitous here as elsewhere in the world.) This week George commiserated with me about  Brazil’s triumph over the U.S.A. in the FIFA Confederation Cup (soccer) final.  ( There is already much talk here about the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.)  George noted that many of the fans who watched the Confederation Cup game on a “pay per view” TV nearby were cheering for America, out of a preference to support the team of Barack Obama.   Along with many Sierra Leoneons, George is a huge supporter of Obama.  “Africans love Barack Obama” he tells me.

As evidence of this regard for the American president, a new bakery opened in eastern Freetown  shortly after the president’s inauguration.

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This is one of a number of enterprises in Freetown whose name is inspired by the American president.

On certain roadways in Freetown where there is heavy vehicle traffic and especially “poda-poda” public transport vans, it is common to see peddlers rush to stopped vehicles while holding out loaves of bread for sale.   On Sunday when I was talking with Abu my driver about the Obama bakery, he told me that the bread sold along the road we were traveling is now known as “Obama bread.”

Two loaves sell for 35 cents.  This vendor asked to have his picture taken when he saw my camera.

Obama bread: two loaves for 35 cents. This vendor asked to have his picture taken when he saw my camera.