I’m typing this out on the long balcony at the hotel which serves as the hallway, our traditional hangout spot after dinner. My dad and Jeremy are smoking pipe tobacco and typing up covenants for our Ginger Hall projects, and Hannah is creating a key that indicates the different sizes of windows we’ll need for each classroom.
This morning we had an early breakfast so we could head to the chimpanzee sanctuary. Breakfast at the 5-10 is a now familiar mix bread, butter, Laughing Cow cheese, Nescafé instant coffee with powdered milk, and either an omelette or canned beans and a pair of hot dogs.
The drive to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary took us well out of the city, up through rolling hills covered in dense jungle and dotted with less frequent metal-roofed houses and gated compounds. The last step of the journey was a dirt road through the trees and finally an incredibly steep grade that we crawled up in four-wheel drive. We didn’t have a huge amount of time because of our plans at the embassy, but our guides took us through the sanctuary to see two groups of chimps in enclosures, and to a raised viewing platform in an open area where they wander more freely. All the chimps they have are either orphans or pets that have been rescued. I was surprised to learn that there are only 6,000 chimps in the wild in Sierra Leone. It was fun to see the chimps, hear their strange sounds, take some pictures, and dodge a few rocks they threw at us.
Then we headed off to the US embassy, which is also perched on the side of a hill. It’s a big, blocky concrete compound, and on the inside it has the clean, sharp, corporate vibe and decor that’s so common in the US and that we’ve seen nowhere in Sierra Leone. We were joined by Dr. Gess, Roger the UMC missionary, and Emily. The ambassador, John Hoover, was a calm, well-spoken man who impressed us all and especially Dr. Gess with his knowledge of the country despite only having been here for just over a year. He gave us a handout with bullet points about the American role in the Ebola crisis, admitting that the US government has gotten a bad rap. (What the US did and did not do about Ebola is not within the scope of this blog.) And he answered all our questions about other sides of US involvement here. Along with medicine, his focus is on power, water, and waste, and ways to bring US companies to the country to invest in infrastructure. He expressed his appreciation for what we’re doing here and we were all glad we had the opportunity to meet him.
Minus Emily, we headed to the Crown Bakery for lunch with Reverend Henry. After a feast of kebbeh, hummus, sandwiches, jollof rice, Vimto (a fruit-flavored soda) and more, we split up: one car to head to the shop to talk about Plexiglass and putty, the other to go straight to Ginger Hall to keep smashing. I headed to Ginger Hall. The welder was there working on window latches with a portable generator. I got back into my heavy gloves and started breaking and prying again, and even gained a little more skill using a hammer and screwdriver to chisel away difficult chunks of hardened putty. It was another great day of work from our team and local volunteers. During the breaks I took a lot of photos of kids in varying states of excitement and shyness. Construction on the new latrine has also begun but we’re staying out of the way.
Nearly all the windows are now gone. Tomorrow we’ll have the Plexiglass and the man to cut it on site, and will see how many windows we can finish.
We headed back to the 5-10 for our traditional shower, courtyard beer, quick round of cards and then dinner. After a balcony session in which my dad read several of my blog posts out loud for the group while I slowly wrote this one, I’m ready for sleep. As Harry said, “That’s what you call a rich and full day.”
Tomorrow, more work at Ginger Hall, plus another Days for Girls presentation by Dorcas (with kit distribution!) which I’ll be documenting. Good night!