Monday, April 11, 2011

Driving Miss Emily

Well, I hit another milestone last week. I drove for the first time by myself in Freetown! Go me! Now, for some of you big city folk this may not seem like a big deal (driving alone in a big city) but this was pretty monumental for me and I'll tell you why. First, the streets in Freetown are crazy!! It's a little intimidating trying to drive with all the cars, motorcycles and people running around with little semblance of "lanes" or "right of way" or "traffic laws." I keep wondering what I'm going to say to the nice officer who pulls me over for passing on a double yellow line on the right side when I come home. "I'm very sorry sir but I find these silly rules completely ridiculous. I've just come from a place where there are no rules and it seems to work out just fine!" Think it will fly?

Second, I might have one of the worse sense of directions known to man. One time I got lost for 45 min looking for the bank in my hometown.....of 50,000 which I'd lived for 5 years at that time. I finally gave up and went home because I was running out of gas. But it was those darn one way streets! I kept seeing my bank but then I could never go the right way to get to the bank! Anyway, I haven't quite lived that one down again.

Finally, I love my independence. My sister and I drove across the country by ourselves when I was 19. But don't worry, we had a cell phone. Until we realized we didn't get service outside of Portland. Oops. Anyway, my independence has been limited since moving here because I pretty much know where nothing is and in case I do get in an accident with another vehicle...or motorcycle...or person, it's a good idea to have a Sierra Leonean with you in the car to help with damage control. I understand and agree with the logic completely....but there was still something very liberating about going out on my own!

My adventure began the night before when my friend Chad got out the Freetown map and drew specific directions of where I was to go. I've driven to the edge of Freetown but for this trip I would be entering Freetown from a different direction in which I'd never driven before. It was the really congested route that we generally try to avoid for accident prevention and time wasting avoidance.

In the morning, armed with my map and the BBC on the radio, I headed into town. My first stop was at the edge of town to finalize the transport for our upcoming medical team. After that meeting, my map and directions told me to turn left and head into town. This is where I was in new territory. But when I came out of the office and started to turn left, I realized they were repainting (by hand) the white lines on the road and were completely redirecting traffic. But wait! I only know the specific route that Chad drew on the map! I do not have a contingency plan!! I wasn't even confident I knew where I was going with the map and repeated directions. I definitely didn't know another route. After contemplating what to do for a few minutes and not wanting to have to call Chad and tell him I was lost...before I even began, I proceeded to go about 30 minutes out of the way to enter town the way I knew how. :) Maybe not my smartest move but....mission still accomplished!

So I entered town and set off to run my errands. As I was looking at the places Chad had marked on the map, I realized I'd forgotten which places were which. So I just went to the first stop and low and behold...the ministry building. Score!

I ran the errands I needed to run without incident. And best of all, I got to wander around a little bit so I have a little better feel for the town. I even took a shortcut once and cut off probably 20 minutes! I never did find the place I was going to stop and eat but got some crackers at the grocery store and figured that totally counts as lunch. Success!

As I was leaving town, I was waved to the side by a police officer. I was very curious as to why she was pulling me over. She checked my insurance sticker and asked to see my license. When I showed it to her she waved me on. But I was a little irritated at what I felt might have been some racial profiling. So even though she had moved on to talk to someone else I got her attention again and asked what I had done wrong. She said nothing. So I asked why I had been pulled over if I didn't do anything wrong. At this point another officer joined the conversation and some of my bravado left. I was afraid I might have overstepped a little and probably should have just kept my big mouth quiet and left. Luckily it didn't escalate and I left on my way.....home safe and sound.

So that's it. I'm official now. :) After passing 4 accidents in the span of a few miles I am still nervous about driving....mostly about keeping out of the way of other crazy drivers. But I am so thankful for this little piece of independence!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Well, I haven't blogged in a while! It hasn't really been for a lack of things I've been doing....but more of a lack of interesting things. I mean, don't get me wrong, I know that going to government buildings to drop off letters requesting letters to take to more government buildings to get more letters sounds fascinating...but I just haven't been able to find the right way to spin it. (Granted, I will admit it sounds like the perfect opportunity for some good blogging material what with my natural social awkwardness and propensity for falling down.....all against the background of government officials...but alas, nothing yet). So, in the midst of carrying letters to and fro, I usually have some waiting time....which means some good thinking time. So I've been thinking a lot in the last couple of weeks. And I've been kind of alarmed at how much I've been thinking about home. I've been here for about 2 1/2 months now. Up to this point, while I've missed my family, I've been so busy and just getting used to things that I haven't really had time to be homesick. But the last couple of weeks I've had some more downtime and have noticed where my thoughts tend to go. I attribute it to a few things. One, the "honeymoon" is starting to wear off a bit. For example, when I first arrived and decided to do some of my own laundry I thought "wow, this is cool!" Now I tend to think "man, this is kind of hard work and it's hot! Was that sweat that just rolled off my nose? Is this really even clean? Man, this sure would be easier with some sort of machine that washed and dried these clothes....wait a second I had one of those!" Other things like, "Man, another mosquito bite? Hope that one wasn't The One to give me malaria" and "I remember that one time (every night for the first 29 years of my life) when I slept in a room that didn't have bugs and rodents attacking me all night while I slept." You know, things like that. Also, my family's circumstances are changing with my parents moving and my sister being prego with her first ego (my first niece!) and it's weird that things are changing without me. I thought I made it clear when I left that I was allowed to leave and have an adventure but they were supposed to stay exactly the same! Don't think they got that message..... Anyway, along with my thoughts of home have been thoughts about my thoughts of home. See, I'm not surprised at all my my twinge of homesickness. I fully expected it and was actually expecting it to come sooner. My dilemma is what to do about it. I absolutely know that I can't live my life here in Sierra Leone constantly thinking and wishing for home. So my thoughts recently have been how to balance my natural affinity for home (especially my family and friends.....ok and Subway) with the fact that I am sure this is where God wants me right now. Hmmm..... Anyway, I'm confident that Jesus and I can get this worked out. It's just giving my brain something to chew on while I wait....and wait..... :)