Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Water shortage despite rain and full tanks...

Despite the heavy rainfall, we have been out of water for three days.
Despite the fact that all 4 water tanks on my roof (which supply most of the compound) are FULL, we were still out of water.
Definitely not logical.

There was no water in my shower and no water coming out of my tap.
Sporadically however, the toilet would flush.
Again illogical!

Surprise surprise, the water situation on our compound has been a mystery for the past 2+ years.
Numerous plumbers have tried to figure it out.
A surgeon and a communications guy have been our ‘water men’.
Our security guards check the water levels and are frequently sent back up to check that all of the valves are open.
We are faced with a challenge every time we have water problems.

So, yesterday afternoon, when the rain started coming down, and we still didn’t have any water, my friend decided she would wash her hair in the rain.
As she went out to find a spot I suggested we first try the stand pipe on our compound.
Fortunately water flowed from the tap!

So, with gallons of water in the Milla tanks above my head and liters of water falling out of the sky we ended up washing our hair…
Under the stand pipe,
While standing in the gutter!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sierra Leone's National Anthem...

High we exalt thee, realm of the free;
Great is the love we have for thee;
Firmly united ever we stand,
Singing thy praise, O native land.
We raise up our hearts and our voices on high,
The hills and the valleys re-echo our cry;
Blessing and peace be ever thine own,
Land that we love, our Sierra Leone.

One with a faith that wisdom inspires,
One with a zeal that never tires;
Ever we seek to honour thy name
Ours is the labour, thine the fame.
We pray that no harm on thy children may fall,
That blessing and peace may descend on us all;
So may we serve thee ever alone,
Land that we love our Sierra Leone.

Knowledge and truth our forefathers spread,
Mighty the nations whom they led;
Mighty they made thee, so too may we
Show forth the good that is ever in thee.
We pledge our devotion, our strength and our might,
Thy cause to defend and to stand for thy right;
All that we have be ever thine own,
Land that we love our Sierra Leone.

We really pray that blessing and peace will remain, especially in times like this. And that no harm will fall on the children of Sierra Leone. Please continue praying for this nation as the run-off for the presidential election approaches.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Math kept simple...

Last Saturday we went to Lakka beach as a final farewell to the German pediatrician who was covering for me during my holiday. It was a little crazy going to the beach in the middle of rainy season, but actually quite nice; except for the state of the roads- they're the worst they've been in the past 2+ years! It was dry while we were out there at least.

We had a great time talking, playing crazy Uno and eating plates of chips with either fish or chicken. The waitress was very friendly and gave good service. But we had to laugh a little in the end when we saw the bill. I guess it wasn’t actually very funny, but the way the total amount was written was pretty cute.

As you can see, the total amounted to Le 100,12,000 rather than Le 112,000. I guess it is best to keep math simple.

Final results Sierra Leone elections 2007...

Aberdeen, Freetown, Sierra Leone - Saturday August 25, 2007

1,839,208 votes at 6,171 polling stations have been counted. The results are out. At 10:00 this morning the final results of the Sierra Leone elections were announced over the radio. To be honest, the announcement did not come as a surprise. For the past week people have been talking about the upcoming run-off. The only difference now is that it is official. And the campaigning can begin.

The presidential run-off between the All People’s Congress and the Sierra Leone People’s Party will be held on Saturday, September 8th, 2007.

Please continue praying for Sierra Leone- the people, the leaders, the church. Thanks!

Results for the Sierra Leone presidential elections:
APC 44.34% SLPP 38.28% PMDC 13.89%
Remaining votes: CPP 1.56% NDA 0.96% PLP 0.57% UNPP 0.39%

Results for the parliamentary elections:
APC 59 seats; SLPP 43 seats; PMDC 10 seats

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sandra on BBC Woman's Hour...

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by the BBC to see if I would be willing to record a reading from my blog. Their program ‘Woman’s Hour’ is preparing a series of short radio items featuring women bloggers; of which I am one! BBC’s ‘Woman's Hour’ is one of the most widely listened to programs on BBC domestic radio. They have an extremely wide audience with 3 million listeners. After a few emails back and forth I agreed to contribute.

So, Wednesday morning a Sierra Leonean BBC correspondent (who has written a number of articles for the BBC concerning the Sierra Leone elections) came to the center to help me with a clean phone line with the BBC office in the UK. We put the satellite dish on the roof of the kitchen, spent some time moving it around, and finally received a good signal. We connected the satellite phone and made the call. It was a good connection and after briefly talking to the BBC representative on the other side of the line, we started recording. The first time I read it too quickly of course. But I quickly got the hang of it and it was actually quite fun recording an excerpt from my blog. It should be on the air sometime in September.

For those interested: the program goes out every weekday between 10.00-11.00 UK time and there is a special Weekend 'Woman's Hour' edition on Saturday. The women blogger readings will be aired over the next six weeks.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sierra Leone Election Results to be announced soon…

93% of the of polling stations have reported their results

APC (All People’s Congress) is ahead at 44%, SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) follows close behind at 38%. This is not a huge surprise I guess; everyone expected these two parties to get the most votes. However, what these results do mean is that there will most likely be a run off. If neither party has a 55% lead, a run-off is inevitable. From what I have understood so far this would mean another 2 weeks of campaigning for both parties followed by another voting day in the beginning of September. I’m not so sure what to think of this yet…

More to follow...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Unfortunate Friday evening...

I was pretty excited about the upcoming weekend, however, it didn’t start out very well. Late afternoon on Friday (it was still light!) 4 of us (all women) decided to walk home, which we often do. However, on this particular day we were unlucky. One of my friends had a purse on her side and unfortunately a young guy that was running past must have spotted it, because he turned around and later snuck up behind us. Before we knew what was going on he grabbed the purse, ripped it off of her shoulder and attempted to get away. As my friend grabbed his arm, the purse fell to the ground. We thought he was unsuccessful. Unfortunately, however, we soon realized that all that remained in the purse was Le 10,000 (=$3); the phone had been stolen. My friend and I dashed across the street after him but to no avail. I have to be honest and say I was cautious in going after him because I was afraid he might have a knife. He quickly jumped over the wall at the golf course and we never saw him again. We shouted “thief” but the road was pretty deserted, other than a girl with a basket of goods on her head.

A group of people outside one of the beach bars only 5 minutes down the road heard the commotion and had actually seen the guy earlier on, before he ran past us. Some guys offered to go and look for the thief; “a guy in a purple jersey”. Which they did, but I’m sure he was long gone. And I’d never be able to recognize him if he wasn’t wearing the same purple shirt. We thought of going to the police station to file a report but figured that would probably take 3 hours, maybe a bribe, us providing paper and pen and in the end it wouldn’t bring the phone back. So we didn’t bother.

I felt really bad for my friend. It wasn’t an expensive phone, but had a lot of important contact information. Also, it’s just plain frustrating to have someone steal something from you, especially when you’re in another country, trying to help others. Sorry friend! Anyway, yes, this happened to us here at Lumley beach, in an area that is known for events as such. But to be honest, this happens to people in Freetown all the town. And for that matter probably in a number of big cities all over the world. We were just unlucky.

PS: the rest of the weekend was very nice!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

34.3% and counting...

The latest election update (from yesterday) is that 2119 of 6171 (34.3%) of the polling stations have reported their results. So far there has been a lot of fluctuation in the outcome. A couple days ago APC had over 70% of the votes, but the following day it was SLPP that was ahead. The presidential winner must take more than 55 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off. Here are the latest results:

Candidate Votes Percentage

Ernest Bai Koroma (All Peoples Congress) 46.17%
Andrew Turay (Convention Peoples Party) 1.4%
Alhaji Amadu Jalloh (National Democratic Alliance) 1.02%
Kandeh Baba Conteh (Peace and Liberation Party) 0.56%
Charles F. Margai (People's Movement for Democratic Change) 15.17%
Solomon E. Berewa (Sierra Leone People's Party) 35.32%
Prof. Abdul Kady Karim (United National People's Party) 0.37%

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Long Way Gone...

Sierra Leone is hot in the news at the moment due to the elections that were held this past Saturday. While we are still awaiting the results I thought I would tell you about a book I am reading. It's a gripping book so far, and at times hits close to the heart; reading about Sierra Leone - the country I now call home.

In A LONG WAY GONE: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Beah, now twenty-six years old, tells a powerfully gripping story: At the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. At sixteen, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF, and through the help of the staff at his rehabilitation center, he learned how to forgive himself, to regain his humanity, and, finally, to heal.

This is an extraordinary and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.
For more information go to:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Monday's news from Salone...

Today was a good day.
Clinic was unusually quiet for a Monday.
Only 37 patients.
No “crazy Monday” today.
I guess that’s mainly due to the elections.
Last year August was the 2nd to busiest month!

Since there are 3 doctors this week I decided to work on the clinic’s proposal.
Exciting I know.
Actually I didn’t mind it at all.
I’ll continue tomorrow.

Later I witnessed one of our cleaners squashing a mouse.
Not so pleasant.
Our clinic cat just had kittens, so she’s not really playing ‘cat & mouse’ right now.

At the end of the day 3 of us decided to walk home from work.
This usually takes about 1h20min.
A lot of it along Lumley beach; lovely.
Nice breeze, sand & the sound of waves crashing.
We saw blowfish, another big fish and some barnacle like things.
And of course syringes, needles & shoes were scattered here & there.

The walk between Atlantic & Lumley Roundabout was strange.
A 10 minute stretch.
Usually the street is noisy, with people walking around, taxis honking their horns.
Not today.
It was nearing 6 pm.
Literally everyone was listening to a radio.
Groups of people, singles, men, women.
Really everyone was listening.
You could tell because no one yelled out “white man”
We felt like we were the noisiest people on the earth, talking in our hushed voices.
When we got home we found out everyone was listening to a press conference held by the National Electoral Committee.
People are anxious for the results.

Dinner was great. Quiche.
It truly was delicious. Thanks Abdul!

After dinner it was time for some internet.
Surprise surprise today was my busiest blog day.
124 hits! Must be the elections.
A little more emailing and then time for tea.
And before you know it, it’s 1030.
Time for bed.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Post-election day 1...

Sunday, August 12.

Freetown remained quiet overnight which means that we no longer have a curfew. So this morning I went to church with a couple of others. I love the church I go to now- it feels like home. Amazing pastor, friendly people, beautiful surroundings. It’s great.

The elections are still very much a hot topic; everyone is talking about them. Actually, church is held in a community center, which was used as one of the polling stations yesterday. When we arrived today they were just getting ready to transport the ballot boxes to the NEC (National Electoral Committee). I was surprised to see that the results were already hanging up in the church. Almost everyone that came, had a quick look at the results before finding a seat in the church. Later, while walking home, I saw many people with their radios out and could hear radio announcers reading out the results one polling station at a time.

I’m not surprised it’s such a hot topic. For the people of Sierra Leone there has been a lot of tension leading up to the elections. And most people have been waiting for years to see positive change in their country. These elections bring a little bit of uncertainty but most importantly they bring a lot of hope.

People are starting to dream of a brighter future.

Facts about the elections...

  • More than half of the voters are under 35 years old.
  • There are 7 presediential contenders.
  • There are 566 parliamentary candidates for 112 parliamentary seats.
  • Ballots have been transported by trucks, canoes and porters to some 6,176 polling stations in savannah, jungles and mountains.
  • Results will be released progressively with final tallies within 12 days of voting, according to the national electoral commission.
  • The presidential winner must take more than 55 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off.
  • About 2.6 million of the nation's 5 million people are registered to vote.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The night of the elections in Sierra Leone...

7 pm.
Voting stations are closed.
All of a sudden there is a lot of noise on our street.
Fortunately it sounds more like excitement rather than violence.
I climbed back onto the roof to see what was going on.

I was surprised to see so many people running up and down our street, cheering, excited.
An old lady was jumping up and down.
Young men with radios clamped to their ears.
And then the little kids waving to the “white man” on the roof!

The votes are being counted.
Apparently our neighborhood just found out which party is in the lead at their voting station.
Everyone is quite happy.

In other parts of Freetown there are some disturbances.
Areas to avoid according to an email alert.
It’s probably good we’re still on a curfew.

Only time will tell what the outcome is.
Which party will win.
How the people will react.
How this nation will change.

Sierra Leone votes...

Freetown, Sierra Leone - This is Sandra reporting from her room at noon on Saturday, August 11, 2007. This is not just an ordinary Saturday; this is the day that 2.6 million Sierra Leoneans have the chance to decide the fate of their country. Polling stations were due to open at 7am but many opened late, possibly due to a delay in the ballot papers being delivered as a result of heavy rainfall on Friday. Word has it that as early as 5 am, citizens lined up with umbrellas at the various stations, in some cases hours before the stations opened, waiting to cast their vote. So far the process seems well-organized and peaceful.

Seeing as I am confined to my compound today (as a safety precaution), my personal experience of the elections is limited. However, we do happen to have a polling station on our road, less than 50 meters from our gate. So, at 11 am this morning, I decided to climb up the ladder onto the roof of our generator room to scope out the neighborhood a bit. Sure enough, there was still a line of people outside the polling station. Apparently, earlier this morning, the line reached past our house. There were also many people walking up and down our road; much more than usual. Fortunately, everyone seemed content and besides hearing a constant chatter in the distance it is very peaceful.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Sierra Leone elections...

The presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone are only 2 nights away! The campaigning days ended today and were relatively quiet on our side of town. It’s time for people to get ready to vote. I must admit, it was a little strange running/walking home yesterday, through busy streets with so many people, wondering how the elections would pass; not knowing what the very near future holds for this country. We are hoping for the best.

On Saturday more than two million Sierra Leoneans will go to the polls to cast their votes. The second national elections since the war ended in 2002. And the first since the United Nationals peacekeepers pulled out.

Feelings are mixed. What will happen?
Everyone seems to want peace but sometimes it only takes a spark to get the fire roaring. We can only hope for the best.

Please keep Sierra Leone – the country, the government, the people – in your prayers! Sierra Leone needs someone to bring positive change to the country and give hope to the people.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Right place at the right time...

Friday after work I decided to walk home with my colleagues Guido & Morgen. On leaving the clinic I thought it would be fun to say hello to a family that lives just down the road, since I hadn't seen them since my return. It's the family we always pass when we go for our walks/runs; the three kids are adorable.

The youngest child was born in January with a congenital problem which fortunately could be helped surgically at an NGO hospital. Since then he has come to the clinic with various complaints. A couple of months ago we diagnosed him with an inguinal (abdominal) hernia. Fortunately the hernia could be easily reduced and surgery was not needed.

So Friday afternoon we stopped by the family's little shack to say hello. The two oldest kids (about 3 and 5 years) were so excited to see us, they giggled with glee. It was so cute! I asked about the baby and they pointed to the shack. Just so you know, this is the same family that lost their father/husband only a few months ago.

I saw mom sitting with the child and excitedly asked how he was doing only to be surprised by her response: "not well". Apparently the swelling in his groin started again that night, he was crying a lot, not breastfeeding, and started vomiting. That didn't sound good. There I was in a dark shack, finishing up my Krio history taking and about to exam the baby, which I decided to do outside in the light. Sure enough, there was a very large swelling but this time I could not reduce the hernia, meaning the hernial contents could not be returned to their normal site. Not good. An irreducible hernia is life threatening. So, even though it was 5pm on a Friday I had to refer, which meant going back to the center, writing a referral letter and then sending the child and mom off to the NGO surgical center, praying that they would be let in.

I was in the right place at the right time. That's how a spur of the moment drop-in visit turned into a consultation which ended in referral. Within two hours the little boy went from being held in his mom's arms in their little shack to lying on an operating room table at the surgical center 30 minutes away. If I hadn't stopped to visit, it could have ended very differently...

PS: He was discharged yesterday and I went by again today and he looks great!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sandra in Sierra Leone again...

I’m back in Freetown. The flight from Brussels via Abidjan to Freetown was fine; no problems. It was a beautiful flight actually. I admired the coastline of southern France, or was it Spain. I enjoyed spotting the coastline of North Africa. And then there’s the breathtaking stretches of desert sand. Pretty incredible landscape. I was pretty impressed by the size of Abidjan and the amount of lights I saw there; very unlike Freetown. It’s good to be back in Freetown, seeing staff, patients etc. We have a pretty new team here now so some things work a bit differently, but I’ll get used to things quickly again I’m sure. Look at the following blurb and see what it’s like to be back in Africa…

You know you live in Africa when…

…you lie awake your last night in Europe thinking about the fact that it is so quiet around you…no generator, no barking dogs, no yelling neighbors, knowing that it will soon be different.

…you are surprised that Abidjan, another West African city is so lit up and think ‘wow, they must have a lot of national power’.

…the 8 km trip from Lungi airport to Aberdeen takes 3 hours which is longer than it took to fly from Abidjan to Lungi.

…you arrive home, entering through a large gate, onto an enclosed compound surrounded by razor wire, being greeting by official night guards.

…you get excited when you realize that there is NPA (national power) at the house and it will be a quiet night without the generator after all.

…you realize that the only reason we might have more NPA these days is because the elections are imminent and it is a campaigning stunt. How long will NPA last? (Before my vacation we had NPA maybe once a month!)

…you turn on your light and the bulb blows out, probably due to NPA

…you find out that all of your sheets/bedding has become moldy due to the humidity here. SICK.

…you notice a big patch on the wall in your room that has fungus growing on it.

…you lock the doors and get ready for bed and then realize you can’t drink tap water and need to go outside again and get a bottle of filtered drinking water.

…you take a shower in the morning and need to squat in the shower to get enough water pressure to wash your hair.

…you go to get breakfast and realize someone forgot to buy bread…community life.

…your staff shows up to work late and doesn’t think anything about that.

…you can walk along the beach after work, enjoying the blue sky, the ocean breeze, children running around, etc.

…you can easily wave down a taxi to take you home. The surprise was, we weren’t ripped off!

…many of the children yell out “white man” as you pass by.

...a child walks up to you and asks for money for food.

…you are met by a fan club of African kids at our street excited to see you back.

…you sit in the gazebo in the evening for dinner.

…you go to do laundry in the evening (the molded bedding) and have to stand there and fill the machines with a hose.

I’m not mistaken. I am back in Africa, where the adventures are only a stone’s throw away.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

07-07-07 The big day...

Finally, the long awaited wedding photos...

Stefan getting ready in the am. My little brother, all grown up!

Genae got ready at her parents place. Then did a photo shoot there. She looked amazing. And we had great weather (after a week of rain!)

The wedding ceremony...vows, tears, smiles, I do's, the rings : ) , beauty.


Now presenting Mr. & Mrs. Lako - that takes a little getting used to, doesn't it ??!!!

Reception at the Oasis - at Mercy Ships

Steef & Genae make their appearance. The party is on...

The bridal party. I must say, the food was delicious. Great job Shirley!!

The first dance. How sweet. A little nervous at first, but at the sound of the '80s music, all was well.

Genae did all of the flower arrangements herself. I helped out. Fun fun. A cold room, lots of flowers, 300 limes, lots of creativity. And a beautiful outcome.

And then there was dancing...the children loved it. As did many of the grownups!

The cutting of the cake. The most exciting part was when Steef smother Genae with the cake of course : ) He's always up to something...

The siblings...

And off they go. Actually, they didn't quite leave for good. They showed up again at the brunch the next morning - more about that later- before heading off to Mexico.

I hope the photos do it justice. It truely was an amazing wedding!!!

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~