Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Do not fear, Sandra's Latest is still here...

If you're looking for my blog, you found it.
This is the latest of The Latest.
The new and improved version.
For those of you who frequently visit my site,
You'll notice I made a few changes...
A few???
Maybe a lot.
Yes, my site had a make-over.
After struggling with various HTML codes this evening,
I finally managed to give my site a new look.
Content has stayed the same.
So, stay tuned for new posts on Sandra's Latest...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fun with photos...

Okay, so this post is totally not work or Africa related, but I thought the picture was pretty cool. If you saw my previous post, you can see that we had quite a bit of electricity last weekend. Saturday we had 7 hours of NPA and Sunday about 5 hours. This might not sound like a lot of electricity to you, but it is when you're used to being without power on a Saturday and Sunday. Anyway, it meant I had some time to surf the web. And of course one site lead to another and another. Which brought me to this site , through which I created the above collage. So, if you feel like doing some fun stuff with photos you've taken (and have some time), check it out.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I was seen in the metro...

NPA is on! NPA is the National Power Authority. Basically it means we are getting electricity from the city, rather than our generator; something that doesn’t happen on a daily basis. This is one of the things that people are looking to the new government for – 24 hour power! Anyway, seeing as we don’t turn our generator on during the day it is a pleasant surprise to have electricity right now. Of course, it could go off at any second. But so far it’s been on for 4 hours straight.

Anyway, no – there is no metro in Sierra Leone. However, a friend of mine got a hold of me on msn chat and told me he saw my picture in the ‘Metro’ newspaper in Amsterdam this week. So, since I have some time to kill I thought I’d try and see if I could find it online. And I did. The picture is one of the one’s Robin Utrecht took (see previous entry). The article itself is obviously in Dutch so most of you can’t read it. It’s not actually about the work we do here, but a general piece on projects in developing countries. I still thought it was fun they used a picture from the clinic.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Visit from Dutch journalist & photographer...

This impressive picture was taken outside of the clinic gate on a Monday morning, as the moms were waiting to come into the clinic with their sick children.

Early October we had the privilege of hosting (well-known) photographer, Robin Utrecht, as well as journalist, Anne van der Vliet, from Holland. Their aim was to report on the work that Mercy Ships is doing both here in Sierra Leone, as well as on the Africa Mercy in Liberia. While in Freetown, they were also able to cover amputee football, an African church and the Special Court.

I was impressed by Robin’s photography; more photos will be posted soon. It was also fun to hear that a number of the photos, as well as a brief story on my parents and me, appeared in multiple (14!) newspapers in The Netherlands. It’s not every day that you get a Facebook message from a friend saying they saw your picture in the local paper!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

World Polio Day - towards a polio-free world...

Today is Wednesday.
Vaccination day in the outpatient clinic.
A day to focus on prevention rather than cure.
One of the diseases targeted is polio.

Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious viral disease.
Mainly affecting young children.
In some cases children are left paralyzed.
This is permanent.

There is no cure.
Only prevention.

October 24 is World Polio Day.
Marking the birth of Salk.
Leader of the team that invented a polio vaccine in 1955.
In 1988 Sabin developed an oral polio vaccine.
This is what we’re using today.
It has reduced polio worldwide by 99%.

Polio cases are at an all-time low in West Africa.
However, 90% of the world’s polio cases are still found in Africa.
There is still a global push to eradicate the poliovirus.
We are joining in the fight.
“Kick polio out of Sierra Leone”

Monday, October 15, 2007

Behind the scenes...

The day after the big catch I was walking along the beach with my colleagues and we again saw fishermen pulling in their nets. This time I had my camera with me. Here's a little glimpse behind the scene...or nets!

First the fisherman push their boat into the water, then they get in, paddle out further, throw the net into the water, then they somehow get back to shore- with ropes attached to the net at each end, the ropes are then attached to a tree or some other object on the beach- with a fair distance between them. After a while, guys start pulling on the ropes - slowly pulling in the net, little by little. After a while, their catch lays on the beach in front of them. Some days there are only a few fish in the net, other days there are more. Very occassionally there's the Big Catch.

On this particular day they caught a lot of fish- not as many as the night before (see previous blog entries) but still a rather big catch. They were quick to use the net to build a 'fence' around the piles of fish. Soon enough a big crowd gathered around.The catch needed to be protected.

As you can see, it got pretty busy. I am not so sure how it works. Apparently some fish are sold, some are given away. It seems organized, but it is hard to figure out what is happening. A lot of people walking back and forth, some arguments here & there, many baskets, piles of fish covered with cloth to symbolize ownership. One man even put his bicycle on top of his fish to make sure no one took them! Buying, begging, selling, giving. Everything at once.

When we asked one man how he got his fish, he said: "I am strong, you need to fight for it!" (He was one of the ones who was given a fish). When a small fight broke out, a sensible teenage girl commented on how silly it was to argue, saying: "ah, they're only fish..."

It was fun watching...from a distance :)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Best buy in Freetown...

When I'm in Europe or the USA people often ask what I miss most; often referring to food. To be honest there's not a whole lot I miss. We have a great cook at the team house and lots of fresh fruit (pineapple, mango, papaya, etc). I probably eat better dinners here than I would if I was back home. And we have dessert night once a week!

So, what do I miss? Well, those that know me well, will know that the one thing I look forward to the most (food/beverage wise that is) when going 'home' is MILK!!! Powdered milk just doesn't do it for me; it's fine in cereal, or tea, but it's not something I'd want a tall glass of.

BUT- I found an excellent alternative- it seriously is the best product I've found yet in Freetown - and they have it at 'Freetown Supermarket' (my favorite grocery store). It costs 3500 Leones which is $1.17 for 500 ml. I love every drop of it! What am I talking about??? CHOCOLATE MILK. Need I say more?

Tomorrow is Friday...which means doing some shopping for the weekend- I usually buy juice, chips and 3 or 4 chocolate milks for my supply :)

PS: The second best buy is definitely Cadbury's Milk Chocolate with MINT chips- unfortunately they hardly have it in the stores...which makes it a real treat when they do have it I guess.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Fish Story Part 2: a video: "man attacked by flying fish"...

Excellent video footage from last week's big catch, taken by Frans. You'll want to watch this clip a few times, to appreciate it in full. It wasn't until the third time we watched it that we noticed the man being 'attacked' by a flying fish! We were a little concerned at he's being carried away. But after seeing him sitting on the sand, looking relatively okay, in another clip we decided it was fine to laugh and enjoy. It's one of those clips you can watch over and over and over again.

The flopping fish are obvious, as is the lady dancing on the left of the screen. But pay special attention to the man that appears in the middle of the screen (wearing red shorts, white shirt).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish...

It was late afternoon when a couple of us went for a run.
We took our usual route, along the beach, by the water’s edge.
12 minutes into our run we saw a lot of people up ahead.
We stopped to check it out.

They had just pulled in their nets, or attempted to at least.
The catch was so big, they couldn’t pull them in all the way.
So, at the water’s edge, men started pulling huge fish out of the nets,
Throwing them to guys a couple of meters further up the beach,
Who proceeded to throw/carry them to a pile that was beginning to form.

So many images-
A barricade of fish at the water’s edge.
A huge pile of fish further up on the bank.
Fish flying through the air.
Men and women running back and forth.

We stood there watching in awe.
I had never seen so many fish at one time.
A colleague estimated that there were ten tons of fish.
The locals said it is the ‘cowrah’ fish.
Word has it that a catch like this occurs once every 18 months.

When we got home the catch was the talk of the evening.
A number of us had seen the excitement at various stages.
Frans who was there around 430 took some video clips.
Jerry who was there after us at 630 took some pictures.
I could only begin to imagine what the ‘fish miracles’ in the Bible were like.

We couldn’t help but decide to return to the scene.
Curious to see how many fish were left; surely they can’t sell them all.
At 830 pm 5 of us climbed into the Land Cruiser.
And drove off into the night,
Excited, like little children on the eve of a birthday.

When we reached the spot, there were cars everywhere.
It was dark, very dark.
There were hundreds of people around.
A big NGO ‘no no’ really, to get out of the car and start mingling.
But we did just that.

We were soon ushered down to the beach by some locals.
There was now a huge netted fence at the spot we were at only hours before.
Because we were white (tourists they thought) they let us into the netted area.
We were in the inner circle.
Only a foot from the enormous pile of fish.

After taking some pictures we agreed to buy some fish.
6 fish for Le 50,000 ($17), which disappeared into a big bag.
The bag was carried to our car and we were on our way home.
The longer we were in the car, the stronger the fishy smell.
By the time we reached home the smell was overwhelming.
(For those who have done obstetrics- think of the overpowering smell of placenta…yuck!)

Now that we had the fish, they needed to be cleaned.
Fortunately our security guards agreed to help.
But first we needed to take pictures of our catch.
The 5 of us with our fish- on World Animal Day.
Out came the knives (albeit blunt) and basins of water.

This is the end of part 1 of the fish story. To be continued…

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Fabric shopping...

Happy Saturday. Today a group of us went downtown for a shopping trip! We mainly went to the fabric street- which really is a street lined with small shops left and right, selling all sorts of fabrics: African prints, cotton, linen, lace fabric - you name it, they probably have it. On the street itself there are zillions of stalls, with ladies and men selling fabric, shoes and many other goods. And then there are people...people buying, selling, looking, bartering, eating, sitting, sleeping. Busy busy busy. It is definitely fun but also a bit tiring. I did manage to find some great fabrics...for shirts, skirts and capris. Funky African prints for skirts, and you can't pass up some linen at $3 a yard. It was a successful trip, topped off with a stop at Crown Bakery for lunch.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Week 40...

This week has flown by and there have been many highlights (with surprisingly very few lows). Here's a re-cap...more details will follow.

On Monday a Dutch photographer, Robin Utrecht, was at the clinic taking pictures. It was great to see his work. Some photos have even appeared in newspapers in Holland this past week. I’ll post some of the pictures here too.

On Tuesday I found out that the child I sent to the ship in Liberia for a CT scan can most likely have surgery onboard in the next three weeks. I am so excited for the family.

On Wednesday I went for a run and was joined by Osman (the boy I recently blogged about). He managed to run with me for the full 15 minutes, with flip flops on, a handful of groundnuts, conversing the entire way about school, family, food, etc.

On Thursday I witnessed an EXTRAORDINARY catch of fish on Lumley beach. I have never seen so many fish at one time. We even went back at 830pm for some night time adventure and came home with some fish…pictures to follow soon!

And then there was the fun and games in the office one afternoon. The pictures says enough.

Stay tuned for more…

Monday, October 01, 2007

The perfect Sunday in Salone...

It was a usual Sunday morning;
Wake up, eat breakfast, go to church.
But today, a group of us from church planned a beach trip.
So, after the service we talked and made plans.
We arranged to meet at our house as soon as possible,
So that we could leave sooner rather than later.
We knew it’d be a long drive out there,
And wanted to have plenty of time at the beach.

Well, this is Africa, so it definitely ended up taking longer.
First of all we noticed our tire was flat.
So we had to stop at the gas station to get ‘breeze’ (air).
Once back at the house we ended up changing the tire.
The guys also took a long time to get to our house.
They had there own reasons of course.
All legitimate, I think.
A number of text messages and phone calls later, they arrived.

So, at 2 pm, 6 men & 5 women climbed into the Land Cruiser.
Off we went.
The road was exceptionally good (relatively speaking);
Some work had been done (because the new president lives there?).
Having a local driver with us definitely sped up the trip too.
Not that he was driving too fast;
But he certainly knew the vehicle and how to maneuver potholes!
We got to No. 2 River beach in record time; just over an hour.

The beach was amazing; it again looked different.
The river was narrow, there were many rocks and a large shallow pool.
The company was fun;
More men than women for a change,
And even the Mercy Shippers were outnumbered this time.
We sat, talked, read, swam, listened to music, ran, etc.
We enjoyed ‘ultimate cookies’ and other snacks.
Most of all I enjoyed swimming in the ocean while watching the sun set.

Shortly after the sun slipped under the horizon,
We packed up and climbed into the Land Cruiser.
It was the beginning of the end to a perfect day.
We drove back in the dark, tired but content;
Talking about travel, music, Disneyland, and other random topics.
Once at the house we got vehicles sorted,
And soon everyone was off to their own homes.
It was the end to an amazing day.

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