Wednesday, June 17, 2009

some thoughts on departing

Some final thoughts….
So we are leaving after nine months. But though we leave Sierra Leone, it will not leave us. Sure, there were frustrations with electricity only about a third of the time (at best), narrow streets overflowing with pedestrians, traffic jams, etc. But it’s a beautiful country: the beaches are undiscovered gems; the country is safe; the people are amazingly open and friendly: and that’s not just words – they really are. They work hard when they get work. (We said good-bye recently to Sennuse who breaks rocks for a living and raises by himself his two daughters who are in Cardiff school (see earlier blog postings on the school.)
I’ll miss my students. Almost all of them are sincerely trying to find their way into the professional world (many as human rights activists), trying to scrape together school fees. Given the opportunity, their talents shine, as when they taught human rights in local schools..
Classes are way too big for effective teaching; too much time is lost keeping the class quiet enough to hear not just me but fellow students. Still – there’s been a lot of learning, as noticed in their research papers and reports on the their community teaching.
A history professor described Sierra Leone as stable on the surface and fragile underneath. The same causes that apparently fueled the war, including mass poverty and lack of education and opportunity, are still present. But one hopes the horrors of the civil war (1991-2002) leave people reluctant to allow another one.

Betty and I hope to find ways to link our students back in Mississippi to students here. She has collected the war and peace stories of some of my students, photographed them, and plans to put it all on the web. The student participants want to link up with students around the country and the world. We’re open to suggestions on where this might lead. Locally, the students want to start a Students for Human Rights. (Perhaps they could call it Students United for Rights Everywhere: SURE).
And Betty has commissioned two local artists to paint small signboards, the kind all over town on small restaurants and barber shops, a kind of no-depth, and almost cartoon-like depictions of people eating or getting a haircut. She found a local cafĂ© that will display them for sale. We’re taking a batch home.

Sierra Leone - I hope we come back some day.

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