OLPCorps Tulane University & UC Davis – Sierra Leone


Do they have a fourth of July in Sierra Leone? by Katie McCarthy
July 9, 2009, 9:34 am
Filed under: Team Info

Yes, and they celebrate it.

Did you ever take that quiz with trick questions, like “Do the British have a fourth of July?”? I remember taking the test to big family gatherings and laughing at my unwitting cousins and relatives when I was able to trick them with the quiz. While the answer to the fourth of July question is yes for any country (of course a country has a fourth of July, they might not celebrate it as a holiday), in Kenema, Sierra Leone, the fourth of July was celebrated in a fun, if not traditional, method.

Last year, the Tulane students and many friends celebrated in a somewhat traditional way – we gathered together, played games, ate a lot of food, and lit things on fire (although our items included lighters and turning on our cell phone flashlights). So, the stage was set for a grander operation this year, as several Sierra Leoneans were already aware of our strange traditions.

The day started out rather mundanely – we woke at 8am, got breakfast, and planned to rest before working on OLPC projects. But shortly into our rest, we were interrupted when the kids came to remind us of a promise made earlier in the week. Masa, one of the kids who lives near the Pastoral Centre, said she would teach us how to make butterscotchy, a treat we enjoyed last year. So, we hiked down to their house (just outside the Pastoral Centre grounds) and spent a very enjoyable morning making butterscotchy.

Making Butterscotchy

Making Butterscotchy

As happens often, our presence created some attention and before the morning was over, we had accrued quite a crowd of neighborhood children. After distributing the butterscotchy appropriately (and sneaking several pieces to small children), we headed back to our rooms to work on the XS, the server OLPC gave us, but not before promising to return to join them for lunch after we were finished work. We continued diligently to figure out the server, solving many problems and probably creating more, and returned to Masa’s house (and Alhaji’s, Pabai’s, and Mama’s) for a lunch of groundnut soup, or ‘niki soup-wi’ (Mende). After lunch, we played games with the kids – football, Miss Mary Mack, the hand slap game, and sat around. The kids, remembering it was American Independence Day, started singing songs they would sing during their independence day. Somehow, the games morphed into a full blown celebration including music, dancing, singing and other performances. All the kids got in on the fun and we were the willing audience. The festivities only ended when we had to go to a meeting with DCI.

Now, if you’re keeping track, it’s a Saturday evening. Needless to say, we weren’t particularly thrilled to attend a meeting at 6pm on a Saturday. But, like the rest of the day, it turned out to be a pleasant and productive event. DCI was having a country-wide planning meeting with their country director and each headquarters’ program managers were present. We met with them, discussed our project in greater detail, and let them explore the XOs a little. They were very encouraging and hope to attend some of the events we are planning over the summer. Overall, a productive meeting.

After our meeting, we headed back to the Pastoral Centre, to celebrate. Our celebration included sitting at the bar with Fumba, Augustine and the night guard, making guacamole (yum!), drinking Star beer (not so yum), and enjoying the cooling rain.

While we missed out on fireworks, weren’t able to eat gumbo or hot dogs, and definitely were not surrounded by red, white and blue, the day turned out to be one of the best celebrations I’ve had. Katie R has said (usually after eating a particularly delicious meal) that she would be perfectly happy to die at that moment. I would describe that feeling more as perfect contentment and happiness, wanting nothing more from the world at that moment. That’s how I felt last night, sitting in the bar at the Pastoral Centre, eating guacamole, listening to the rain, in Sierra Leone. Perfectly happy!

Katie M

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I am so happy you are feeling perfectly happy. It makes me feel wonderful.

Love, Mom

Comment by Mom

I’m also happy that you’re “perfectly happy”. Could be delicious meal/ Star beer buzz “perfectly happy”. That’s usually the best.
Hi Katie R., Jaime and everybody else.

Love, Dad

Comment by Tom Robinette

Dear Katie, Katie, James, and Chelsea, You are such an amazing group of volunteers! It inspired us to see the next generation so willing and so capable of helping to make a difference for so many children. Your nice write up of the experience and purpose behind our workshop was a message that I have passed on to many.
Got home yesterday and your blog was waiting for us! The wonders of technology! The scroll was a bit difficult to find so I made it into a word document and have already disseminated it out to FOSL and SFS.
Your presentation and lap top per child project was a perfect match for our literacy workshop. Thank you so much for the donation purchase of our teachers’ books on CD. This gesture so validated the hard work and efforts of our teachers.
All the very best and please stay in touch. We will love to know how your volunteer summer in Sierra Leone continues to impact other pathways in your lives. It was clear from our return to Sierra Leone that being a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 70s transformed our lives forever…all the very best and thank you again for your support. catherine

Comment by Dr. Catherine Frazier




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