February 26, 2013 § 1 Comment
It has been so hot here, lately.
So hot, that I sometimes feel as if my brain is melting. The temperature regularly soars well above 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) and, being dry season, we are left scorched by the direct glare of the unforgiving sun. To protect my skin against the relentless blaze, as well as mosquito and other insect bites, I consistently wear long pants, socks, boots and long-sleeved shirts. However, this many layers of clothing certainly isn’t doing anything to cool me down.
Nevertheless, we shall prevail. In the face of the heat…
we have a party. At least, as much of a party as one can have in a camp on a remote site in Sierra Leone.
Although most people still power through work on Sundays (people like Alastair, that is), Saturday night gives everyone license to blow off a bit of steam. And we’re a steamy bunch.
The veranda that Alastair and I had built, attached to our room, has proved to be a useful spot to relax and socialize on a Saturday night.
Clearly, Lady is the ultimate party animal, and she helped keep the fun going until the sun went down. And, that’s how we beat the heat.
February 22, 2013 § 3 Comments
It has been a busy week. I feel as if we’ve been spinning like tops, and only now are beginning to slow down. We had been heavily preparing for a delegation visit to our site. This past Monday, people from the office of the President, the Ministry of Mines, the Environmental Protection Agency and other distinguished guests were all arriving for a presentation about company activities and future plans, as well as the chance to observe our operations.
The Chief Executive Officer of our parent company, the Chief Operating Officer, and the Head of Finance also traveled from London for the event. These heavy hitters took the fast route to camp.
Dry season is at its height and the helicopter they arrived in kicked up a serious amount of dust.
Which came at us like a wave.
The delegation arrived in a convoy of 4×4 vehicles. We provided them as special lunch and Alastair did a very detailed presentation about the current state of affairs with the company and plans for future mining. Then, most of the delegates took the opportunity to visit one of the drill rigs. Of course, everyone had to put on their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before heading to the drill.
That’s a whole lot of reflective gear.
The delegation visit went remarkably well and Alastair was a star. Our bosses were flying back to Freetown the next day and offered me a ride since I also needed to travel there for meeting. What perfect timing!
The busy streets of Freetown bustled below.
Fortunately, before we left, the pilot took Alastair up in the helicopter to get a quick view of the project from above, which he really enjoyed.
After a few days of meetings in Freetown, and one long drive, I’m already back at camp. So, we just keep spinning.
Vacation is right around the corner!
February 16, 2013 § 3 Comments
A few years ago, Alastair planted several cashew trees in the camp. The cashew is another one of those wonderful foods that I enjoyed eating on a regular basis at home, but had no knowledge about its growth or cultivation…or its malevolent secret.
To be involved with a plant food and witness its evolution from seed to fruit is something spectacular, yet I often take it for granted.
I was really surprised to see what a cashew looks like on the tree.
The nut, or seed to be precise, hangs from the bottom of the cashew apple, a yellow fruit that has a sweet but distinctive taste.
The cashew nut has two shells. Inside the outer layer of the cashew nut, is a toxic liquid that can cause severe, even fatal, reactions to the skin and body, especially if ingested. Therefore, the nuts must be roasted in a fire to burn away the toxin, and thus eliminate the danger, before eating. Even cashews purchased in stores that are labeled “raw” are first processed at high heats and thus are not technically raw.
It is strange how something so delicious can be enrobed in something so harmful. Nevertheless, Alastair and I enjoyed eating our cashew apple fruit but removed the cashew nuts (or seeds) to keep only for planting…just to be safe :)
February 14, 2013 § 2 Comments
Ahhhh, Valentine’s Day. A day for hearts, a day for chocolates, a day for flowers, a day for…
Alastair may have found the most creative way to give someone a Valentine…just write it on a bush pumpkin.
These pumpkins may not be pink, or red, or chocolate covered, and may have the hue of a brussel sprout (which I happen to love) but they are exceedingly heavy. And, the way I figure it, the heaviest Valentine wins!
I’m just happy I get to spend the day with my pair <3
And a pair of pumpkins.
HAPPY <3 DAY!
February 13, 2013 § 8 Comments
Since the day I moved into the camp here in Sierra Leone, June 2011, I’ve been surrounded by men. I’ve been the only female living on site, that is, until a couple of weeks ago.
The balance is shifting.
Kaylan is a young female geologist from South Africa, who recently moved here, and she, unwittingly, has joined my cause to feminize this camp full of drillers, mechanics and other rowdy-type men. It’s a hopeless cause.
At least, I thought it was a hopeless cause, until I brought in a puppy :) Stray dogs are everywhere in Sierra Leone, but the company over the hill from us has a nice camp dog that just had two pups. They were healthy and well cared for and ridiculously cute. When we were visiting their site about a month back, a little sausage roll of a puppy was too cute to resist, so a deal was struck. After a few weeks time, leaving the puppy time to wean, they would trade her for one of our piglets. We still needed to downsize our piglet numbers so it seemed a reasonable trade.
We brought the wiggly little puppy into the camp and named her Lady (just in case anyone forgets who’s side she’s on). Of course, she loves to play. She will follow anyone anywhere and does crazy, silly puppy things all of the time.
She loves to collect pink flower petals.
I have no idea why.
Within days, Lady had endeared herself to everyone in camp, and all of the guys have quickly succumbed to cooing and cuddling her at any opportunity.
My cause is won.
Kaylan has especially taken to Lady, and oversees feeding her and other things. Other than that, Lady is a camp dog and just hangs out with whomever is around at that moment. And, when there is no one to play with, she collapses into a puddle of sleep.
The balance has shifted, ladies unite.
February 12, 2013 § 3 Comments
Ever since Alastair and I returned from our holiday break, at the beginning of January, we both have been extremely busy with work. The pace of the project continues increase and the days all seem to blur together. Meetings with community development committees have been occupying most of my time.
I’m also participating in a working group that runs planning sessions to formulate a model community development agreement for mining companies and affected communities in Sierra Leone to use in the future. It is exciting to have the opportunity to work with Government, the Ministries, and other international organizations to create something new that will, hopefully, facilitate stronger working relationships between companies and communities. Unfortunately, it means I have to drive to Freetown for whenever there is a planning session (I need my own helicopter).
A couple of weeks ago, our company had its first annual surface rent payment ceremonies for each of the chiefdoms in which we operate. This is a component now that the company holds a mining license. The ceremonies were a significant event and took a lot of planning on Alastair’s part. Thankfully, all went well and both ceremonies were well received. Alastair and I both even gave speeches :)
I don’t foresee work slowing down any time soon, and now with a wedding to plan, I may go a bit ‘bush-crazy’ after all :)
January 21, 2013 § 4 Comments
Not long after Alastair and I returned to site from our Christmas break a brain child was born. Since I moved here, I have been doing my best to get sufficient physical exercise while in camp using a pair of weights and a floor mat in my room, but motivation is always a challenge.
We have enough expats living in camp now that I was certain we could organize some type of fitness club. I pitched the idea to everyone and got a positive enough response to go ahead and run with it. It has only been a week, but every day has been great. I had no idea how 30-60 minutes of exercise at the end of each day could bring our group together so well. Not only are we improving our health, we are building a better camp community. It had become far too easy for our group to fracture after the work day was finished and become segregated in an effort to decompress. But, now we get to decompress together! Each afternoon, someone leads us as we laugh and sweat, and laugh some more. We’re tapping into varying expertise, trying everything from militant boot-camp workouts to yoga.
And, we’re doing it together.