Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 10

In the room Ross and I shared, he ended up with the smaller, kiddie-sized bed - long enough for most humans, but at 6'4", he actually got sore ankles from his feet sticking out over the end. Trooper that he is though, he didn't complain... much.

Sister Perpetua prepares eggs for us-delicious, but not quite plentiful enough for the late arrivals at the table, fodder for much razzing in both directions.

Outside, a huge mango tree boasts many mangoes so perfectly ripe that they simply fall to the ground.  Most places we have visited, mangoes are picked by locals before they reach such perfection.  It was one of the pleasures of this trip to be able to eat a fresh perfectly freshly fallen mango from this tree. However, despite throwing stones, coaxing, and even chasing (Bernie actually climbed a tree), a mango will often only fall when its time has come... and not before.

Remember the handicapped school?  Disabled children and children of disabled parents, they are packed like sardines in a building that was never meant to be a school and their landlord is, to be kind, exploitive.  Well, this morning we get to give them some good news. CAUSE Canada will commit to constructing a new building for them and help to subsidize the teachers' stipends for the coming year.  They already have the land, so we visit the site on our way out of town and share in the overflowing joy of the school's teachers and administrators.

The kicker to all this is that they decide (to be confirmed) to call the school "Little Weaver School for the Handicapped." I am at once incredulous, honoured,  and scared at the idea of having a school for
disabled children in Sierra Leone named after me for no credible reason.  I think I am going to have to process this one when I get home.

Back on our bikes and back to long, red dirt roads (not unlike the colour of the dirt on Prince Edward Island), muscling village to village, trying to keep hydrated and healthy.  At one village, there is a large PA system cranking out techno-dance music and the kids are all out in the school yard.  We couldn't resist.  Pulling into the scene, we become the centre of attraction and, with music pumping and
everyone staring, what could we do but perform.

Make no mistake.  These three Old Guys did not make it this far through this journey on the strength of their dancing!... Yet we often seem to find ourselves the only ones dancing when there is loud music and a crowd of onlookers.  We have some fun hamming it up for the kids and get back on the road.

After crossing a long bridge, across what turns out to be the river that forms the border to the next chiefdom, we stop for water top-up and shade.  A lean man, perhaps in his 60s and clad in only a towel comes down from his house bearing four mangoes and offers them to me. "I am sorry I don't have more for you," he says humbly.  Wanting neither to insult nor to take this poor man's last four mangoes, I stammer and stumble on my words until Augusta intervenes and accepts the gift.

Get this:  The man turns out to be the Paramount Chief of the chiefdom we have just crossed into!  Wow.  He honours our request for a quick photo and we honour his request to put on some clothes first.  He is a class act through and through.

Overall, the Tour de Sierra Leone covers a distance of nearly 1,000 km.  To reach all the desired destinations, to finish each day in villages that actually have accommodations and to make the cycling part cover the prescribed 500 km, we often bicycle part of the day and then pack the bikes into the back of the CAUSE pickup truck, pile our sweaty carcasses into the back seat and drive to where that night's accommodations are.  On this occasion we drive to Bo, the country's second largest city, where we will meet up with Theresa Benjamin. It will be a treat to tell you all about her tomorrow!

JW

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