We traveled 3 hours of difficult roads to Pujehun District on Wednesday, Sep 19. It took 2 hours to go the last 16 miles! On Thursday morning, we set out to find a village to be our new home. Mamie Jinnah (our Sierra Leone midwife friend and mentor) went with us – she has contacts in the villages and had previously informed them that we were coming.
We visited different villages but decided on a village called “Gbondapi”. We had a meeting on the chief’s veranda with the village chief and elders. Of course, we drew a large crowd….everyone was so curious about the pumoys (white people). We spent about 20 minutes explaining our intentions and answering questions the chief and elders had for us. After all of the questions were answered and they understood our intentions, the chief and elders welcomed us to stay and live in the village. They seem excited to have us come and stay!
Gbondapi is located at the end of a dirt road full of potholes. Some potholes you literally have to drive into and then drive out of! Jenna and I are learning a new type of driving : ) The road stops because there is a large river on the other side of the village. You can take a boat on this river and be on the Atlantic Ocean in just a couple hours. We are at the end of the rainy season, so the river is very flooded right now and even coming up and flooding part of the market. Every Wednesday, there is a trade fair in Gbondapi. This is a large trade fair with people coming from all over the country to buy and sell. They say the village size doubles on that day from 1,000 to 2,000 people!
Most people in the village speak Mende (tribal language we are learning), but a few people also speak English or Krio (like Creole). We were very surprised to find a health centre in Gbondapi! There are 2 midwives, 2 nurses and a Community Health Officer working there. They do general healthcare but focus on maternal/infant care. They say there are about 20 babies delivered every month. People from many surrounding villages come for deliveries, especially if there are complications. We are excited to partner with this clinic. One of the nurses working there is actually my friend – I was shocked to find out that she was working there! : )
The chief arranged for us to live with a family in Gbondapi for the first 3 months. The father’s name is Paul – he was the one to give us the tour of Gbondapi. He has a wife and children and a boat! They live just several feet from the river. I will let you know more about the family as I get to know them. The first year is primarily language learning and culture learning. Jenna and I are excited to live with a family and to learn how to live like they do in the village. We will not only be spending time learning the language with our language helper but also working in the farms, fishing, cooking, going to the market, playing the local games/sports, and all else that is part of life in Gbondapi. We move this Wednesday, October 3.
Jenna and I bought a puppy. We saw her in a nearby village when we went to drop off our friend. We had planned to get a dog at some point….this one just came along sooner than we expected! We inquired about her and bought her for $2.25 : ) Her name is Jayla KonԐ. KonԐ means “happy” in Mende. It is pronounced “Konay”. It is a girl. She will move to the village with us. Pray that she will be encouraging and fun for us as well as for the kids in our host family!