From Freetown with love

Female circumcision is practiced in Sierra Leone.  I had not had personal experience with this until this trip when I attended a few births. The external clitoris is conspicuous in it’s absence, scraped away in their youth.  What is left is a blank space, very little scaring, so that the vulva is left looking like it never needed that small hooded figure at its center.  Much as the circumcised penis looks I think, to those who know no different, you can’t tell that anything is missing.  I am surprised at how little is disturbed in what to me is the ultimate in violation of a young girl.  I am disturbed by how easy it is to look at.


small things. 

Buying book bags for Fode and Mohe Mohe (the deaf boy who has been around the compound since we were last here and is doing very well in school despite his handicap) for the coming school year.

Snuggling the next-door neighbor’s 3 month old daughter, Mary.

Hanging out on the front porch with the neighborhood children, clothes hanging on the line above their heads.

Feeding a hungry dog the food that fell out of a bowl.

Jitta and I returned to the clinic this evening to check on Miata, the woman who we had been with in labor earlier in the day. There was no change in her cervix and the baby’s head was still high, a few centimeters above the narrowest part of the pelvis, she had been in labor for days, 5th baby, only 2 alive at home.  The nurse and I agreed that this baby may be too big to fit through her pelvis and that she should go to the hospital for evaluation for a cesarean.  This was decided, it was explained to the mother and her family and the discussions began to get heated.  Two nursing students whom I had worked with the other day came in discussing the merits of different obstetric procedures, throwing acronyms around fairly needlessly just like many American nursing and medical students do.  And then they looked at me and said “Nixon is good” (the nearest hospital, a mission hospital in Segbwema, a 30-45 min drive or about 7 miles away), “they do good cesareans as long as the family can pay”. Then I heard amounts 500,000 leones and 600,000 leones which is $120 or so. I went outside and many people were gathered on the front porch talking excitedly.  I grabbed Jitta by the arm and asked if this was about money and whether the family could pay, she said that it was, and that no they did not have enough.  I knew that I had some money with me, the last of my leones, turned out to be 250,000 I asked Jitta if it would be appropriate for me to give this to the family. I am not a journalist sitting back and documenting what is going on, I can intervene in my surroundings and god forbid this woman loses another baby, or her babies lose their mom for lack of $120.  I gave the father, Miata’s husband, all that I had and the porch erupted in thanks and hugs.  They asked me to write down my name so that they could name the baby after me if it is a girl and then they asked to write my boyfriend’s name if it is a boy.  So hopefully soon we will here that there is either a healthy Ami Lynn or a vigorous Middy crying away in his/her mama’s arms.


We heard this morning from the nursing students that Miata was observed at the hospital all night, given IV fluids and some Pitocin to increase the strength of her contractions, all to no avail.  It was decided this morning that she would have a cesarean.


Baby Ami Lynn was born safely by cesarean this morning and both she and Miata are doing well, nkagoima (thanks be to God), the relief I feel is quite overwhelming , I hadn’t even realized how anxious I had been until I hear that all is well.


We are at Jitta’s house in Bo. I had a nice evening last night talking with Junior’s younger brother and his friends, all who are on break from University.  We talked about international politics, NGOs and how they are helping or not helping African countries like Sierra Leone. I slept well with a fan on all night, small things.

This morni

ng has been spent sitting in the Bari with all the young men and Katmoon as she “plants” my hair again.  She is doing something slightly differently this time and so it will take about half the time.  We have been having some difficulties with our car battery so we have been on African time, waiting to get to the internet café for lunch and email all that may have to wait until Freetown tomorrow.



I wish that I had my camera with me yesterday afternoon as Jitta and I ran around Bo in the afternoon.  We went through the market, the stalls close all around full with eggplants (garden eggs), boiled peanuts, trays of hot peppers, cucumbers, bush meat and sides of goats, muddy feet and children everywhere.  It is incredibly beautiful in its chaos and I wish I could capture it for you all. 


Now we are safely in Freetown after a long day of driving.  I have my own bed, running cold water from the shared shower and electricity at night, which means an air conditioner while I sleep…sweet heaven.  Tomorrow we have a day at the beach and I get to see my dear friend Kande. Tuesday morning we head home, I am looking forward to it even though I will miss Salone.