‘Gym’iny Cricket’


Like me, ‘Under Construction.’ Perhaps indefinitely.

I’d heard about this mysterious hotel gym for weeks, but it didn’t sound like anything I was need of, so I kept putting it off a visit.  For one, I was still content doing my little Jane Fonda-workout at the office here, particularly since I could dictate the time I did it.  I’m morning guy and rumor had it that the gym hours were from 14-21:00; strike two.  Finally, I’d grown weary of the insane vanity of a lot of gymgoers back home.  Exercising outdoors, free of the distraction of watching grown boys and girls admiring their muscles in a gym mirror is where it’s at.  For the friends that have heard this rap of mine before…multiple times, do forgive me.  Anyway, I joined the gym a week and a half ago.

First thing to report is that, much to my surprise (and disappointment), that ‘look at me heave this heavy, inanimate object with my muscles and, hey, while you’re at it, why don’t you snap a few photos of me doing it,’ culture is not relegated to the U.S.; bummer.

Day one in the gym and I immediately see two guys pounding away on their pecs from every possible angle.  One fella had what can best be described as a spaghetti-strapped tank-top.  The ‘Franz’ to his ‘Hans’ was wearing a skintight sweatshirt.  I dress like a hobo at the gym.  Some may argue out of it as well, so I’m not judging.  Ok, I am judging, but the point is I want you to get the scene.  As these two were training they took photos of one another from at least as many angles as they hit their chests, which was substantial.  Mind you, this isn’t a huge space with private nooks.  This was on display for all to gawk at, and yet, no one seemed bothered?



And here’s the beef of the story if you’ll pardon the pun.  I’m nearing the end of my session and am now sitting on the floor with my headphones on and my shoes kicked off.  My legs are stretched out in front of me and I’m attempting some gymnastics move called an ‘L-sit.’  Well, I have a severe tightness in whatever muscle it is that allows one to lift their legs off the ground in this position.  Of course, I already know this, but I try it sometimes just for giggles. I would soon get plenty of them.  Giggles I mean.

Out of nowhere, I see rather robust African gentleman squatting down in front of me.  Without warning he starts lifting up my dirty socks…with my feet in them!  He’s trying to tell me to push through it and life my legs.  I response I tell him, unsuccessfully, that my legs do not in fact go that direction at this time, but it’s simply not translating.  Before you know it, I’m attempting to pantomime my entire medical history to explain why it is I cannot perform this exercise properly.  We finally reach an understanding.  He surmises that it’s my lower back that’s at fault.

The good gym Samaritan, this ‘Gym’iny Cricket,’ then begins to take my arms and twist me rather vigorously in different directions.  At first, I resist, not sure I know the rules of this little game.  He goes off balance a few times and then I tune in that I’m meant to stay loose and relaxed.  Easy for him to say!


The scene of the crime.

The real comedy starts when he demonstrates the next move I’m to work on.  For this demonstration he stood, arms at his side, feet together. Wait, did I mention he was one of these fellas sporting a huge upper body with legs that defy physics?  How he balances on those with that bulk on top is beyond me.  In any event, I’m now facing him with the same body position he has and I can’t help but picture us looking like a salt and pepper shaker.  From this position he starts gyrating his hips in small circles…rapidly.  He then starts gyrating mine…gulp.  All during this I’m straining more attempting not to laugh than I did during my actual workout.  He was quite serious though, so I played along until I couldn’t take it anymore. I simply had to get outside and laugh. I humbly suggest you all do the same.


‘Summering in Salone: Part II’

Today marks the halfway point, which leaves a mere 6 more weeks to soak up this experience (& and leave with some semblance of a finished project for school).  Month two brought with it a few highs, as well as a few…lulls.  As is often the case in these types of situations, the ambiguity of it all can occasionally make the time drag a bit.  Still, the there is much to be done & not a whole lot of time to do it, so I anticipate the remaining weeks to be busy ones.  Fortunately, the laughs keep things entertaining!

Here are a few more photos from the journey so far… *lovely song is compliments of my boy John S.’s church choir.  I’m not much of a church man, but loved some of the music!



‘This was 40’

Four months late, but I just haven’t had, or rather, haven’t made the time to go through all the photos/videos and put this together.  I won’t go into detail, but the previous year’s birthday was about as much of a bummer as I’d ever had, so this year I was determined to make it better.  The fact of it falling on ‘Spring Break’ didn’t hurt either.

What transpired exceeded my expectations in every way, particularly the actual birthday!  While turning 40 definitely brings a little something extra gravitas to the plate, it wasn’t incredibly dramatic and I think I can hold off on the red corvette for a while.  Here’s a little video recap of the week.

Russ, I can’t thank you enough, man!  Really was an amazing time!

In addition to being a great friend, Russ is a helluva photographer and the both of us took a ton of shots over the course of the week.  Here are a few of them.



‘The Beach Bums of Bureh’

Makeni is good and I’ve been comfortable here, but getting out of town, especially to a beautiful beach, is never a bad thing for the soul.  It started as a two man operation, just Scotty and myself.  Then we added Xavier into the mix and from there it was a free for all.  We had a packed vehicle on the way there and it was even more packed on the way home.

We left Makeni on Friday afternoon with the sky looking not that great to mildly aggressive, but we soldiered on, determined not to let the weather spoil things.  So long as you kept your eyes angled up, the ride into Bureh was a scenic one.  Mountains covered in greenery all about.  I didn’t spend too much time researching photos of it because I wanted it to be surprise.  It was that and more!

Fresh fish, lots of splashing in the waves and tons of laughs made for a really amazing time and I am already thinking of the next excursion.  On a more serious note, if you ever do go to Bureh, or any other place with strong undercurrents, do be careful.  I was telling someone back home about ‘my last dip’ on Sunday.  It was without a doubt the most helpless I’ve ever felt in a body of water, and I have spent a lot of time in the water over the years.  I really wondered if I would make it back to shore and have thought about that moment a few times since.  Weird.  Ok, enough of that nonsense!

I didn’t want to spend much time with my face behind a camera, but was able to manage a couple of short videos that I put together here, along with a couple of photos from Xavier and Scotty.  Enjoy!


‘Annnd, Action!’

I do love my movies, so I was pleased as punch to hear that ‘movie night’ was being resurrected. Apparently it used to be a regular deal among the expat community here in Makeni, but as more and more people left, so too did the desire for communal movie watching.  Xavier (the man behind the projector)  says there is all but two people left from when he first arrived a year ago.  That’s always been one of the bummers of this kind of life.  People constantly coming and going, including the people saying that.  Anyway, movie night is back, and I’m glad for it.


‘X marks the spot…on the wall’

Mavi hosted this week’s showing at the Street Child’s compound.  Street Child is an NGO that looks to help children and families in Sierra Leone out of poverty, of which there are many.  You can read more about it here:



Back to front – Scott, a.k.a. ‘The Oyster Man’, Halima, a.k.a. ‘Mama Bear’, Mavi & Justin (the last two have managed to avoid nicknames, but no-one is ever truly safe)

Back to movie night.  As soon as Scott and I arrived, I was given the task of dicing up a massive pineapple Xavier had received from one of his farmers.  Sadly, I’d just had half of one at our place before we left and was already over it, but I did as I was told and duitifuly started slicing away.


‘Flip a coin?’

Next up was ‘the decision!’  This is always a funny scene, if you’ll pardon the pun.  Watching people attempt to agree on what movie to watch among the hundreds of options available.  It came down to ‘Walter Mitty,’ which I love, and ‘The Boat That Rocked,’ known as ‘Pirate Radio’ in the U.S., which I’d never seen.  I was secretly pulling for Mitty, but everyone decided on the latter.  I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised!  The soundtrack was dynamite and there were some really good laughs in there!  I’m going to go ahead and give if the Stewart stamp of approval.


‘Pirate Radio’

‘A quick followup to last post!’

Those who know me are well accustomed to my sudden bursts of laughter, seemingly for no reason at all.  I’ll admit, from the outside I must look like a madman, but, I assure you, there is ALWAYS a reason!  It just doesn’t always translate as well as I’d like. That said, my buddy Bill requested I add a few of the silly observations I’ve had here so far.  Without further adieu and of no particular importance…

“My friend!”

Ok, I’ve said this before, but I HATE roaches and would rather be in a room with a savage beast than one filled with roaches.  Well, one night I showered at the office (cause they had water and we didn’t) and then took a motorbike ride back to the ‘Chateau.’  Between the shower and breeze I got on the bike, I was feeling pretty good, a.k.a. not sweaty.  I had every intention of keeping it that way too.

When I got home I realized I had the place to myself for a bit, so I stripped down to my burgundy colored shorts as to stay cool while I finished up the rest of my pre-bed ritual.  There I was, brushing my teeth in the restroom and I spot him…a massive roach, a scant few feet above my head, perched on the wall.  He was looking at me, his antenna flopping about, as if to test the which way the wind was blowing (there wasn’t any wind, but you get the picture).  I calmly stoped what I was doing, picked up an alcohol dispenser that was sitting on the sink and took aim….and then…I completely missed him!  The disinfectant just spilled to the floor.

During those unfortunate seconds, the roach was emboldened and decided to lunge at me!!!  Now I’m using speedy hands to try and get this f’n thing off me, only I’m unsuccessful in that endeavor too and he falls from my stomach to my shorts, which are practically the same color of the roach, and then IN my shorts.  From here there is only one option and I take it, ripping my shorts off in a flash and frantically begin swinging them around like a lunatic, but I STILL can’t find where this thing went!??

As you can imagine, any dry coolness I was experiencing five minutes prior was now long gone.  I spent the next twenty minutes out in the backyard in nothing but flip-flops attempting to cool down before bed.  Soon after I laid down I heard the door open; Jules and Rafaela were now home.  I relayed my story, Rafaela lost it and then proceeded to track down the roach, scooped it up as if it were a butterfly and walked it outside to freedom, laughing at me all the while.  Incidentally, it was Rafaela who came up with the name ‘friend’ to mock me.   Not my proudest moment.


‘Why did the chicken cross the road?  Why!?’

Here is a retelling of the events that transpired on the morning of Friday, May 18th, 2018.  It was approximately 7am and I was waiting on a motorbike to make my way to the office.  The following scene unfolded before my very eyes…. a chicken is crossing the road (not a joke), a motorbike zooms by, barely trying to avoid it, if at all.  The motorbike runs over the chickens legs.  The chicken makes a sound a chicken would make if it had just had it’s legs run over by a passing motorbike.  A child is nearby.  The child makes a sound of surprise, one that I beleive is unique to this part of the world.  The child then runs off behind his house, seemingly to explain what happened to someone in his house.  The child then runs back out, rips the chicken off the muddy road, where it had been laboring to drag itself across to safety (yes, it was very sad looking) and then runs home with the poor, mauled chicken in his grip.  Moments later a semi-wild puppy appears.  The puppy begins playing with the chicken’s feathers that were still flying around in the air, just like you’d see in a cartoon.  It would make for a cute calendar picture with a different backstory.  I stood there slack-jawed at the chain of events.  That was how I started the morning of May 18th.

‘Mama Mia’

As you might imagine, nudity here, especially in some of the more remote villages, doesn’t have the same stigma attached to it as it does back home.  That said, there has been one topless woman that stands above the rest and her name is….!!!???

My co-workers and I were on a site visit to examine one of the 200 ponds WorldFish monitors.  We stopped at a house to ask one of the locals the exact location of it.  One fellow volunteered to take us there.  I should mention that there were a few people in the area and one woman in particular was very animated and friendly.  She was shaking my hand, saying something in Timneh (another local language here that I do not know), so I just shook her hand back and mustered a smile of my own, which came easy because she was a lot of fun.

As we began to make our way from the house, she taps me good on the shoulder, and as I turn around (we all turned around actually), she starts saying something…loudly.  I couldn’t make it out of course, but when she pulled out her left breast from beneath her shirt, shook it at me with her left hand whilst using her right had to point at our pond guide, I solved the mystery.  The woman was trying to explain that the guy was her son.  We all had a good laugh at that one.  I thought it would’ve been easier to just have someone tell us it was her son, but I appreciated the theatrics. 😀

*These are but a few of the many mishaps I’ve experienced thus far.  I will add more as I go.



‘Summering in Salone: Part I’

I’ve started and stopped to write on here for months.  I was either too busy with school/life or was simply not ‘feeling it’ to finish anything.  I think now is as good a time as ever to catch you up.

I’m sending this from Sierra Leone, West Africa, or ‘Salone’ as the locals call it.  More specifically I am in the town of Makeni, which lies in the center of the country.  I’m interning with an organization called WorldFish that aims to help small-scale fish farmers build capacity and, hopefully, increase their food security and income as a result.  I’m nearing the one-month mark and have two months remaining.  It’s safe to say that I have a ton of silly memories already and it truly feels as though I’ve been here much longer than I have, something someone else reiterated to me at dinner the other night.  *I don’t know if I should take that in a good or bad way? 🙂

Sweat is seeping from head to toe, and at times the combination of heat and humidity here is unbearable.  Yet, like most everything else in life, you bear it.  The people have been great.  I wouldn’t call SL outwardly friendly, per se, but a lot of folks are willing to engage with you when you make the effort.

Krio is the national language and the accent is reminiscent of what I heard in Jamaica so many years ago.  Incidentally, reggae is quite popular here, as is a lot of Nigerian dance music.  Apparently Nigeria is a huge mecca of entertainment.

This past week my boss arrived from Zambia to hang out with Scott (the new project extension coordinator/my roommate) and me and fill us in on all the details of the operation.  It was without a doubt my most fun week to date.  Lots of interesting and insightful conversations were had, and the laughs kept coming!

I’ve been able to go on a number of site visits.  There are five coverage areas with 200 fish ponds in total and each is at least an hour+ away from the office; often on some very…interesting dirt ‘roads.’  And speaking of travel, from my limited time here I’ve learned that motorbikes are by far the most efficient (and economical) means of getting about town.  I recently joked with a friend back home that, as much as I’ve been on them, my buns will be more leather than skin by the time I leave.  Many of the earlier rides, especially those on backroads during moonless nights, were both thrilling and nerve-racking.  It’s funny how quickly the novel becomes the norm though, isn’t it?

I’ve spent nearly all my time in and around Makeni since my arrival, save an overnight stay in Freetown, but I hope to change that in the coming weeks.  Smartphones are a big target for theft, so I don’t take mine out as much as I’d like.  Still, I’ve managed a couple photos thus far.  Enjoy! *attempted to put them in chronological order, but to no avail.

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