Sunday, 20 October 2019
Saturday, 19 October 2019
First we were shown the five stages of the operations of the Sanctuary: they rescue chimpanzees from bad starts in life, neglect and lack of love. [Some of the chimps were really angry and stressed today, and one of them kept throwing stones at us, but thankfully, some were a bit calmer].
For lunch we had a pumpkin stew with rice, chicken and peanut sauce, followed by fruits for dessert- papaya, plantain and apple.
Then went for a hike in the wild jungle. We hiked for an hour, from the Sanctuary, pass Congo Dam, until we reached the viewing lookout, on Mount Benet. Looking down over the vast landscape behind the hills surrounding Freetown, looking at various natural features- rivers, meanders and hills.
We encountered a few creatures along the way and decided that our accommodation was definitely better than Termite hotel [inhabited by a python, rats and of course termites!]
We were then brought back to our accommodation, where we had a bit of time to relax before a dinner of rice and aubergine stew. [Tired and riced out!]
Ben and Simon [edited by JDA]
Friday, 18 October 2019
Today was always going to be about introducing our pupils to the amazing kids and teenagers of Don Bosco. Father George, originally from South America, founded this home for the homeless, orphanage and shelter a few years ago now... and the projet is still expanding. So after having spent the morning rehearsing for the musicians and chilling for the others, whilst Mr Coward and I went to get 240 bottles of water- that should see us through to Thursday, and some delicious Cornish type pasties- they got the approval of our very own Hattie so high praise indeed- we made our way through bustling, chaotic, loud, enchanting and mostly hot Freetown. Once at Don Bosco, we had to wait for Father George to come back from his visit to the main prison where he works with prisoners to try to help with reinsertion, Jacob introduced the group and what followed was quite surreal.
Our beautiful voices- I mean our singers, not mine!- raising in the humid air of Freetown and captivating the audience. A quartet of James, Freddie, June and Hattie gave a lovely rendition of “Somewhere over the rainbow”, then Harriet performed a Taylor Swift song- and started to warm up the crowd...but they got really excited when she sang one of her own songs. Then another quartet led by Jacob performed one of Ed Sheeran’s songs, and finally, they all sang Billy Joel together, with Simon drumming on the guitar... for a very first set, less than 24 hours after our arrival, it was great!
But what followed was unexpected! No songs this time, but performances from the street boys- not another Irish pop band, but the boys who have been found on the streets of Freetown, because they have run away from home or have been put there by their families. They danced, and danced some more, and then performed juggling tricks, and then they danced a little bit more. There was a fantastic atmosphere!
Then, before playing a very tense and high stake football game, our students joined these young people and started impromptu conversations. we drew 1 all in the boys game, but lost 0-1 in the girls versus boys game.
This camaraderie led to our pupils asking to be taught some dance moves!
It was heartwarming to see our pupils embracing this new experience, and it was clear for all to see, how sad they were to have to leave after 2 and a half hours... they had been touched, as I have been every time I have stepped into Don Bosco, by those young lives already damaged, but with hope on their horizon. We left behind tons of sweets and made a donation to support the work Father George does with “his family (Fambul)” in and around Freetown. Tonight, I think we shall all sleep well, full of the memories of the day, and it seems quite tired by the heat!
Tomorrow, another day beckons...
Tuesday, 30 October 2018
Monday, 29 October 2018
Tomorrow, reflections from Mr B and Mr C and my final words for this year....
Sunday, 28 October 2018
where we never leave the door ajar,
Not only for the risk of rain,
But the mozzies are a bloody pain,
The morn was early, the sun was bright,
The early birds had just taken flight,
we'd finished breakfast, cleared our plate,
and for once Musa wasn't late!
Towards Balanta was our ride,
Where we met our morning guide,
With a warming smile, and a friendly face,
He took us to the market place.
Shirts and bracelets, drums and masks,
Necklaces and wooden flasks,
All the prices had to barter,
They were smart but we were smarter.
Dragging us to see their stall,
I'm sure I almost saw them all,
Trying to find the smallest cost,
It's a miracle nobody here was lost
Eventually we made our ways,
through the endless selling maze,
Emerged onto the busy street,
Moaning from our aching feet.
Next our stop was down the road,
So In the Musamobile we rode,
A valiant beast of baby blue steel,
with a broken door and a dodgy wheel.
At Basha’s Bakery we stopped for food,
and left us in a better mood,
Before our final destination,
and endless bored procrastination
The cultural village was our final stop,
So out of the Musamobile we hopped,
The drums had all of us in a trance,
As we were mesmerised by a traditional dance.
We listened intently, and watched in awe,
And they left us always wanting more,
Unfortunately it was the end of the show,
And alas we finally had to go.
Before we headed back to Lac's,
We went for a drink at Roy's to relax,
No more excitable children to teach,
Just a last chance to enjoy the beach.
Just before the night was through,
We announced there was a surprise for you,
For after tea a meeting was called,
But everyone was surely fooled.
To a classic African groove,
Room 31 boys busted some moves,
A well rehearsed and polished routine,
But splitting our trousers at the seam.
This brings us to our last goodbye,
Despite a dark and cloudy sky,
Our memories will be living on,
For final time from Salone, Shallom!
Toby and James Moore
Friday, 26 October 2018
As well, for me, it was an amazing way to spend my 18th birthday- my students coming up to me with hugs and candy bracelets and even waves of children being sent up by others on the team to sing happy birthday. And then, to end the day with a cake at LACS and all of the Wells team singing happy birthday for me truly made this a day I'll never forget.
Today was yet again delayed by Musa and traffic in Freetown! The musicians arrived in the living room at 8.55 prepared for the familiar rev of the Musa mobile at 9 to leave for the Ballanta Academy of Music, however this didn't happen until 10! Despite this we got to BAM at 10.15 so some people used this 45 minutes to teach some of their students. Eliza, Jack and James went off to a school to do a workshop on the P Brass. We also managed to get some photos with our students! Some of us got presents from them, one of Maddie's students made her a book, I got a personalised necklace in the shape of Sierra Leone from one of my students, it even says my name on it!
Later on in the afternoon we had our last outreach concert at the International Secondary school. When we arrived it looked like a really nice school! When we got into the concert hall and everyone had sat down we realised that these children were not used to being quiet. The quieter instruments were very hard to hear, but when we started singing 'Africa' by Toto and when we started clapping and moving in the last chorus, they loved it and started clapping with us!
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
We left LACS Villa at 8:30 excited for another day interacting and teaching the students at JTR. We all had a really busy day packed with three lessons in the morning to various year groups, doing activities ranging from maths puzzles to song rounds. We continue to be amazed by their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, making lessons highly rewarding. Each day we continue to improve our lessons and form connections with the students.
We spent the afternoon performing an outreach concert for the students of Freetown Secondary School for Girls.
Once again the musicians played extremely well regardless of the challenging conditions that the outdoor concert posed. We were fortunate to have the students of FSSG perform their school song and a play which aims to empower the girls to strive to reach their full potential, despite the problems posed by the patriarchal society they live in.
When we arrived at Ballanta around 9 am, we had 30 mins to prepare before we went into lessons. Once again we were all amazed by the students enthusiasm and drive to learn as much as possible. I had 5 students in the morning and all of them had progressed well.
After lunch we went on to do an outreach concert at Freetown secondary school for Girls, where we all performed. However this time the conditions were slightly trickier as we were playing outdoors so it was hard to project the sound. After the concert we headed to LACS for a quick break before the evening rehearsal at Ballanta.
At the evening rehearsal we got taught an African song by Charlie, an ex teacher of Ballanta. It was really interesting as it was nothing like we do in England and it consisted of lots of fun dances as well as funny lyrics in Krio. Once we had finished our 1 hour rehearsal we headed back to LACS absolutely exhausted after our long yet exiting day.
Whilst students continue their lessons, Neil and I taught English and French to more senior students... despite the poor conditions, I love the students enthusiasm and skills! Who needs a classroom when you can be in the corridor, with one desk and a blackboard?
Another great day in Salone and some very tired students...and teachers.
In order to allow Jack, Eliza and James Moore to go ahead of us to Murraydeen primary school to teach some brass there, I came to Ballanta from the TV interview. I arrived amongst a cacophony of musicians coming from every available space: nooks and crannies spring to mind. Nate downstairs teaching cello at beginners level, on the first floor, Quentin teaches piano in the library, Maddie, fresh from her interview dived straight in teaching voice techniques to 4 pupils, then upstairs, Lula teaches the flute to a beginner and Pip soldiers on despite the heat and no break teaching clarinet! It is inspiring to see our young minds inspiring others- all eager to be taught by them, waiting sometimes for 2 hours to get a chance!
I shall now let the heroes of the day, Molly and Maddie give their accounts! Over and out from me!
After a hot night of freetown-wide power cuts, we woke up to a tropical downpour. Everyone got ready to leave at the normal time while Maddie and Molly, your resident TV stars, had a bit of extra beauty sleep. The two of us went to the AYV (African Young Voices) TV studio for the interview on 'Wake up Sierra Leone'. We spent a few nervous minutes sitting in the waiting room with Auntie Kitty and Ms D, briefing us about how to promote the programme. We were led into the studio and sat getting miked-up while overhearing the intense political row on air before us. After they stormed off, we took our seats. Surprisingly, it went well, with Maddie performing a 'Mary Poppins' style rendition of Danny Boy, and Molly making all her answers up on the spot. In all seriousness, it was a great experience and the presenters were friendly and great at making it feel like a conversation. With our local mango juice, we braced ourselves for the cheering crowds to come. Apparently they got lost on their way, so we got a pat on the back from our cheering crowd of two. Only then did we get informed it was one of the most popular shows in Sierra Leone - thanks Ms D.
Auntie Kitty drove Molly first to JTR to run to her second lesson with Prep 6, meeting a very sweaty (but very happy) Indi there. Mr Bowen informed me that she had done amazingly on her own, and the kids seemed very happy with their activities. In the headteachers office, we foolishly decided it would be a good idea to brave the playground. We skipped down with a squeaky ball in hand, and were immediately swamped. With 10 kids per leg, and too many kids being trampled to get to the ball, we tried to get to know the students. Our crowd control skills would now be good enough to calm a riot, and we can report that no one got injured. After our last lesson, we got in the car to go to Ballanta, telling all our stories on the journey there. It was a great day and everyone said they really enjoyed it and felt they had relaxed into the teaching and had therefore delivered better lessons.
Meanwhile in the Ballanta Academy of Music, Maddie was hard at work teaching singing alongside various other musicians. With 6 singers waiting, it was difficult to figure out how to manage everyone. We try to give one on one lessons but sometimes the keenness of the students is overpowering so it turns into a sort of masterclass. Being right on the street, it does become a battle of 'who can play the loudest'. With James on drums, Eliza on trumpets and Quentin on piano, teaching singing isn't ideal but the passion the students show makes up for it. Nevertheless, from 930 until 1230, the time races by as we try to squeeze in as many lessons as possible. It's fair to say that whilst all of us are pretty high standards in our respective instruments, we have all learnt so much from all of our students, whether beginners or amateurs. So, after yet another successful day at the office, we all hopped on the 'Mussa Mobile' to the location of our next outreach concert.
The musicians played another short recital for the chattering children, which was received with cheering. After we all got up (even the tone-deaf non-musicians) and sang our token song Africa, the children performed a traditional dance with hula skirts and rhythmic drums. It showed us the routine that rice farmers when preparing rice. But basically, it was boys in hula skirts showing their 'derrières'. Still, very entertaining and very much appreciated by all of us. It didn't stop them from swarming us afterwards with little hands begging for our autographs. Feeling like the celebrities we all are, we obviously only charged them 1000 Leones each. We wished them luck and went on our merry way back to LACS for dinner, SHOWER then bed. Nighty night, don't let the bed bugs bite!
Eloquently scribed by Maddie & the Ranga (Molly)
Monday, 22 October 2018
We started the day by heading to the JTR, it was our first day and therefore we were all surprised by the kids and how they swarmed us. We taught the JSS (Junior Secondary School) classes which were sorted into ability and therefore the ages ranged from around 9-16. At lunch we headed to Balenta and were treated to a vegetable pastie which filled all but Toby's stomach. Finally we headed to the Blind School to perform an outreach concert which was well received, they then sang to us with some very impressive singing this surprised us all and touched our hearts.
The first day at the Ballanta Music Academy was one full of uncertainty for us musicians; having never seen the place before we were bound to be surprised. However, what surprised us more were the students! Their abilities ranged from complete beginners to intermediate players, and thankfully we found success in teaching them all.
After a quick lunch of vegetable pasties we headed off to the "Milton Margai School for the Blind" to perform an outreach concert. Maddie's rendition of Danny Boy was a hit with the crowd, in much contrast to the ensemble performance of Toto's Africa, for which we are thankful for the presence of a deaf school next door.
The school choir blew us away, their musicality and trust in the music shining through as they blasted a few oldies like "Tiptoe by the Window" as well as a traditional African song. It was an extremely moving experience that we will remember forever.
Some of us musicians went back to Ballanta for a rehearsal which included a funky Disco medley and a choir rehearsal for a Sierra Leone song titled "Woko u lol woko", and it was about a man who complains about someone who took his money and criticises him.
Today was full of unforgettable moments, and we are looking forward to the next few days.
Sunday, 21 October 2018
In the morning, we all managed to leave on time or just about to get to Tacugama, the Chimpanzee sanctuary in Sierra Leone...on our way, we were reminded of the fragility of the world we live in, with the still very obvious remains of the landslide from last August in the area of Regent, when hundreds lost their lives in seconds, God bless their souls. We arrived at feeding time, and some of the behaviour observed were not dissimilar to some of the behaviour that can be observed at break time in our own boarding houses- stealing food from each other, hitting each other to get to the food first and then running away with more than your share...at least according to the boarders on the trip!!!! Yes they were cute as buttons...until they decided to throw stones at you, as Molly and Toby discovered! The display of dominance in the social pen, and the teasing of the younger ones was also reminiscent of some of the things seen around the 'cage' and LG building in school... so in short, yes, Chimp share around 96% of their DNA with humans, and it shows!
Then, after a quick but very nice sandwich lunch at the accommodation, we waited, and waited...and waited some more for the buses to come and take us to Kitty's beach cottage in the village of BawBaw, on the Peninsula along the Atlantic Ocean, and below the Sierra Leone... the mountain Lion, which gave its name to the country.
We eventually arrived there around 3pm, and our students wasted no time in diving in the ocean. Of course, we played football - well, I watched our students play the Ballanta teachers/ students team, to break the ice... and then, never wasting an opportunity to practise- such commitment is to be applauded - our first team Cricket captain, Toby, led the way to a cricket encounter like no others. Musa, one of the BAM teachers, is a keen cricket player and had brought some plastic bats and other bits and pieces. Molly joined in as well! It was great to watch!
And after 3 hours or so, we made our way back to LACS, for a well deserved aubergine and rice stew, a bit of rehearsal for Sunday's concert at the church...and our first full on rain storm!
Another long and fulfilling day! Tomorrow, students will start taking turns in writing the blog... so over and out for now!
Saturday, 20 October 2018
Then, we had our first - and only- African buffet this lunchtime: a real treat for us all, with a selection of local food prepared in the accommodation's kitchens, and therefore totally safe! Fufu, a strange ball made of the fruit of the Cassava bush, fried plantain, beans and rice balls, black eye beans, potato and cassava (aka manioc, staple food in Africa) in oil, a variety of sauces, from mildly spiced to burning mouth hot, and of course rice! Some local deserts as well to finish off, made with sesame seeds, coconut shavings and nuts. Everything was absolutely delicious!
We then went across town once again, melting in the heat and the traffic, to go to the Don Bosco family orphanage, known as Fambul (the Krio word for family) Don Bosco. The orphanage is run by Father Jorge Crisafulli, originally from Argentina, who has spent nearly 30 years working in Africa. Last year, they rescued and re-homed numerous children left without homes after the Regent mudslide. This year, they are working with boys off the street (chucked by their families, runaways due to abuse etc...), girls from abusive backgrounds, and girls who were working as prostitutes, some as young as 9 years of age. A truly humbling experience to meet such children and the people who work with them, day in, day out. 4 of our musicians performed for them, Nate on the cello, Pip on the clarinet, Lula on the flute and Eliza on the trumpet, and allowed the children to have a go on the trumpet mouthpiece, or the cello... connections were established through music. Music IS truly a universal language. The children sang for us and talked of unity...and then we played the universal game of football of course. Football in Sierra Leone is what the Hakka is for the All Blacks- compulsory, intimidating and expected. Did they beat us- well, the boys drew 1-1 and the girls lost 1-0... but the score tells you nothing. It does not tell you about the energy everybody put into the game, the competition, the friendship, the heat, the sweat, the joy and the pride- the pride of a teacher who watches her students become ambassadors for international peace and friendship. They were great... and totally engaged with the young orphans, some their age, some a lot younger, but all with one thing in common: they all looked happy and they all great you with "I want to be your friend" and then hug you.
Father George and his team work hard to get those kids off the street and back in their family home, or with some family members and to provide them all with an education. He said today that he wants the girls especially to understand that the future is, and I quote, "not between their legs but in their education". They were thankful for our time and our donation of clothes, toys, games and money. We were just thankful to have been part of their lives for a few hours.
The buzz on the buses on our way back was electric... so here's to your children, who today, made you and me very proud.
Thank you for the music and for football ( for a rugby fan, this is a hard pill to swallow).
Over and out for tonight!
Friday, 19 October 2018
Saturday, 4 November 2017
lessons or to try another instrument. I really hope that some of them will be able to access
regular music tuition in the future. Thanks to the money that each WCS student raised towards bursaries, we know that at least ten will be able to this year. I could not have been more proud of our students, or impressed with the way that they adapted to whatever they encountered.
being the ritual swallowing of my malaria tablet in the morning.
very proud, as was Mr Coward, with how our musicians coped with this new challenge and I hope that this will help them in the future, with their own auditions and interviews.
idolisation by all JTR students, which was clearly visible on the last day just before our concert started- over 200 students from pre-prep to JSS3 joining in the hall in a mad, sweaty but heart-warming dance session with our students! I wish I had a picture, but I was so engrossed, I could not take any at the time!