Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Monday 31st October

After an eventful weekend with the chimps and at the beach, we were all very tired this morning as we got back into the routine of going to Ballanta and JTR.

The JTR team, with the additions of Esther and Lizzie, were happy to be back after the weekend away. Although the kids were officially on school mid-term break, many had come back in to take part in our activities. Sarah and Lizzie attempted to cajole a group of nursery kids to draw fireworks (by flicking paint using toothbrushes- needless to say it got a bit messy!). Although eventually we got the idea across, many seemed to lack the confidence to go ahead with their own ideas whilst under the watchful eye of their fierce teacher! Ebs, Esther and Hattie began the morning with some drama with the kids pretending to be different animals which got very noisy! Polly and Freya braved the scorching sun to teach some kids rounders which went down very well - an enthusiastic teacher now wants to continue it as a sport at the school which is great. After a quick lunch break (luckily the nut-lady turned up to provide us all with delicious peanuts) we all headed off to teach some singing or dance.  Sarah and Lizzie were delighted when the kids performed to us the song we had taught them last week, and even more happy to learn an African song (slightly more complicated to pronounce than 'he's got the whole wide world in his hands' which we sang to them in return!). Meanwhile Ebs, Freya and Polly sweated it out trying to teach the kids dance and despite the children's dwindling concentration all three were impressed that they all remembered the dance. After we had all finished for the day we quickly headed to meet the Cloth-man in the market where some of us were buying material to make some authentic Sierra Leonean skirts, before heading to the inside market for some shopping!

Meanwhile, the Ballanta crew started off the day with a full choir rehearsal for tomorrow's concert in the British High Commission. The three songs include the Sierra Leonean national anthem. Later on in the day, we decided to have an ad hocrehearsal in transit between venues. However, Mr Meally banned the singing of their national anthem incase our 'interpretation' angered any of the passing locals. Better to be safe than sorry!

It was great to welcome Mrs Cairncross into some of our lessons today. Emilia, one of my students, sang several of the songs that will go on her new album – Mrs C warmly received them. They are Emilia's original compositions, and I look forward to 'Mama Africa' and 'Funky Girls' being in the charts soon. Not that I pay any attention to the charts.

After the normal busy teaching day, almost our last, we headed to the Milton Margai Memorial School for the Blind to give a lunchtime concert to the 70 students and staff. We arrived unscathed (unusual for a vehicle journey it seems of late!), although the 'mystery of the missing muffin' was born and hasn't been solved to this day. We were greeted by the very kind Headmaster, Albert, who introduced us to some of his staff and pupils, giving us a brief history of the school. They have a marvellous choir that performed to us today; they have toured to Britain twice in the last ten years, performing in venues such as Westminster Abbey. (Come on Chapel Choir!) We performed a mixture of our jazz and classical repertoire, once again finishing with 'Lean on me' – ever popular, ever fun!

Once the concert was finished, we headed to the Big Market by Freetown's Cathedral. After being warned of what to expect, we set foot inside a large warehouse, of two levels. As soon as we walked in we were immersed into the Sierra Leonean market spiel; rather scary, and very intense. "Hello friend", "you're my friend" and therefore "for you, a special price". I thought I did quite well at the whole bartering thing, but George deserves the infamous 'Bartering King' crown; he helped me get a mask I wanted down from SL200,000 to SL90,000. Bargain! Drums, trousers, fabric and dresses were all on the menu. Everyone came away with something, although some of us have severely depleted funds for tomorrow's market. To the Yates bank account!

Before the evening's Organ Recital we were all treated to tea at a restaurant owned by a teacher at the Ballanta. Then, we all went to the Cathedral to enjoy a great Organ Recital by some of the students at the Ballanta and by 'Guest Performer Owain Parkof Wells Cathedral'. Although the organ may not have been quite what Owain was used to at Wells, it was a brilliant programme, containing works from Vierne to Widor and even a piece by Owain himself! It was also great to hear some of theBallanta students that Owain had been teaching too.

After we got back to IMATT we all headed to Sloane Square for some chips and achillax. Getting back to the Swamp, George was most displeased to discover that his attempt to get domesticated by putting his clothes on to wash was in vain as he had put them in the dryer and so now was left with some very hot clothes covered in washing powder! Now, everyone is about ready to head off to bed in preparation for our final full day tomorrow (L). Well… that is everyone apart from Owain, Henry and George who are insisting on playing their rendition of 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday' with the accompaniment of African Drums (Owain's market buy), Shaker (Henry's market buy), automated beats they've discovered on our electric piano and of course their lovely voices (thanks Lizzie)…