The best career advice

A woman was asking a question in a facebook group of international development followers – she had been offered an (unpaid) UN internship, and due to a lucky situation with her scholarship, she could actually afford to do it. However, she heard it may look bad on her CV and she was worried that by doing that internship, she would miss out on other chances later or not land jobs.

I was stunned. It puzzled me so much, it stuck in my brain, and few days later I poured out all my thoughts to my boyfriend. How are we still living in a time where it matters more how something looks in your CV compared to how much you actually want to do this job because it is interesting and you are passionate about it? How are we still living in a world where even a six month or one year internship apparently can ‘spoil’ your CV – considering a forty-something-year-career? Where does this fear come from and how are we succumbing to it? Should it not matter most to do something you are really passionate about? And yes, maybe passion in the workplace is not for everybody – but at least do something that you are interested in? Also, we are talking about a job in international development. Am I asking too much if people should take those jobs out of interest or passion, and not because ‘it looks good on CV’?

The best career advice I have gotten was that the career will find you, if you keep doing what you are passionate about. I have been in a similar type role, working in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone for nearly six years now, and committed for another two years. Different directorates, different funders, always similar mission. Someone asked me recently if I am not bored. Again, I was puzzled by this question. This type of work is my passion, this is what fascinates me, day in and day out. Yes, some days are boring, but most days I learn new things, I understand a bit more, I see another piece of the puzzle, I try another fit, I fail spectacularly, I grasp another complex truth, I become more effective and better at what I do and achieve more.

Let me be honest – every now and then I also get caught up in the ‘CV worries’. People tell me I should leave, because “otherwise you will never get a job outside Sierra Leone”, they tell me I should not have left my senior management job because “people will think you were not good at it”, they tell me I need to get in with one of the big names (e.g. World Bank, WHO, Global Fund, Gavi, etc) now, otherwise “my CV won’t have weight”. But guess what I realized – people often give you advice and direction that validate their own choices as the right ones. And let me tell you another truth – our worklife is so long, we can easily fit several careers in there. I have worked for about 8 plus years now, and have at least another 35 years to go – see the dimensions?! One or two or three or even four more years in the same job won’t make any difference at all in the long run. Stop thinking so short term and take a deep breath.

We should all worry less about careers and more about passion in our jobs. And passion can be found in any job – when I was looking for a job for some work experience, none of my desired companies were interested in my application – I got rejected for two months with no positive replies. Finally, a company producing and selling flags hired me, so I went to sell flags. And yes, I became passionate about flag poles, flag designs, flag materials and customer service. You can have dedication in any job.

But anyway – I expect more from people in international development. I expect more passion, more dedication and less focus on a classical career as the main motivation.

My boyfriend patiently listened to me and then asked me why I didn’t give that lady this exact advice. A very valid point, so I went back to the facebook group and typed my answer. 26 people had replied before me and NONE OF THEM, not a single one!, had told her she should go for the internship if she is really interested in it. All 26 gave some answers relating to how it will make her CV look and how this will help her get into the next job or not, what else she should do to brush up her CV and so on. I closed facebook feeling a bit depressed with the (international development) world. We need to get better than this but until this happens, please – just keep doing what you are passionate about.

Insomnia musings: Why am I in Sierra Leone?

I just recently returned from holidays in Europe, and enjoyed the long and warm summer days, the abundance of fruits, vegetables, hot pressure showers and cool baths in beautifully clean lakes, the consistent availability of power, selections of cheese and yogurt. The majestic mountains you can climb on well prepared pathways, free of potential snakes and malaria-infested mosquitos, the always punctual trains that get you anywhere in no time and let you read your book in peace and quiet, while even providing functional toilets. The spontaneous gatherings with friends on Friday afternoons sitting in the sun at the river, enjoying a wide selection of cocktails and planning the weekends, full of family and friends who have known you for ages and where you feel home, and happy. The endless sale sections, with beautiful catches and super tempting bargains, providing whatever the heart desires. The closeness of Europe, where you can travel to any major city in few hours from Switzerland, being inspired by the French laissez faire on one day, and enjoying hearty Austrian sausages the next day while watching the Alps eternally beautiful horizon.

I still get homesick whenever I see mountains in the distance – I realised that it is not the mountain itself that makes me homesick, but seeing them from afar, as this is how I grew up – seeing the outline of mountains behind every corner and from every hill.

It was all of the above that made me send a question to my trilateral friends back in Salone – Why am I in Sierra Leone? Remind me again. Life is so easy and beautiful in Europe. And I understand I only see it when I am on vacation, but surprisesurprise – I have lived and worked there before, for the majority of my life, actually.

My smart and wise friend answered, half as a question and half as a statement – “You know the answer to that.

And I do. It is more a gut feeling, than a rational answer. And that gut feeling is passionate enough to draw me back to Salone and keep me here, through good times and bad times. I am on a mission. I am living out my biggest passion, and I am privileged to be able to do so.

Make the world a more equal place, a more just place and a place where people have opportunities.

I studied the theory, I tasted what the classical path to a nice life would feel like in Switzerland, and I left, to find a place where I feel alive. And aye, have I felt alive, have I felt despair, excitement and sadness, heartbreak and jubilation, a whole rollercoaster of emotions.

One of my greatest strengths and weakness at the same time is that my memory blanks out negative experiences – I remember good things much more and better than bad things, to a point where my friend had to remind me that I was burgled twice, robbed twice, as well as sexually assaulted, when I told someone else that nothing has ever happened to me in Sierra Leone. I honestly meant my statement and it only dawned on me after she reminded me, that actually quite a few things have happened to me.

I have no regrets – and not just because I never liked the sentiment of regret, as I find it pointless – you can’t change what happened, just live with it. I have no regrets because I feel alive, with every fibre of my body and inch of my brain. Admittedly, sometimes I am tired, or suffer from insomnia (like now) but generally Salone makes me use all my senses, all my talents and all my risk-appetite, a very satisfying feeling.

My passion is that others can experience this thrilling feeling of existence too – whatever this entails for you. I am thankful for Mama Salone, for making me feel alive, and I am thrilled to be working towards making others feel alive too.

Living in Sierra Leone made me an angry woman

Sierra Leone is currently experiencing such a water shortage, that the human rights commission issued a worrying statement, saying that especially the capital Freetown is lacking water, largely unexplained and beyond the usual seasonal fluctuations. Fetching water from one of the community taps is usually task for the young children, who now have to get up as early as 4am to find a running tap or stay up late at night, roaming the streets for water. They are exposed to all manner of risks: drunkards, rape, injuries. At the same time, one of my international friends just excitedly announced that her swimming pool is up and running now. Disparities like this are part of everyday life in Africa, and they are difficult to digest, making ignorance a blissful alternative.

Or when the mid-level manager of a big UN agency, who regularly boasts of its humanity and printing posters of big-eyed black children receiving another dose of life-saving vaccination or food ratio, when that mid-level manager writes you in an email that you should really not put too much effort into this evaluation, as “in Sierra Leone, we don’t aim for perfection” and whatever effort you put in is “enough for this country”, after that manager has been in country for four months. A story, that the big-eyed black child on the poster could tell anyone who comes back after the intensive photo session, that actually there is no vaccination left at the clinic or the supposedly free food is sold on the market, because “in Sierra Leone, we don’t aim for perfection”. Sierra Leone should be more selective in what kind of people they allow to work on key development policies and programs, in the interest of their people.

Over dinner table with lots of food and wine, everyone complains about the inefficiencies and corruption within the UN system, a system that is immune of all national laws and can therefore not be audited. Money to the UN agencies is handed out based on political motives, not on performance, such as to give donors a bigger say in the UN. But yet, after dinner, we all gladly call our office sponsored drivers in white shiny SUV cars and let our alcohol-infused self be driven back home to our AC-powered bedroom. The next morning, in the office of our well-equipped NGO, we discuss again how to save Sierra Leone, having no idea how 90% of Sierra Leoneans actually live, because we remain in our little bubble, not willing to open our eyes and let go of white neo-colonialist privileges.

And in our nicely cooled down white shiny cars, we drive along nicely paved roads that were not built with our tax money, because internationals do not have to pay taxes here. We enjoy the roads, the best (even if still patchy) electricity supply of the country, pools filled with water from the public water company, but don’t feel like we should be paying for these public services. At the same time we rant about how government seems incapable to finance even basic social services, but we are not willing to contribute our own money to rebuild it. “Ah, they are too corrupt, you can’t give them any money”, is the standard excuse, turning a blind eye to the industrial corruption that is happening in the development world, where aid money is channeled through massively overpriced consultancies back to where it came from. Nobody questions an evaluation report about a big system change introduced by government that took the Western evaluator nearly two years to complete, who flew in and out of the country regularly, apart from the Ebola time, when it apparently was too dangerous to stay in luxury hotels and analyse data. Nobody questions the price tag of that lengthy analysis of secondary data, where everyone knows the quality thereof is questionable and primary data collection would have resulted in much more defined answers. Nobody questions that the outcome is a report where every page costs 3000 pounds and nobody in government is going to read it, even if they probably should. However interesting the findings are, does it justify the costs?

We also happily turn a blind eye to the privileges given to international staff because of “security reasons” or because “otherwise we wouldn’t be able to find good people”. Do we really want people to come and work in development who are primarily attracted by the prospect of an AC house with 24 hours electricity, a salary high enough to pay back the mortgage of a house in a year and a car with driver, sending back all the aid money he is living on to his international bank account? Or do we want to attract people who are willing to integrate into local communities, live like the ordinary middle-class Sierra Leonean with regular blackouts, the occasional water shortage, the joys of public transport and actually sharing the aid money that is financing all of that with its intended beneficiaries? I think the answer is a no brainer. Only if we live by example, we can claim to take part in the development process of this country. Actions speak louder than words, which is probably why the common man and woman on the street mainly associates NGOs in Sierra Leone with fancy cars, highly paid expats who are enjoying their weekends on the beach and the locals chance to get some job experience, even if only as support staff.

Their frustration for NGOs and the UN is only topped by frustration about the government. Understandably, when all they see government doing is putting flower pots in the middle of the street and installing traffic light signals, while the majority of them don’t have electricity, nor water, their housing is too crowded and not rain proof and there are no jobs. It explains what made one of my okada motorbike riders recently stop when he saw some government workers replenishing the flower pots, and shout at them that they are “pwel we moni”, misspending their (tax) money. I felt sorry and angry both for him and for the probably very low-level government workers, who were just doing their job. The people who took the decision, the people in power, hide in tainted glass vehicles with shaded number plates, they hide in their mansions on top of the hills of Freetown, or they hide in their relatives’ houses overseas, visiting their kids who go to school there. There should be a law that Minister’s children need to go to public schools and government officials have to use public health facilities – both would probably  improve in no time. The incentives that are set now are wrong and not encouraging progress.

Angri man nor get voice, angri man nor get choice. Emmerson, the Sierra Leonean social justice artist, sings about the fact that the man and woman on the street have no voice, because they either are not listened too or they are too scared to speak out. The song has become such a hit because it does exactly that: it gives a voice to the people, who sing along the song in the taxis, the cars, the streets. That also counts for me; I am an activist by nature, I want to move things, I want to change things, I want to be involved in politics and policy making, in moving and shaking. One of the statements that made me the most angry in the recent weeks, is when a Sierra Leonean man told me “you are not allowed to discuss politics, as you are not African”. How can I be silent, if I see the injustice staring at me everyday, either out of white shiny cars, or from the new traffic light, or from the neighbours’ house? How can anyone be silent and just ignore the water shortage, the power cuts, the housing and education problem, and keep swimming in the private pool?

My anger about the development sector is only topped by my anger about the Sierra Leonean police regulating traffic in the roundabout, stopping one lane, to let the other one pass for a while and vice versa. Don’t they know that roundabouts were built to be SELF-REGULATING and what they are doing is causing massive traffic jams?! Africa really made me a very angry woman. What gives me hope is that the best civil society movements started out of anger: anger about the treatment of blacks in the US, spurring women like Rosa Parks into action, anger about the prolonged detention of Nelson Mandela in South Africa was the beginning of the end of Apartheid, anger about the insufficiencies of the communist state of East Germany led into the falling of the wall. As long as there is anger, there is hope for movement and change, as soon as ignorance sets in, a blindness about injustice, the only hope remaining then is judgement day. Which also makes it very understandable that religion is opium for the people, keeping them calm and praising God for life, when what is needed is Sodom and Gomorrah. Sierra Leone is a very religious country, probably at least partly accounting for its peaceful and very friendly people. However, I also think it is part of the reason why civil society’s voice in politics is very quiet and a real quest for change missing. If all focus is put on life after death, heaven on earth becomes unnecessary. Which, again, makes me angry. We should never get to a point where we accept blatant injustice in front of our eyes. Never. Sierra Leone deserves better leaders, better international institutions and it also deserves, that I will be able to turn my anger into action, and not just ranting about it. I expect you to hold me to account for that!

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…di sun hot…

Street stories from the Lion Mountains

Life in Sierra Leone happens on the street, and you will never feel lonely outside. I love the buzzing, the chitchatting, the smells of smoke, fuel, food, sweat and perfume all mixed up, and the random pickup lines you hear (some of my recent favourites: “Today is International Women’s Day, I need an international date. Can I take you out?” or “I like you. You like me. Let’s go out.” or “Can I have your number? Don’t worry, I am diaspora Sierra Leonean, I will not bother you much.” or “You enjoy life too much, you need to start sharing that enjoyment. I am ready to enjoy with you, baby.”). I recently started collecting short movies of street scenes, as I think streets give you the best impression of life here in Salone – and there is so much great people watching to do! Here are some written stories.
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Life happens on the street – downtown Freetown

As you might be aware, I enjoy celebrating birthdays (remember story email no 11…), preferably different every year. This time the theme was “on the STREETS” and we started with a sunset drink on the STREET at the beach, went on to have dinner in a Senegalese STREET restaurant, where the space was too small to fit us all, we shared chairs and I ended up standing half on the STREET to give my birthday speech. We then went on to the trade fair which was happening on the STREET around the national stadium. To enter, you buy a ticket, which is then again taken away from you two meters ahead, ripped apart and thrown on the ground. Why even bother printing those tickets, if their lifetime is about 1 minute before ending up on the STREET?! But you can imagine, it was fitting for my birthday theme ;).

THANK YOU JESUS – for nice roads?!

Since I still do not have my car back from my mechanic who had an accident with it (a different story that fills a whole email in itself), I keep using Okadas, motorbikes, imported from India, produced as cheaply as possible so that it is affordable in developing countries, but that also means that breaks fail regularly, gears sometimes get stuck and mirrors get lost all the time. Before my okada rider goes down a hill, I normally ask about their breaks quickly, just to be sure, because it has happened before that the breaks were actually broken. A very nerve-racking experience, going down hill with broken breaks.
My personal bike rider is called Kapry, he is the vice-chairman of the local okada bike rider association and he is very content with his life, which is a nice change to the usual “ah this is bad in my life and this is not working andandand”. He also is the man who never smiles, not even when I ask him to: “why should I smile, you don’t think I look fine without smiling?”. Kapry is THE one most punctual Sierra Leonean I have met, he would call me if I am 30 seconds late and he insists on doing phone-time-checks, making sure our phones show the same time, so that we both are on time for pickups. I have got a really bad reputation with him for being notoriously late, making me feel more African than he is.
On our last bike ride, he told me about his oldest brother, who went missing two weeks ago. He just left the house “quickly” and never came back, leaving his wife and two children in total agony about his whereabouts. Kapry has checked all police stations and hospitals in the area and spent yesterday at the mortuary, looking at dead bodies for hours. He shouts over to me all this information through his helmet and through my helmet, while speeding on through evening traffic, making us nearly hit a breadseller on the street, cruising on the pedestrian way around a big truck blocking the road, telling me about how his brother’s wife is having mental issues now and how he is ready to give up on his brother, just keep on living. Life is happening and being processed on the street, the good side of life and the bad one.
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Kapry on his okada – motorbike

And I know that the streets in your countries are much more likely to be rather empty, so you might enjoy this insight.

When it is not possible to be ready to die

“People die here everyday, randomly and without good explanations.” I say this sentence in every longer conversation I have about Sierra Leone. It was always something very much matter of fact to me, just another statistic that I have saved in my head among the other key health indicators: maternal mortality 1165 per 100,000 live births, infant mortality 92 out of 1000, average life expectancy 48 years, GDP per capita 1500 USD per year, poverty rate 52%, 35% of pregnant women are teenagers, literacy rate among women 25%, ranking in the human development index: among the last 10 countries in this world. I am so used to these statistics, it doesn’t really move anything anymore in my mind, just some thoughts on how they were measured and if the right statistical approach was used. They are all screaming out that something is terribly wrong in Sierra Leone, that life years are wasted, families regularly hit with disaster and confronted with sickness and death.

I was never someone who was moved a lot by death. For me, the time of my and every one else’s death does not lay in our hands and is out of our control. I believe that we have a life after death and that death is just another milestone in this universal existence. In highschool, the best essay I wrote was titled “The aim of life is to be ready to die” and I lived according to it. The aim of life is to be ready to die. When it was someone’s time to reach that milestone, I normally thought that it was more or less justified and that life for us continues. Grandparents die after a long life, last stage cancer patients die after long treatment, only in rare cases are there exceptional deaths. My grandfather is receiving palliative care after few years of heavy medical interventions that kept him alive, including a bypass heart surgery ten years ago. His body has long been ready to die, but modern medicine wasn’t allowing this, giving his soul time to reach the point where he is ready to die. You do not get that time in Sierra Leone. There is no modern medicine, there is no working health system with heavy medical interventions and bypass heart surgery. You can be lucky if the clinic you are consulting with your pains has a qualified nurse who happens to be around and some painkillers in the shelf who are not expired or stocks just happened to have run out.

I was never someone who was moved a lot by death. I realised that people attend funerals regularly here in Sierra Leone, I realised that people tend to die younger than what I know from Switzerland. However, when one of the uncles of my closest friend died of Ebola or when the father of my night guard suddenly had to be rushed to hospital, dying of unknown causes and making my strong young guard crying out loud, I didn’t feel a lot. I didn’t feel a lot when the father of one of my best friends here died and avoided going to the funeral (it was Ebola times, after all, is what I told myself). I didn’t feel a lot when people kept commenting on the fact how lucky I was to still have both of my parents alive (why should they be dead, they are only in their fifties anyway?!). I just had my wake up call, literally. I woke up at 4am this morning to a text message from Kapry, saying that his sister in law has passed away. She was the wife of Lansana, whom I know well, the mother of an 18 month old girl who likes to dance to Nigerian music and she was my age. She was not ready to die and she shouldn’t have. Sierra Leone let her down and Sierra Leone also let the other 3500 women down who died during the last year in childbirth of preventable causes. Sierra Leone also let the 25,000 children down who die every year before they reach their 5th birthday. We let the 4000 people down who died because of Ebola, but a similar epidemic (even worse – as it is endemic) is happening in Sierra Leone in the front of all our eyes, written in all statistics. People are dying here all the time, randomly and without good explanations. And they are not given the time to be ready to die, they have not lived their life to the fullest of their possibilities, they have not had time to accept their fatal illness or had time to note down how they would like their funeral to happen. Sometimes, it is not possible to be ready to die – and it is up to us to change that, for everyone, especially in Sierra Leone.

I apologise for my ignorance so far. I apologise that it took me two years of living here to be shocked at a message of death. I apologise to all Sierra Leoneans and Africans for not giving you the time to be ready to die. Rest in peace, Madame Marie Kabbah, and thank you for waking me up from my ignorance. Let us hope and pray that your daughter will reach her 5th birthday and live way beyond that, enough long to be ready to follow you to where you are now.

Wachet auf, freie Schweizer, wachet auf!

Liebe Schweizerinnen und Schweizer,

Ein Leben ohne Leidenschaft ist nur eine leere Huelle. 

In meinen Ferien in der Schweiz wurde meine Leidenschaft fuer die Schweizer Politik wieder geweckt – wir leben in so einer spannenden Zeit, wo Aengste ueberhand nehmen, elitaere Gruppierungen brainwashing machen und die Komplexitaet der Probleme dazu fuehrt, dass viele Personen einfach sich ausklinken aus den Diskussionen und aus dem Leben. Das Leben ist um einiges einfacher und ueberschaubarer wenn ich mich nur um das Ablaufdatum der Milch im Kuehlschrank kuemmern muss und nicht um die Asylanten im naechsten Dorf. Aber wart mal – lass mich das nochmals formulieren: Das Leben ist um einiges einfacher und ueberschaubarer wenn ich mich nur um das Ablaufdatum der Milch im Kuehlschrank kuemmern muss und nicht um die Mitmenschen im naechsten Dorf.

Got it? Geschnallt? Wer hat sich ausgesucht, in der Schweiz geboren zu werden? Wer hat Sierra Leone gewaehlt? Wer Syrien?  Ich zumindest habe nicht gewaehlt – ich wurde einfach so privilegiert, weil ich im 1988 am ersten Schneetag im Jahr im Aargau geboren wurde. Wir haben ein Geburtsprivileg, dass uns dazu befaehigt, anderen weiter zu geben und zu teilen. Die Schweiz bietet uns politische Mitspracherechte, die absolut aussergewoehnlich sind. Wir schulden es unseren Mitmenschen in Syrien, Lybien und Tschad, dieses Recht wahr zu nehmen und die Schweiz verantwortungsvoll mitzufuehren. Lass uns eine offene und warmherzige Schweiz sein, die weniger privilegierte Menschen aufnimmt und von unserem Grundschatz abgibt. Wir wollen mehr sein als einfach nur ein reiches Land, wir wollen reich sein an Mitgefuehl, Grosszuegigkeit und Akzeptanz. Wir wollen eine Schweiz, die wach ist und am Geschehen der Welt mitfuehlt und Teil der Loesung ist. Wir wollen eine Schweiz sein, die sich auf ihre humanitaeren Wurzeln stuetzt, die Arme ernaehrt, die Waisen schuetzt und Obdachlose aufnimmt.

Wir wollen freie Schweizer sein: frei von Vorurteilen, frei von Fremdenhass, frei von Aengstemachern. Wachet auf, freie Schweizer, wachet auf!

Das ist meine Leidenschaft. Was ist deine?


Dark-stories from the Lion Mountains | Dunkle Geschichten von den Löwenbergen

“Dunkle-Geschichten von den Löwenbergen” – Geschichten-Email Nummer 14 von Freetown, Sierra Leone. Einfach kurz melden, falls du diese Geschichten lieber nicht mehr hören möchtest!

 “Dark-stories from the Lion Mountains” – story email number 14 from Freetown, Sierra Leone. Just drop me a line, if you’d rather not receive these emails anymore.

Meine lieben,
Mes chères,
My last two months of my time with the Ministry are ahead – happily enough not my last two months in Sierra Leone! Time for another story email.
Meine letzten zwei Monate als Angestellte der Regierung stehen vor mir – glücklicherweise bleibe ich noch etwas länger in Sierra Leone! Zeit für ein paar Geschichten.

Some of my darkest days I experienced at the Ministry. It is the days when you feel like everyone just wants to make money, GREED is like the general slogan of the Ministry and obviously it is these days that the internet is not working and there is no electricity. The last fact turned into a game for me: as soon as electricity goes, I set myself a time – if we do not have power by the end of that set time, I am allowed to go and treat myself to Frozen Yogurt in Gina’s, a lovely coffee place. Obviously, the main reason is to get electricity and internet again… 😉 Strategies to survive working in the Ministry!

Meine schlimmsten Tage habe ich normalerweise im Gesundheitsministerium. Es sind die Tage, wo ich das Gefühl habe, alles und jeder dreht sich nur ums Geld, GIER ist das Motto des Ministeriums und natürlich haben wir immer dann auch kein Internet und keinen Strom. Letzteres habe ich mittlerweile in ein Spiel entwickelt: sobald der Strom ausgeht, setze ich eine Deadline. Wenn bis dann der Strom noch nicht zurück ist, erlaub ich mir in ein nettes Café Eis essen gehen. So wird auch der Stromausfall zum Höhepunkt!

We were in the office the other day when I complained about Europeans and how they come in and think everything just works how it works in Europe. These consultants or visitors or Ebola-workers or whoever also think that I as a white work like a European, even though I work with all Africans in a completely African organisation (you can’t get more national then Government, I suppose). Anyway – I realised after a bit that I am complaining about myself in a way and the Western attitude of “we know it all a bit better than Africans” when I announced that I should probably stop ranting as I am one of those Westerners. My colleague said “no, no, you are one of us: you are black in heart. You are not a real white woman, you are more black.” Do hearts have colours?

Ich habe mich letzthin im Büro aufgeregt über Europäer, die als Kurzzeit Berater nach Sierra Leone kommen und denken, alles sollte so funktionieren wie in Europa. Diese Berater haben dann auch den Eindruck, ich als Europäerin bin ihre beste Bezugsperson und arbeite wie in Europa, jedoch vergessen sie dass ich in einem kompletten afrikanischen Umfeld und System arbeite. Man kann wahrscheinlich nicht sierra leonischer sein als die Regierung! Die Erwartungen klaffen also oft auseinander und die Haltung “Wir wissen es einfach etwas besser als die Afrikaner” nervt mich teilweise. Wie auch immer – nachdem ich mich beschwere bei meinen Teamkollegen, realisiere ich auf einmal dass ich ja auch so eine Europäerin bin. Meine Teamkollegen meinen darauf: “Nein, Naomi, du bist eine von uns, du bist keine richtige Weisse. Dein Herz ist schwarz.” Hat ein Herz eine Farbe?

I like whistling. And I do it a lot, also when I am not aware of it. Back in Europe, nobody would ever comment on it. Here, I was surprised to get comments regularly like “oh, so you like whistling?” or “oh Naomi, you know how to whistle!” etc. I was slightly surprised, but didn’t think more. One day, a Sierra Leonean told me about devils and what they believe about them. He said, that there is a devil called “Rouffi” who comes around your house whistling – hence why nobody should be whistling, or they think you are a devil. Wow, what a revelation! Whistling made me a devil here.

Ich pfeife gerne und oft. Teilweise auch, wenn ich es nicht einmal selbst bemerke. Das wäre nichts auffälliges in Europa – hier jedoch bemerkt das jeder und jede und fragt mich, ob ich gerne pfeiffe oder kommentiert meine Pfeiff-fähigkeiten (die nicht übel sind ;)). Ich war etwas überascht, als ich erfuhr, dass es ein Teufel hier gibt, den man Rouffi nennt. Rouffi kommt zu dir mit einem Pfeiffen – darum sollte/darf niemand pfeiffen. Die denken, ich bin ein Teufel!

What are the worst comments a woman can get in our culture? Whenever I get back from holidays, I normally get a bright smiling “Welcome back, Naomi! You are FAT! You look beautiful!” straight in my face. The “you look FAT” part of that statement normally gets stuck more and is the best motivation to keep my rigorous “after-holiday” diet. This however was not appreciated by my colleagues who started force-feeding me after telling me: “you are on a diet? But why? You have nothing to lose!” They realised after a while that I kept giving all the food they brought me to our office runners and security guards. Their newest statement is that “Naomi is a very poor eater”. If they would have any idea of how much ice cream I can eat…

Was ist der schlimmste Kommentar, den eine Frau erhalten kann? Immer wenn ich von Reisen zurück komme, erhalte ich ein lachendes “Willkommen zurück, Naomi! Du bist DICK! Du siehst wunderschön aus!”. Den “du bist dick” teil des Kommentars bleibt mir normalerweise besser in Erinnerung und ist die beste Motivation für eine strikte nach-Ferien-Diät! 😉
Das wiederum wird von meinen Arbeitskollegen nicht gerne gesehen. Die zwangsfüttern mich dann mit dem Kommentar “Du bist auf Diät? Aber wieso? Du hast nichts an dir abzunehmen…” Ich hab mich dann ein paar Mal erfolgreich gegen die Zwangsfütterung gewehrt und der neuste Kommentar ist nun “Naomi ist eine sehr schwache Esserin”. Wenn die nur wüssten, wie viel Glace ich essen kann…

You see: not all dark stories are dark in Sierra Leone. No wonder, the sun is shining way too often for things to be dark. Even though they get darker now: rainy season is here! Which for me means, I am not swimming in the sea or the pool anymore and I walk around in a sweater – with outside temperatures of “mild” 28 degrees Celsius and down to 25 (!) degrees at night! It is way too cold and I keep telling people it is winter. I think my body finally started adapting to the climate here…

Ihr seht: nicht alle dunklen Geschichten sind wirklich so dunkel in Sierra Leone. Kein Wunder, die Sonne scheint viel zu oft! Auch wenn momentan die Tage etwas dunkler werden: die Regenzeit erreicht bald ihren Höhepunkt. Das bedeutet, dass ich nicht mehr schwimmen gehe und einen Pullover trage – Temperaturen sind tagsüber um die 28 Grad tief und nachts bis zu 25 Grad! Es ist viel zu kalt und alle stimmen mit mir überein, wenn ich sage “es ist Winter”. Ich glaube, mein Körper hat sich langsam an Sierra Leone gewöhnt… Regentage

Ich wünsche euch einen wunderschönen Sommer und viele schöne dunkle Geschichten,
I wish you a lovely summer and many happy dark stories,