Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sierra Leone

There is nothing comparable to the first steps out of a plane and being greeted by heat and humidity.
First trip for me to Sierra Leone, always special to go somewhere for the first time.

No touch policy. 
No gathering of people,
Everything is closed after 6 pm.

My trusted plunger broke. 
It might have been the best thing that happenned: Lacking cafeine, my brain started working, looking for solution to get access to the drug. It so happen that I have been watching MacGuyver when it was the hottest serie in the universe, and learned my lesson. I was building a cellphone with my knife and the beer I was sipping, in order to call my wife and have her send me a replacement plunger. Half way through the screen modulation, I realized that the diameter of the plunger and of the can were exactly the same. Bingo!  Did not have to build the phone.
Now I have another good excuse to drink beer. A cerveja in order to have coffee. Sounds good to me. 
And it truely is an amazing news: I don't have to stress no more about the fragile glass, to clean the   recipient etc. And coffee is tastier with a hint of hops.
On independence day (27th of april),  I went for a night in the forrest, a stone throw away from freetown. Tacugama is a chimpanzee sanctuary, fostering orphaned chimps and trying to get them to socialize and get prepared to go back in the wild.
Problem is that their natural habitat is disappearing. Deforestation is shocking, and in the remaining forrests there are poachers. So the future of the 90 odds apes might be bleak.

I guess I have to put a line or two about Ebola, since Sierra Leone unfortunatly is synonymous to the disease and everyone I met before/ there/ after going to SL is speaking about it. Yes, SL is much more than a virus, it has spectacular sceneries, amazing people and most stunning beaches. No, I did not catch it. Yes, it is still around.
It is one of the most gruesome disease: you catch it by close contact - by people you love and who love you- then, literally, you implose. If you get to an emergency treatment centre you'll be cared by people in astronaut suits and if you make it odds are that family members did not have your chance, and your friends and community will look at you warily. Not the best PR for the ministry of tourism. 
Today the epidemic is still not finished, more than 3000 people died from it, but the impact is yet to be felt. One Ebola year and the health system is on its knees, staff died, people don't trust health posts so attendance dropped for malaria, birth and every other issues, the economic development stalled, schools just resumed... people want it over and get back to normality.
The great thing about my line of work is that I get to meet admirable human beings. And many who left the comfort of their home and family to take the risk and respond to a very mortal disease. I got to meet fellow Zimbabweans, staks of kenyans, ethiopians, sudanese, congolese, europeans, americans... people from all over.  Among them, a lot of sierra leonians who migrated to flee the war, got a life, jobs and family in europe or the states and dropped everything to come back in SL to help. Always in the worst places, at the worst of time that you meet people carrying humanity with a smile.

Friday, April 17, 2015


I kinda missed posting this one.
Twala is a great place to go out for a pic-nic with kids, small orphaned animals (from squirrel to lions), a dam where to fish, and many friendly furry, scaly and feathery things roaming around, for the delight of the little ones. Great opportunity as well to follow some of them, outside bars. Gives a sense of wilderness. 
Tamed one do. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015


New job; induction time in Dun Loaghaire (to pronounce Don Leerie -don't ask, just say it like that), on the outskirds of Dublin. I had some hours to spend in the city, walking around and stopping for a pint or two. It's really a beautiful place and the people are very friendly. Got offered a couple of Guinness whilst sketching people at the counter. Good vibes.  
The city, the water, the buildings, the people, the beer, my kind of thing. 
I got to visit the Guinness storehouse and graduated as a perfect Guinness pourer. Haven't added that skill on my CV yet. I need to update it as soon as possible, one never know really what recruiters are after these days.

To top it up, my sister came to see me for 2 evenings, which is really cool since we don't meet too often, her living in Belgium and me in Harare.

What I do in airports.

I had the opportunity to travel earlier this month. The plane ride took me from Harare to Addis, to Rome, to Madrid, to Almeria and finally to Dublin. 
A long journey. 
A lots of movies and some sketching of people.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Working in Maputo with Handicap International

In February I had the opportunity to do the evaluation of one of Handicap International's project in Mozambique, about the inclusion of people with disabilities in the education system.
I got to spend some time with incredible people and hear their stories, hear their motivations, dreams.
People with disability are badly discriminated in Mozambique: lack of access, constant insults, they are made responsible for their disability, are frequently abused and often hidden and locked at home.
Handicap's team, with the government are changing that attitude.
They go door to door, chat with the people, give them motivation, strength and possibilities. Bring people to school or literacy classes, have access to welfare services, health care or counselling.
All the things that maybe are economically irrelevant, and certainly not priorities or profit making. They actually cost money. And are not sustainable as such. Economically.
But what a difference it makes in terms of happinness, of community building, of relationships and self esteem.
Best investment ever.
They make life better. And that is priceless.    

Lady Carlota, a childhood spend in an institution, now living with her toddler and another youth she met in the institution. He was probably not looking good enough for his family who preferred to dump him. She is his family now, he is hers. 
She is just amazing, a chatty smile full of good spirit and excellent fun. She introduced me to the people she met in her community, the people she is visiting and their families. She know each one, their stories, their dreams, their frustrations and joys. 
She is a beautiful great soul. 
I have met others like her, just could not sketch them, Maria, Bernardo, Esmeralda, David, Samito, Innocencia, etc. etc. 


A couple of sketches done in a literacy class. The teacher earns 20 usd/month (a fifth of the minimum wage). They are in charge of the shortfalls of the formal education system. In their class: the drop out kids, illiterate adults and people with disability (mental, sensorial and physical).

I am always amazed that in the worst situations, one always find the greatest bits of humanity. It is truely in the worst that one can experience and live beauty.
The people working with street kids, abused children, those who lost everything,... are amazing. They are showing so much hope, and really believe in the goodness of humankind, its capacity to do better, to expand boundaries and go beyond differences. I am blessed to meet so many of them with my job. You see nightmares made real, and meet the most beautiful people.

Colour Speke: the video!

That is what my wife is up to when she wakes up in the morning: she make things more beautiful than they were, challenge certainties, build bridges and transform places and their peoples.
The vid is mostly about the painting of the street. The project also build and set up benches, selective bins, solar lightings, photoluminescent glow paint and rehabilitated gardens, putting huge animal sculpture in which plants are growing.
If ever in Harare, go to town, see it for yourself.


Sunday, March 1, 2015


I was checking last month some of the portraits I did of the kids these last years and realized how much they have changed and grown. So had to do dem face dem again. 
On the other page, they wrote and drew things that they want to do this year, or that they like. I like having them participating in the books. My folks always made elaborate photoalbums keeping memories of our daily life the way a journal does. I don't really do photos. I feel that the thousands of digital pics made by cellphones, cameras, are staying hidden in a machine. I like to spend time opening something and having to tell a story, not just zapping. It is about the time spend drawing, the time spend opening and sharing. 
The kids love to draw on the pages of the sketchbook, and many are filled with their impressions of  the holidays, chameleons, dragons, hearts and I Love You graffittis. I love to have them in these pages, it makes it real.