After 8 years of living the hipster lifestyle in what I've come to think of as the center of the universe, New York City, and working in various media and for various social causes, I have decided to leave the slickness, irony, and most of my accessories behind.

Joining with an upstart NGO based in Canada that specializes in child development through sport and play, I have accepted a position in Freetown, Sierra Leone for one year.

Along the way I will meet interesting characters looking for some love and understanding (see Personals), I will come across some wise folk who can help you out with your troubles (see Advice and feel free to write in), and I will probably meet some people who are a bit confused about the Western world and could benefit from your help (see Questions for Americans). Don't hesitate to consult the Krio-to-English dictionary when you need some help with the local lingua franca.

I hope you enjoy this site as much as I'm bound to enjoy my journey into what the UN has deemed "the worst country on earth." It's going to be a wild ride.

- Vanessa Wruble, Febuary 8, 2004


From the U.S. Department of State:

Sierra Leone is a developing country in western Africa that is emerging from a ten-year civil war. English is the official language, but Krio, an English-based dialect, is widely used. Tourist facilities in the capital, Freetown, are limited; elsewhere, they are primitive or non-existent.The airport is located across a large body of water from Freetown. Helicopters and ferries are available in connection with most major regional flights to transport passengers to the capital. However, due to concerns about safety and maintenance of the helicopters, United States Government employees are currently authorized to use only the Pan African Helicopter Service and the ferry service.

Security in Sierra Leone has improved significantly in the past year. The nationwide state of emergency and curfew have been lifted. In January 2002, disarmament by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Civil Defense Force (CDF) was declared complete. Government forces have deployed around the country, including into areas previously held by the RUF, and the behavior of both the police and army has improved markedly following extensive international training efforts. However, government forces do not yet exercise complete authority. A large contingent of peacekeepers of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) assists the government in providing security. Peaceful, successful, nationwide elections were held in May 2002.

Medical facilities fall critically short of U.S. standards. Persons with medical conditions that may require treatment or medications are discouraged from traveling to Sierra Leone. Medicines are in short supply, sterility of equipment is questionable, and treatment is unreliable. Many primary health care workers, especially in rural areas, lack professional training. Instances of misdiagnosis, improper treatment and administration of improper drugs have been reported.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance:Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance:Poor

Sierra Leone is effectively a cash-only economy. Very few facilities accept credit cards, and there is a serious risk that using a card will lead to the number being stolen for use in fraudulent transactions. There are no ATM machines connected to international networks. Travelers checks are not easy to cash and are not usually accepted as payment. Currency exchanges should be handled through a bank or established foreign exchange bureau. Exchanging money with street vendors is risky. Criminals may "mark" such people for future attack and there is a risk of being provided counterfeit currency.


I have been, in the eight years since I graduated college, a documentary filmmaker, a student of interactive media and social networks, a world traveler, a producer at a think tank, an events organizer, a social activist, a freelance writer, a Burning Man arts festival enthusiast, and an artist.

You can contact me via email at vanessa@vanessawithoutborders.com.


How does one get in contact with someone in Sierra Leone?

Sadly, there is no mail. You will have to contact Vanessa via e-mail, which she will read when the electricity is on and the phone lines are working.



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