Monthly Archives: November 2010


Situated precisely in the sunniest spot on Tribewanted’s land is our wonderful new wooden solar tower constructed of timber cut from the surrounding forest. After weeks of no electricity except that from our generator dubbed “Necessary Evil,” we have silent, sunny, clean power!   Laptops, cell phones and Ipods can be charged quietly in the solar hut- no noisy generator needed!  At night we have rope lights in the tree above our dining table, so no more head lamps to see our food.

the solar tower nearing completion

Mark Ax, of Sea Bright Solar based in New Jersey, has been our solar power specialist.   Not only did Mark and his team design and build the tower, he worked tirelessly for a month showing infinite amounts of patience instructing locals in the fundamentals of wiring and solar energy. Covered from head to toe with an awful rash from exposure to creosote, a wood preservative, Mark still managed to work full days to ensure the tribe would have power before his departure.

Mark and team measuring the solar panels
a lot to learn

Mark and I flew from Freetown to London together.  The day we were to leave, I recall a very funny conversation between Mark and one of the local men who was trying to install a switch for the lights over the trees, the last task to complete before we left.   It was obvious this man did not completely understand what a hot wire was. Mark, the ever-patient teacher watching over his shoulder, said out of genuine concern for this man’s future well-being, ” Do you want to die?”  The man stopped what he was doing and quietly mumbled, “no.”  Mark, not convinced that the consequences of making the wrong wire choice were completely understood, looked him in the eye and  asked with a little more urgency, “Do you want your heart to stop?”  Silence.  “Well do you?” Mark asked.   That seemed to get his attention and with a smile, he shook his head and said, “No, I don’t want to die.”  Mark said, “Well then, if you don’t want to die, then don’t touch this one.”  It seems his message got through and everyone is still alive and well at John Obey and enjoying electricity!

Mark gives the hot wire warning

Well done, Mark and team. Congratulations!


Want to experience something really special?  Close your eyes and imagine (after you read this, of course).  It’s warm, the sun is shining and you’re standing in the middle of a freshly turned garden.  The earth is alive underneath your feet.  Reach down and pick up a handful.  Smell the heaviness of decay in your hands.  Look closely at all of the beautiful bits of color and texture you’re holding.  Feel it’s warmth.  Feel its energy.  It’s truly a beautiful thing, isn’t it?  In a few months, this newly turned earth will bear fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs.  So many gifts from the Earth!

Issa- so proud of his work!

It seems such an effort for us city folk to keep nature in our lives.  Encased in concrete, brick and asphalt we’ve forgotten what nature smells like, tastes like, feels  like.  But at John Obey, it’s different.  The land provides everything and the people are closely tied to it.  Meals are seasonal and usually self-grown.  You won’t find a grocery store nearby that sells imported fruits and vegetables.  Nothing is packaged in a bag, plastic container or bound with green wire twists or rubber bands.  There’s earth on the food and it looks, feels and tastes really good.

The gardens in Sierra Leone are fairly simple in design and most are home or community plots.  But Tribewanted has something a bit more special that’s coming. Tucked back on a gentle slope just above the lagoon, we have a newly designed and executed mandala garden. Alejandro, Tribewanted’s resident permaculturist/architect, and his team carefully planned and constructed this new garden that is breathtaking even without the plants. Paths oriented north, south, east and west bisect the mandala.  Beds are elevated to provide the perfect height for roots to thrive in both the rainy and dry seasons.  It really is a thing of beauty and was no small feat for the team to complete.

design for the mandala

The beautiful mandala

Watching Ale and his team work was truly educational and entertaining.  I’ve never met someone who seems to breathe in nature and glow, but Ale truly does, and his team was the same.  Very much intoxicated with happiness and dirt. One afternoon, Alejandro offered to talk with the tribemembers about permaculture.  We learned that the practice/lifestyle is the sustainable use of the land through design.  Work is minimized through thoughtful design creating a system that integrates people harmoniously with the land.  Care for the Earth, care for its people and give back the excess, or exidence (Sorry, couldn’t resist- TW members will get that).  I’m excited to see the progress Ale and his team have made and to see the mandala come to life when I return in February.  I’ll make sure to include a photo so you can see, too.

It’s Ale’s birthday today.  Happy birthday, Ale!  May you always be blessed by Mother Earth for all that you give her and her people.

Mary, Felicia and Alejandro