Tag Archives: Hooman Fazly


Witchcraft is deeply embedded in Sierra Leonean spiritual traditions.  Rituals often include a devil dancer who pays homage to those who have passed on. Ancestors are thought to be able to intervene, advise, help, or punish enemies.  Not only do some believe the deceased may return as harmful spirits, they even believe a witch or sorcerer has the power to transform the living into animals or inanimate objects.

John Obey is filled with a supernatural vibe.  There’s an energy in the air, especially at night when the only light is that of cooking fires and candlelight. Faces I’m so familiar with during the day reflect a different light in the darkness- a bit of the occult perhaps. Given their vulnerability and belief in the paranormal, this little village provides the perfect backdrop for a sorcerer, A.K.A. a scam artist, to make a tidy profit.

One day a cell phone went missing from the solar shack where we charge up our electronic gadgets.  The next morning during our post-breakfast meeting, Filippo asked if the guilty party would please return the phone to a bin he placed behind the loos and no questions would be asked.  Sadly, that night, the phone did not make its way home.  The next morning, two of the local village managers suggested they bring in the big guns, the sorcerer!  Well, that got my attention.

After the meeting, Hooman and I sat at the breakfast table talking about the sorcerer.  I asked him what to expect.  According to Hooman (A2H), our resident earth-bag architect, the sorcerer is a powerful man in the area whom people fear.  He charges a whopping Le200,000 (US $50) for his professional services. A2H, the sorcerer would  come to the village and gather everyone in a circle.  He would announce that a phone had been stolen and there would be dire consequences for the guilty party if they did not confess by sunset.  The consequences?  A2H, the sorcerer would walk around the circle locking eyes with each of the villagers and with a booming ominous voice predict, “If the thief does not return the cell phone before sunset (eyes bulging and a pause for dramatic effect) they will be turned into a… a…(long pause building even more drama)….a rat!”  Hooman, went on to act out the trembling thief immediately dropping to his knees, hands together, wailing in a high pitched voice, “Oh god no! Please!  Please! Don’t turn me into a rat!”

Although the sorcerer was paid his Le200,000 he never came.  Who’s the real rat, eh?

photo of a 3' John Obey rat courtesy of the very brave Noah Balmer




Most likely something you haven’t seen before are the earth bag buildings constructed by Cal-Earth, an organization based in the Mojave Desert in California.  One of several organizations involved working with Tribewanted on the John Obey project, Cal-Earth is constructing a dozen small eco-dome structures for living space.

completed eco-domes from another Cal-Earth project

Much like a beehive, these adobe structures are made from synthetic bags packed with earth and spiraled much like you would make a coiled pot from clay.  During my 2 ½ weeks there, I was able to see a great deal of progress on the first building.  Day one was the excavation of the foundation, and of course, the lamb sacrifice.  After the first bag was laid the building quickly began to take shape.  My last week I was there, an entry way and steps began to appear and the floor joists had gone in.  I’ll be excited to see the finished structure completely stuccoed when I return early next year.

Tribewanted's first eco-dome underway

As I was reading Cal-Earth’s website I found it interesting that these buildings are using materials easily found in a war zone- sand bags, barbed wire, earth – making them ideal for countries trying to rebuild post-conflict.  The houses are inexpensive to build, don’t impact natural resources and can meet the demand of the growing housing crisis in developing nations. The domes can be simple in construction or can incorporate arches in doorways, windows and additional rooms.

Hooman Fazly is the resident earth bag specialist overseeing construction of the new homes.  Always armed with a wicked tool belt, and his mudflap girl water bottle, he will be working six days a week for the next year to complete this project.  I admire Hooman’s intelligence, fashion sense on the job and his sense of humor with his crew.  He is quite the character as is evident in the pics. It’s Hooman’s birthday today.  Happy birthday, Hooman!  Hope you are able to celebrate Salone style.

Hooman Fazly with Cal-Earth


The morning I was packed up to leave, Elijah, the head cook, walked into camp with a small antelope dangling from a stick.  I thought it looked like an interesting purse idea.  It was going to be Tuesday night’s dinner.

So, how does one prepare a furry fresh antelope for dinner?  Skin it first, of course.  And how does one skin an antelope, you ask?  Well, there’s more than one way, but bet you never thought to use a bicycle pump.


Hooman, our ever so clever resident architect/earth bag specialist, was in charge of flaying Mr. Antelope.  I saw Hooman sharpening his knife as I was getting my bags ready to leave and then overheard the discussion between Mike and Hooman on how to remove the skin.  Next thing I know, they’ve got a ball pump and are inflating the antelope to separate its skin from muscle.  The ball pump was working!  They even discovered that when you press on an inflated antelope, they make some rather embarrassing noises.

inflating the antelope