Well a lot can change in a month. We’ve had the World Cup final – a very fun, happy night out on a Sunday, a failed attempt to apply for a working permit and a resident visa, further meetings with various stakeholders in malaria prevention, a short, sad trip back to the UK to say goodbye to my dear grandfather, a walk along Southend pier – the longest pleasure pier in the world I might add, the spread of ebola to Freetown, precautionary measures put in place due to the spread of ebola to Freetown and then the eventual and inevitable evacuation out of Freetown due to the spread of ebola to Freetown, on my birthday so that one I won’t forget any time soon!
What can I say? ‘I’m gutted’ pretty much sums it up. I have been back in the UK a week now working from the charity’s London office and there is some really good stuff to be cracking on with for the next few weeks but it just doesn’t compare to the craziness and uniqueness of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Where else do you find a live chicken in your kitchen, spiders as big as your hand in your living room and water cold enough to chill a temperature in your bathroom shower. Where else do you shop from the street (or your car window) from perfectly arranged displays on peoples’ heads, and visit a ministry for an resident’s permit application form four times because amongst the chaos of everyday Freetown life every step of ‘the process’ has to be followed rigidly. Ok it’s not for everyone but it was for me. A true adventure, a true immersion into something so different, true exposure into lives very different from that of my own.
By the way this isn’t a post of me feeling sorry for myself but in fact the opposite.
Even in the five weeks I was there I met some wonderful people (the closest of which you can see in the cover photo at my impromptu leaving drinks after being given 15 hours including overnight to pack and evacuate!). I will miss the local friends I made such as Roseline and her kids from the office, my driver Foday with the warmest smile and giggles, the kids that used to wave to me and say hello every time I walked (or was driven up!) Pump Line, my Krio teacher that was surprised how weirdly excited I was about learning the intricacies of a very straight forward language and numerous others that made my stay so enjoyable and forever memorable. And I’ll never forget the weird and wonderful creatures that lived happily in harmony with me and my lovely housemates and her beautiful/ferrel dogs at our house.
As I’ve said before, I went with the slightly naive assumption that I would be able to give something back to the people of Freetown and Sierra Leone through my work. The reality was that even in the short time I was there I got a lot from them. The way they welcome strangers and adopt us as their own was touching and the the tolerance, acceptance and embracing of differences and religions I witnessed on a daily basis made me feel we have a lot to learn from them.
The remainder of my assignment time is being worked through for me at the moment. TBFF and the PULSE team are doing their best to offer me something else that will be as fulfilling in terms of development, deliverables, stretch and sustainability and that might be with TBFF in Tanzania or Ghana, or even a return to Sierra Leone once the ebola situation is hopefully under control, so fingers crossed I’ll be back on the adventure-train soon.