Sunday, November 12, 2006

Day on the town...

Going downtown Freetown is always quite the experience. The thing about downtown is that it is always very congested, the streets are somewhat narrow and there are a lot of one-way streets. The trick is figuring out which streets are one-way before it’s too late. Well, I made a wrong decision; I told Justin to take a street that I thought I’d been down before and sure enough halfway down the road we were stopped by a police officer; a one-way street. Oops. Fortunately for us we were in a Mercy Ships car. For your info: the name “Mercy Ships” is very popular in Freetown – this can be a real pain because when you’re walking around everyone yells ‘Mercy Ship’ at you. On the other hand, it can be quite helpful and work to your advantage. We told the officer we didn’t know it was a one-way street, that we would never do it again and that we didn’t see a sign. Luckily for us, he let us go; without asking us for money! I still think one of our local drivers has taken me down that street the wrong way before though.

Once in town we went to Crown Bakery- an expat hangout- nice but overpriced if you ask me. We did however enjoy a nice breakfast, which for me was an egg and bacon croissant.

After breakfast we went to an Exchange Bureau. I heard of this place before and people always made it sound mafia like. Really, it wasn’t. The only thing mafia like was that we had to go along a narrow path alongside the house to a flight of stairs at the back. Then we went up a few flights of stairs, which strangely enough seemed to get narrower and narrower. Then we were led through a corridor to a waiting area and ushered right into the boss’ room. From my chair I could peak into the room next door and see a monitor with live video footage- I quickly spotted the not-so-hidden video camera on the wall in the waiting area. We quickly did our transactions with a few phone call interruptions on the money changer’s side which did sound a little sketchy. Anyway, after turning down an espresso we were on our way. So it wasn’t your typical money changing place either but it wasn’t too dodgy.

Our next stop was the ‘Big Market’- a big covered market with a lot of colorful fabric (sold by the yard, as dresses, shirts, table cloths etc) and other souvenirs (wood carvings, necklaces, bags etc.). Our plan was to get some Christmas shopping done. I like the Big Market, but you definitely have to be in the right mood, otherwise you just can’t handle the pushy ladies, the people tugging at you to come and look at their shop, the feeling of being ripped off, the need to get ‘the best price’, the men hassling you, the potent smell of sweat etc. My mission was to buy some kids shirts and in the end I was successful thanks to the help of a little 2 year old Sierra Leonean boy who acted as a live model!

By the time we finished at the Big Market we were starting to get a little dehydrated and remembered we were close to Reda supermarket- which is where we buy goods for the Centre every other week (chicken, tomato paste, sardines, eggs, spices, cleaning supplies etc.). So we thought we’d run in and buy a drink. When we approached the counter with our pineapple juices the owner realized we were with Mercy Ships and we were given our drinks for free.

While Harriet and Justin were doing an errand, Morgen and I figured we’d walk down to the fabric street to find some fabric to take home as gifts. We went to one of the shops the Centre frequently does business with to buy material for patient dresses and greeted our friend, the Lebanese owner. We talked a little about our vacation plans and looking for gifts. I think we outdid ourselves at the ‘Big Market’ because both Morgen and I had lost interest in shopping. Our friend noticed this and suggested we follow one of his workers to another shop to choose some fabric there. So, we did what everyone would say not to do in a place like this and we followed a stranger to an unknown place in downtown Freetown. Well, 100 meters later we stopped at a shop and they really did have the most beautiful fabrics. We chose pieces of fabric which were once again given to us free of charge, again thanks to the name of Mercy Ships.

I would say we had a very successful and eventful day on the town.

1 comment:

Gisela said...

Hey Sandra, don't blame the driver. Remember, some roads in town are one-ways depending on the time of day!! The African way of dealing with rush-hour traffic.
Do I know this fabulous fabric shop?? Seems not, which is too bad.
Are you home for Christmas?

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~