Tuesday, June 08, 2010

First 24 hours...

So, here I am. Settling in. Sitting on my bed. Looking out the window with a palm tree in the forefront and the ocean in the distance. I am in a different world. Thankfully, my flight to Sierra Leone was uneventful and the plane landed on time at 6pm. I must say though, it was a bizarre feeling to fly over Sierra Leone and touch down in Lungi. I’m back.

The lines at immigrations were long and chaotic and I quickly remembered that it is who you know that is important under these circumstances. Nationals would walk up to other nationals, exchange a few words and then the national arriving would be ‘escorted’ to the front of the line only to be seen next by the immigration official. Life just isn’t always fair. After immigration came the vaccination card check, which I had never been asked for before. And then came the entry into the baggage hall, which was as hectic as I remembered it, especially since the flight was full. Seeing as I had 2 pieces of check-in I didn’t hesitate at all to let an airport employee assist me. Here I was happy to already know Krio when another man wanted to take my cart and I said in Krio that it was my cart actually. He then left to find his own!

It’s a small world after all because while waiting for my luggage I spotted a familiar face on the other side of the conveyer belt. It was Pastor Mark! A pastor who lives in Lungi and often helped us at Mercy Ships to get people sorted at that end and onto a form of transport to cross the bay to Freetown. It was great to see him and he graciously sorted my ticket for the water taxi while I continued to wait for my luggage. The luggage came and after about a 20 minute wait we were shuttled to the water taxi and another 20 minutes later we were on our way. After a bit of a rocky boat ride and about 30 minutes of the movie George in the Jungle we arrived in Freetown. Total journey time from Middelburg to Freetown (via Dakar) was 15 hours. Not too bad.

Prior to my arrival I had imagined it would be very strange to arrive in Freetown and not be met by a familiar face and head off to a familiar house. Well, actually, it wasn’t that strange at all as I was picked up by Alex and Emily (who I am taking over from) and they are lovely. We had a wonderful dinner at Alex’s (grilled fish of the day – my old time favorite – but now Le 12,000 more expensive!) and then they drove me to my new place.

The place is great, although very strange to be here alone. Fortunately a new colleague/housemate arrives this evening. I’ll have to figure out how things work transport wise, especially in the evenings, as it’s a dark road to the house, but I am sure it will be fine. I’m on the 4th floor of the building – so great exercise with the stairs- and have a very large bedroom with a bathroom, an enormous bed, lots of closet space and decent size windows. The best is that I have a little closed in balcony with windows giving me an amazing view of Lumley beach, the Aberdeen peninsula and the Atlantic Ocean. And at the other end of the apartment there is a larger balcony with a great view of central Freetown, including the bay and even Lungi! Welbodi only recently started renting this apartment and I am the first to move in. There is very little in the way of kitchen items, cleaning supplies, and the walls are bare but I am sure we’ll be able to make it into a home soon enough. There’s no internet yet, so I’ll have to see if I can come up with a solution for that as well.

Last night I woke up multiple times, due to being in a new place, alone in the house, the noises and the heaviest rain/lightning and thunder storm I have experienced in a long time. The noises are all too familiar – people chatting, barking dogs, children singing (there must be a school nearby). Fortunately I have today to settle in to the house, unpack, acclimatize etc. Unfortunately when I got up in the morning and walked towards the kitchen/living area I stepped right into a flooded area. Leaking ceiling and balcony doors. Fortunately I met the landlady within an hour and she was very helpful to look for a solution as quickly as possible.

I was blessed to have the landlady’s nanny/domestic helper come today and help with cleaning out the fridge (that had wrotten eggs in it!) and clean up the flood in the living room. Meanwhile I cleaned my and my housemate’s rooms because the dust had already settled. The domestic helper is very nice and very hardworking, she is an older lady, who lives on the compound as well. She already told me I must stay for a year. We’ll see what happens. First things first, off to work tomorrow to meet staff at the hospital, see the office and go to a meeting at the Embassy in the afternoon.


~Amy said...

I'm glad to hear you're there safe and sound!! <3 and prayers!

Anonymous said...

Great to read your first impressions. Please send some pictures soon. How far are you from mamba point? With lots of love from Haiti. Mama

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