Return to Freetown - Wednesday 20 October 2010
Gone for 20 days, back for 3 and I feel like I have never been away. It’s good to be back.
I must say, at the check-in in Heathrow I already felt like I was well on my way to Sierra Leone life. Literally while checking-in, a Sierra Leonean joined me at the desk and started discussing his own check-in details with the lady. No space, no privacy. Honestly, the same has happened to me in the bank here in Freetown while trying to sort out Welbodi finances.
Later standing in the immigration line at the Lungi airport watching a few people being whisked to the front of the line, I remembered quickly that it is who you know that is important not what you know or maybe it is how much money you are willing to pay someone. I suppose this happens everywhere.
The baggage claim was hectic as usual with huge crowds waiting for their luggage. Surprisingly no one came to me to help with my bags. I didn’t mind because it can be a little annoying to be pounced on right away so I simply waited. Once I spotted my suitcases I did ask someone to help me, to make things easier. Why not ask someone to help out and pay them a couple thousand Leones for their services?
The wait for the shuttle to the Pelican Water Taxi was chaotic, which has not been the case in the past. I soon found out that there was no helicopter service that day and everyone was trying to take the water taxi across. Rather than pushing my way into a van I decided I might as well wait for the next shuttle. It was interesting seeing a bunch of expats force their way into a van, much like the Sierra Leoneans push their way into poda podas. It’s shocking how quickly people lose their friendliness in these situations.
While waiting for the next shuttle I chatted with a couple of expats and Sierra Leoneans about life in Freetown. It’s always interesting whom you meet. A Sierra Leonean veterinarian, an expat vet coming to visit for a few weeks, a doctor from Central America, an airport porter, a business man. We finally got in a shuttle and off we went.
Unfortunately when I arrived by boat at the Freetown side, I found out that my luggage was still on a boat at the Lungi side. Time to get used to being very patient again; something I have never been very good at. By this time it was 11 pm and I was ready to go home. After a good 45 minute wait the boat arrived and I headed home in my reliable taxi driver’s taxi.
I awoke early the next day to leave by 650 am to head to the hospital where I was greeted by many familiar faces. It was good to be back. It was back to business very quickly as I had to sort out container issues and other fun stuff. Unfortunately the reality of children dying became evident very quickly as well. In the first two days of being back I witnessed two deaths and know of two others who died in the night. That is one of the difficult sides to being back. Children dying. Mothers wailing. Hospital staff disheartened. However, this does in part reflect the reason for me being here; to try to contribute in some little way to improving child health in this country.