On this day, exactly one year ago, Toshi and I arrived for the first time in Freetown - Sierra Leone. We really had no idea what we were in for. This was our first time to come to Africa (ok so I went to a wedding in Zimbabwe three years ago but that doesn't really count - I was only there for four days) and we weren't just coming for a visit - we were coming for two years.
Coming from Jakarta - where I had spent the previous four and a half years - to Freetown was a huge change, to put it mildly. Jakarta is a massive international city where one can live very comfortably (unless you're really poor, in which case it can be hell). We had a nice apartment, a great social life, access to great food and the beautiful island of Bali was less than a two hour flight away.
Nevertheless, we were both ready to leave Indonesia and decided that we wanted to go to Africa. We both work in development and we felt that it was important to come to this continent of oh so many challenges. After much discussion, we came up with a shortlist of African countries that we would be happy to go to (a very complex process be assured). To cut a long story short, Toshi ended up getting a job in Sierra Leone, then I got a job and things started falling into place and we then we were moving....
As I have described in an earlier post, getting to Freetown from the airport is a nightmare, but all things considered we had a pretty smooth transit from the airport to the heliport in Freetown. Flying over the beach in Freetown at sunset is a stunning experience and we were blown away by the beauty of the place.
The hotel was less hotel and more the kind of joint you rent out by the hour, smelly, dirty and unfriendly. With our less then warm welcome into the country I spent most of our first night in tears desperately trying to recall why it was that we had moved here.
But things got much better after that. We spent time on the beautiful beaches. We found an ok place to live, and figured out how to get water and power (some of the time).