Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Exactly one year ago today...

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.

Beautiful beaches

That's when things started to go downhill. We had been told that somebody from Toshi's office would be coming to pick us up to take us to our hotel. So we waited, and waited, and waited, until we were the only ones left at the heliport and it was getting dark and we had no clue where to go or what to do, we had no phones, no idea which hotel we were supposed to be staying in or even where the hell we were. One of the security guards took pity on us - these two hopeless foreigners who didn't know their ass from their elbow - and started calling around and eventually found someone who worked for UNDP who came to meet us and took us to a hotel.

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).

Where we buy our fruit and vegetables

Walking through the market

We got a car and we braved the crazy Sierra Leonean traffic. We figured out where to buy decent fruit and vegetables and excellent seafood.

This is where we buy our seafood

And we've had a lot of fun here. This is not an easy place to live but we've figured out how (some) things work. I'm definitely a lot happier today than I was a year ago!

The view from our balcony after the rain

5 comments:

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It is very inspiring - and you can't get more local with your fruit and veg market and fresh seafood!

teresa said...

Najlepsze zyczenia z okazji 1-szej rocznicy! Bardzo ciekawie piszesz.

Ewa said...

Thanks Jenn! By the way, I really enjoyed your e-book, there are a couple of recipes (for which I can get all the ingredients here) that I'm going to try out. Will let you know how it goes.

Ewa said...

Dzieki! Ciesze sie ze Ci sie podoba.

foodhoe said...

I stumbled here through the foodie blogroll... what an amazing and interesting story!