Thursday, February 05, 2015

Arrival Adventures

     After traveling for almost two full days and through the US, Germany, Belgium, Senegal and Guinea, I finally arrived in Sierra Leone last night at around 7:20pm. While traveling from Brussels to Sierra Leone, I realized that Africans travel in style. Most of the Africans were in suits or dresses or at least nice jeans and shirts. I felt particularly shabby in my hiking pants and Yankees sweatshirt, but I was comfortable so I didn’t really care. After stops in Dakar and Conakry to refuel and drop off/pick up passengers, we finally arrived in Freetown. As I was waiting to get off the plane, I started chatting with two British (yay!) women, one of whom actually showed up in our office today to schedule a meeting with my supervisor (it was particularly funny because we had discussed how the world of aid work is really small while we were waiting in line to go through immigration last night). As we walked off the plane I prepped myself for a blast of heat that never came. I was immediately struck by the fact that it was humid, but it wasn’t terribly hot (Hanna, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I broke my promise since the heat wasn’t the very first thing I mentioned, but it's close enough)! It was fantastic! I definitely got a blast of humidity as I walked off the plane, but it’s not super hot (yet). 
     The impact of Ebola was evident immediately as we all washed our hands in chlorine water before we even got into the terminal. After going through immigration I went through my first ever Ebola screening! 
We were given an Ebola screening form on the plane
I have to admit that as I stood in line waiting I was pretty convinced I was going to have a temperature of about 107 degrees and have to be put in quarantine. It’s a little nerve-wracking to have people in masks and gloves take your temperature as you stand there helplessly just hoping you (and any of the people around you) don’t have a fever that could be indicative of a very deadly disease. After having my temperature taken multiple times today (the first one today was a little scary too…I had been prepared for the one at the airport, but I forgot they’d be taking my temperature every day before I’m allowed to go into the office), however, I’m convinced the thermometers are pretty much useless considering my temperature at one point today was 96.6 which is almost low enough to be hypothermia. Anyways, after passing through the Ebola screening, I became convinced my bags had been lost until they finally showed up after what seemed like years and then I was approached by my facilitator, Bai Bai, who got me my ticket for the boat across the harbor to Freetown. As Bai Bai was asking me to relinquish my passport to him (I know, I know…) so that he could get my ticket, another guy that Bai Bai was supposed to help, Robert, came up to us so I got to tag along with him for the rest of the journey. He’s a cartographer from DC and works for a small organization calls ACAPS and does GIS stuff. We waited for the bus together after hesitantly handing over our bags to the random men taking them in a separate bus down to the dock. We finally got down to the dock (it probably would have been quicker to have walked there than wait for the bus) and miraculously, even though we were on the second bus and thought we would have to wait a long time, got on the first boat. As soon as I stepped onto the floating dock I knew it was going to be an unpleasant ride. I don’t typically get seasick, but as we sat on the boat waiting for it to depart, I felt nauseous immediately. Robert and I got separated on the boat. I felt particularly bad about that after the guy he was sitting next to started throwing up over the side of the boat. Eventually we made it across and back onto land where I was picked up and driven to the CRS housing compound. When I arrived I met Sasha who is the acting Country Respresentative, Nancy who is my supervisor, Davor who retired from CRS but is back as a consultant and Meredith who used to work for CRS, but works for the Ministry of Health now. We hung out at Sasha’s house for a while and then I finally went to see the apartment Nancy and I are sharing. Before I arrived I was told that it was “basic,” but it’s actually pretty great. It’s a big place and we have wifi, running water (hot water when there’s power which is basically only when the generator is on at night) and there's air conditioning in my bedroom!! 
Living/dining room
Dining room/kitchen
My bedroom...check out that beautiful air conditioner!

We also have an awesome balcony which overlooks the water. Since I arrived at night I had no idea that we had such a great view until this morning. I knew we were near the water, but I didn't realize we were this close...

The sun sets right over the water and I got to experience this beautiful scene tonight…

Over the next few days I’ll put together a post about my first day at work and my first impressions of Freetown, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin right now. Let’s just say we’re not in Kimana anymore.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Nicole the place looks great! That water view is an awesome bonus!