Sunday, July 31, 2011


I think it is time to update my blog, I am not nearly as good at blogging as I had hoped, but then again, I had also hoped that the last two weeks of my life would had gone very differently than they have. 

I have been out of America for a month and a day now and it has been a quite the roller coaster ride.  A long-winding roller coaster ride, so, I will provide a snapshot rather than drag on with the minute-by-minute details of why I am where I am right now.

I spent a week and two days in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  Freetown was where I was supposed to be until December, but it seems that the fork in the road has lead us elsewhere because Freetown was a challenge to say the least.

Freetown is a city still trying to pick up the pieces after the war the ended ten years ago. It is a place where even the upper class doesn't seem very well off; it is a place with poverty like I have never seen. It is a little rough around the edges, and it gave Alex and me a run for our money.

In a nutshell, this was my week and two days in Freetown...
After arriving at the airport and making the journey across the bay and then across downtown Freetown, where the traffic puts Manhattan to shame, and then down the cliff that is called Boyle Lane, we entered our guesthouse.  As soon as we walked in, panic entered my body, and I knew that I could not live there. The room was not what we had been told we would have, the compound was home to a preschool and mechanic it seemed, not at all what I had envisioned, so, we promptly left in search of a place to live. After meandering all over downtown Freetown, with no luck, desperate, exhausted and defeated, we agreed to stay at least that night in a Catholic mission.  Nice enough, the door locked and there was access to food downstairs, however there was no running water and electricity came and went as it pleased.  But we just wanted a place to sleep and I could make it work for a day, little did I know what lay ahead.

Having not eaten in 24 plus hours Alex and I set out the next morning in search of food.  Traipsing through the worn asphalt streets avoiding pools of dirty water and garbage we didn't have too many options, so when we stumbled across white bread we promptly purchased it and head back.  I don't like white bread to begin with, but that bread did not taste right.

After a meeting at AID where we were to work, Alex started to feel off, assuming it was the after affects of the morning bread, we didn't think too much of it until he started to feel worse and to my great dismay he felt like he was on fire.  Fever in Africa is always bad, and usually means one thing, malaria.

Indeed, Alex had malaria as well as typhoid. Perfect! The next week took us on a tour to three medical facilities in Freetown. We saw four doctors and countless nurses.  There was a strict regiment of medication, 2 of these twice a day and 3 of that.  Fever would come and poor Alex would be on fire but feel like he was in the Arctic.  Our parents called daily, if not more from the States doing all they could from thousands of miles away.  The US embassy was on speed-dial and the consul knew us.  Meanwhile, we hadn't showered in five days and my hair no longer needed a hair tie to stay in a pony tail.
Alex feeling awful
 It was a bit of a nightmare and we needed to figure out what to do.  Freetown lacks in most areas, the infrastructure of the country is decades behind and medical care is not to the standard that Alex and I are used to.  If Alex got any sicker we have had no other option but to leave, and we were both questioning whether we were ready to handle a land with such desperate needs.  Ultimately with the advice of our parents and the US Embassy , we made the decision to return to Gambia, where medical care was slightly more promising, and we had a family who could help us.  So a week and two days after arriving, we made the journey back across Freetown and across the bay to the airport and back to the safe haven of the Kassama compound in Gambia.

For me, leaving Freetown was hard.  Although our time there was very less than ideal, it is a country that I could see myself falling in love with.  A gem hidden behind the troubles of the past and the poverty.  A place of promise where a little work will go a long way.  I know it is a place where I will find myself again one day.  But for now I am settled in the Gambia until the end of Ramadan trying to find work and make an ounce of difference on this beautiful continent that has already taught me more than I could have dreamed. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh Claire! I hope everything is okay and things are getting better!