Yesterday was a long day but everything went according to plan even if not exactly on the plan’s time schedule. It was snowing in Brussels when I left for the airport, gray skies and more of the same predicted for at least the next 24 hours. In Freetown seven hours later it was 90F+ degrees and humid and that was at 8pm, the tail end of what I'm sure was a hot muggy day.
From the airport we made our way to the shuttle boat. The airport is across a body of water from Freetown itself and the quickest way to get there is by water. By this time it was a pitch black moonless night. The absence of light was remarkable. Other than the headlights of an occasional car or an LED light along the road or a naked lightbulb in one of the small homes there was nothing but darkness. The electricity goes off at about 11pm in Freetown and doesn't come on again until the next morning and I imagine people don't use more than they absolutely need.
It was about a 45 minute ride across dark choppy water wearing a life vest with one string that was still usable, although I'm pretty sure it would've done nothing to keep the life vest on me if I'd gone overboard. The boat died about halfway to land but one of the crew laughed like this was the sort of thing that happened everyday and 10 minutes later we were moving again although at a fraction of the speed we'd been moving earlier.
I finally made it to shore where my ride was waiting for me. It was close to midnight by then and once I made it to the house I was ready for bed after introducing myself to the two other people staying there, one an MSF coordinator from Chile, the other a doctor from Indonesia. I think they had just waited up for me and looked ready to turn in too. They showed me how to arrange the mosquito net and explained how the shower works. Big bucket above my head, no hot water, "pull this handle for rain." Got it.
So that's how the first day went. Today it's been more briefings, an oxymoron if I ever heard one. I'll close on this note; I've never seen poverty like this. There's a huge mound of waste that is so malodorous that I'll cross to the other street next time I walk by it but kids are picking through it, looking for something, anything that they could trade in for money. People have goats tied to posts at their door, right on the street, and chickens wander everywhere. I've yet to meet any people here who made me feel out of place. Rather, they seem generous and welcoming. The saddest thing is the dogs everywhere but I don't get the impression that they've been treated badly. They don't seem frightened of humans and most of them look well-fed. I asked one of the locals about them and he told me that most of them have owners and "live a good life". Maybe it says something about the people of this country, that they treat their dogs well even when they have so little.