Living in Freetown

One should absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar.

Oscar Wilde

So it has been an interesting period since I last posted a blog! Apologies for not putting another blog one up earlier. I had some technical issues with my laptop! But not to worry everything is more or less working now.

So since I last wrote the New Year has come, so firstly, here is to 2017! I wish I could write something about the amazing, crazy and mind blowing night that I had bringing in the 2017. However, I went to bed… After spending Christmas with 200 children I got sick with a nasty chest infection and so the new year was brought in with more of a whimper than a bang. That being said, I actually started getting a lot better on the first day of the new year, so I am hoping that is an auspicious sign for the 2017.

I have also celebrated my birthday! I had a very busy day at work in and out of meetings, but was able to celebrate in the evening with a lovely dinner with colleagues and friends of mine at a bar/restaurant called Bliss, which does surprisingly good cocktails. It was a very pleasant night, but sedate as unfortunately it was a work night and so we couldn’t party on into the wee hours of the morning. I did have the opportunity to reflect however, on my birthday last year which was very special and after a great day at a concert So Frenchy So Chic, and upon my return home I discovered a room bursting with balloons! Thinking back made me a little nostalgic, so I have inserted a few photos of good times from 2016!

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My Room Filled With Balloons

It hasn’t been the easiest period of time since Christmas. Over festive periods I think it is hardest to be away from friends and family, especially when you do not know very many people in a new city and who are celebrating with their own family and friends. But again, it is just another of life’s experiences and probably best not to dwell on it too much.

I wanted to provide everyone with a greater understanding of things in Freetown and Sierra Leone. I’ll break it down into what I have enjoyed, what I haven’t and other curiosities of living here.

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 My Friends Trying To Burn My Farm Down (unrelated photo from 2016)

So let’s start with what has been amazing about moving to Sierra Leone. The people have been great. The two people I work with most closely are fantastic.  They are supportive and have been super appreciative that I have been around which has made working here a pleasure.  The work fantastic, engaging, lots of it and a great introduction to Sierra Leone. The locals I have met have all been really lovely, including inviting me to their house for Christmas. Expats have also been amazing but unfortunately meeting them has been a little disjointed, however, with the new year I am hoping there will be slightly more continuity than there has previously been.

The beaches here are spectacular, beautifully long with white sands, gorgeous views out to sea, and stunning vistas behind into hills covered in tropical forests being hugged by clouds and mist. Also, eating delicious lunches on the beach is paradise.

beach-hard-loftBureh Beach = Paradise

Sierra Leone also maintains a rustic feel. It is a lovely thing to experience and there are not that many places in the world I imagine that are like this still, especially, having a capital that still feels rustic. But this comes with many problems, it means that people have a real struggle just to get by. It truly is a hard country, with such poverty and difficulties and so many other complications that the country experiences stemming from this. This rustic feel also comes with having major roads in the capital made of dirt… it must be one of the few countries left with such roads in its capital. The roads are also exceptionally poorly maintained creating very, very bumpy rides. Yet, the people here persevere and are truly lovely. If you feel like an adventurous holiday (filled with resting on exquisite beaches) this seems like a great country to visit (although I am not entirely sure what I can recommend doing here, except for going to the beach and eating lobster).

The food in Sierra Leone oscillates between being great and awful… The lobster is so cheap and well-cooked and every place I have had it has been on the beach – #toughlife. There are also many other tasty meals I have had in Freetown. Weirdly enough (at least for me) you frequently receive salted popcorn for free when you are at a restaurant. On the other hand, I can’t say I have fallen in love with the local cuisine here yet. It is exceptionally oily (they use so much palm oil) – which gives me frequent reflux), it is super spicy and you have to be really careful of bones in meals that don’t seem to have bones.

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Popular Energy Drink Name…. Naming Conventions Need Some Improvement Here… 

So now onto the less enjoyable things about living here. To start with everything seems to break or not work properly – the list is a long one… but so far includes one external hard drive (admittedly this one was probably on me…), the fridge in the house I am living in, for some reason in the house the electricity frequently works in one level and not another… oh and more recently I completely ripped my jeans from just above my knee to my waist, when getting into a big 4 wheel drive car on a very steep hill. This wouldn’t be such an issue except that it is really hard fix or replace things here.

One thing you must always remember in Sierra Leone is that you must always carry cash on you. This is particularly difficult due to the exchange rate which necessitates carrying vast wads of notes. For instance, the exchange rate is around $1USD = $7500 Leones. The largest leone note is $10 000 Leones anything that costs $10USD (most meals out would be around this if not more) takes a minimum of 8 notes – and that is if you are lucky enough to have been given $10 000 Leones notes, you frequently get the $5000 notes… It gets very burdensome and frustrating. I would love simply to use a credit card and pay wave back as I can back home. But unfortunately, credit cards more often than not simple don’t work. Which today was slightly awkward as I haven’t got the cash to pay for my lunch… haha oh dear.

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Up the Mountain Freetown

Another thing that I find challenging is the exceptional wealth difference that exists in Sierra Leone. It is interesting that there does not seem to be any true middle class. All that exists is a number of very  well off groups  which is comprised of expatriates, the local Lebanese population and the local elite, and on the other side are the vast majority of the local people.

Another issue I have mentioned in a previous posts is that the customer service is truly awful in this country.

My pet hate I seem to have developed is when I am sitting at a café or restaurant and a group next to me start listening to music or a video on full blast from their phones… I have so little desire to listen to their shitty music or videos…

dsc_0001_76“Mork Campfire Hot Chocolate” – Missing North Melbourne Cafes 

The traffic here is absolutely terrible… And getting used to it will be a fairly significant adjustment. The internet access/quality leaves a lot to be desired. Also, the complete lack of punctuality, I only add this because I had to wait over an hour and a half for a taxi today.

Ants… Fucking Ants everywhere! They even get into and promptly drown in bottled water…. Which is so frustrating as every time you want a drink you need to throw some water out… The only solace I find is that the little shits all drowned (I promise I am rarely this vindictive towards animals… but ants are just everywhere over here and it is very annoying).

Perhaps the most bizarre thing I have seen over here is the Presidential and Vice Presidential Convoys. Maybe it is because I have never really seen such a thing in Australia (I would have no idea what type of convoy the Prime Minister travels in…) but each time the President or Vice President want to go anywhere they travel in a convoy of something like 10 black SUVs, trailed by a truck with an open back containing 15 heavily armoured soldiers in balaclavas… Pretty intense.

So there it is, two months down. And what an experience it has been so far. Here’s to the next 22 months of my life in Sierra Leone and an amazing 2017, wishing you well family and friends and all the best for the New Year!

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Missing You Melbourne

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