The Sunday before Christmas was spent in Freetown, Sierra Leone. We went for a long walk around the city (approx. 12 km), first along Lumley beach and returning via Wilkinson and Aberdeen roads. The beach was filled with football games while the other side of the road contains many new building sites; a sign of economic improvement? I am always a little intrigued by the site of a golf course in the middle of the city; more weddings have been seen here than golf players. Sunday is a non-business day, but Regent street was filled with street vendors selling goods from sachets of water to plastic footballs and football shirts. The rest of the walk was relatively quiet, if one excludes the cacophony of car and motorbike horns that seem to be an essential part of the driving experience in Sierra Leone.
The next day we drove to Makeni, where I was to work in the Ebola diagnostics laboratory at the Makeni general hospital. The laboratory was quite small as a temporary space is being used while a new laboratory is being built. The local staff were very helpful and they allowed us to get through a substantial number of samples every day. We worked shifts, early and late, which gave us time to go exploring in the market and neighbourhoods. Makeni is one of the bigger towns in Sierra Leone and it is very busy and noisy; very different from Port Loko where I had been based previously. Makeni also is drier that Port Loko, with an absence of “jungle”, though the rice plots outside Makeni were of a substantial size and bigger than those I had seen in Port Loko. We walked through the market on Christmas day (a shorter shift) and, although apparently quieter than usual, was still quite busy. The fruit always looks enticing, but “dodgy tummy” is a risk and I usually only buy fruits that can be peeled. The tailor shops are always a delight with their colourful materials and old sewing machines. As it was Christmas day, a lot of people were dressed in their finest clothes; I even saw some 3-year old boys wearing a suit, while the girls were in pretty dresses with their hair in braids with beads.
Below are some interesting educational posters that I spotted at Makeni General Hospital:
Back in Freetown , we were treated to a few meals in a local African restaurant, where we had cassava leaves, red snapper, krain krain, fried stew with beef and rice, washed down with bagged water. [interestingly, I got more dodgy tummy syndrome from hotel food than I did from street food, but the latter was advised by a local driver, Chernor Jalloh).