Saturday, September 05, 2009

Destination: Makeni

(Fifth of a series)

Riding through Freetown's busy streets, I noticed how much trade was going on, a good sign that the country was picking up from the devastation of of a horrific rebel war (1991 - 2002). Many people were selling goods along the streets.

A Freetown residential street

On one street where we spent a long time in traffic, a steady stream of vendors, more men than women, peddled their wares and approached vehicles. It was interesting to see what people carried on their heads, shoulders and arms: car accessories, wall clocks, CD cases, toothpicks, lamps, tools, used books, bags, phone cards, nail cutters, foodstuff, cotton buds... Wal-Mart has left the building!

These people are very enterprising, I thought. At the same time I felt rather sad that able-bodied men and women were unable to find a more productive source of income. Factory work, for instance. Or construction. Or even cottage industries. How much can one earn from selling cotton buds all day? I really hope the best for Sierra Leone. May it continue to rise from the ashes.

We stopped by a gas station to load up more supplies for our trip to Makeni in the Northern Province. Bottled water. Lamps. We also picked up some mattresses that would be our beds. Goods were cheaper and more available in Freetown.

Loading mattresses into our mini-bus

The road to Makeni was good. We stopped at a few police checkpoints along the way, which are probably post-war security measures. After 4 hours, we reached Makeni around 9:20 pm. and went straight to the office that would be our house for the duration of our stay. It had 5 rooms that were mostly empty. I was assigned to one. The staff house, like the rest of the city, had no power. Water was fetched from a deep well.

Under dim battery operated mini-lights, our team had a short briefing with our Makeni coordinator on the work that we would start tackling the next day. After that, I set my alarm clock, laid on my mattress on the floor and hoped there would not be too many mosquitoes because my net was still in my missing suitcase.

Before dawn, I was awakened by the Islamic call to prayer from the PA system of a nearby mosque. I don't need an alarm clock here after all. Later, I took a bucket bath. I grew up taking bucket baths. It felt like I was in the Philippines. Because water was scarce, I used a bucket of water sparingly and efficiently. I was pleased to take a bath and do some laundry with just one bucket! Now I was ready to work.

Our staff house. Local people waiting to audition
for parts in our recording project

(Next, In Makeni)

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