Friday, September 04, 2009

My luggage goes missing

It was around 10 pm. I sat in a small room at the Freetown-Lungi International Airport in Sierra Leone waiting to report my lost baggage. The airport worker was an old man who was manually filling up a long form. I watched him insert carbon paper in between sheets. Carbon paper! I had not seen this in a long time.

More passengers started streaming into the room. One Caucasian guy with a thick European accent was ranting. "How can this happen from London? This thing does not happen!! But of course in this place, anything can happen..." He was upset and agitated. I thought, Shush already. You are obviously a foreigner in this place. Do you want more trouble than a simple missing luggage? Another guy kept enumerating all the precious and name brand items in his missing suitcase. Hey mister, keep announcing your prized possessions and you might end up permanently losing them.

Poor airport worker. He went about his business slowly, unmindful of all the disturbance going on in the cubicle. Was he pretending not to hear or understand the nasty comments going on? I wondered. I sat quietly beside his desk and avoided making any comment or expression that could fan people's tempers. Just report the loss, people. Ranting and raving won't solve anything.

The Freetown International Airport during the day (photo from

After reporting my baggage loss, we squeezed into a waiting vehicle and drove 15-20 minutes on a long and dark stretch of road. There was no power in the area. The houses were few and far between until we got closer to the dock. Thankfully, we caught the last ferry ride to Freetown.

Freetown ferry from and to the international airport in Lungi . The Sierra Leone River separates Freetown from Lungi. (Photo from

Exhausted, we arrived at our hotel past 1 am. It was not much of a hotel room but at least there was A/C. I tried to sleep and not worry about my missing bag. At this point it was just an inconvenience. I had packed essentials in my hand-carried one that could last me three days. Besides, there was nothing precious in that suitcase. No great clothes, remember? Mostly old ones and hand-me-downs. The only thing I would feel bad about losing were the malong skirts my father bought for me more than 25 years ago. Sentimental. Everything else was replaceable.

Next, waking up to reality. My first morning in Freetown...

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