Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sierra Leone

There is nothing comparable to the first steps out of a plane and being greeted by heat and humidity.
First trip for me to Sierra Leone, always special to go somewhere for the first time.

No touch policy. 
No gathering of people,
Everything is closed after 6 pm.

My trusted plunger broke. 
It might have been the best thing that happenned: Lacking cafeine, my brain started working, looking for solution to get access to the drug. It so happen that I have been watching MacGuyver when it was the hottest serie in the universe, and learned my lesson. I was building a cellphone with my knife and the beer I was sipping, in order to call my wife and have her send me a replacement plunger. Half way through the screen modulation, I realized that the diameter of the plunger and of the can were exactly the same. Bingo!  Did not have to build the phone.
Now I have another good excuse to drink beer. A cerveja in order to have coffee. Sounds good to me. 
And it truely is an amazing news: I don't have to stress no more about the fragile glass, to clean the   recipient etc. And coffee is tastier with a hint of hops.
On independence day (27th of april),  I went for a night in the forrest, a stone throw away from freetown. Tacugama is a chimpanzee sanctuary, fostering orphaned chimps and trying to get them to socialize and get prepared to go back in the wild.
Problem is that their natural habitat is disappearing. Deforestation is shocking, and in the remaining forrests there are poachers. So the future of the 90 odds apes might be bleak.

I guess I have to put a line or two about Ebola, since Sierra Leone unfortunatly is synonymous to the disease and everyone I met before/ there/ after going to SL is speaking about it. Yes, SL is much more than a virus, it has spectacular sceneries, amazing people and most stunning beaches. No, I did not catch it. Yes, it is still around.
It is one of the most gruesome disease: you catch it by close contact - by people you love and who love you- then, literally, you implose. If you get to an emergency treatment centre you'll be cared by people in astronaut suits and if you make it odds are that family members did not have your chance, and your friends and community will look at you warily. Not the best PR for the ministry of tourism. 
Today the epidemic is still not finished, more than 3000 people died from it, but the impact is yet to be felt. One Ebola year and the health system is on its knees, staff died, people don't trust health posts so attendance dropped for malaria, birth and every other issues, the economic development stalled, schools just resumed... people want it over and get back to normality.
The great thing about my line of work is that I get to meet admirable human beings. And many who left the comfort of their home and family to take the risk and respond to a very mortal disease. I got to meet fellow Zimbabweans, staks of kenyans, ethiopians, sudanese, congolese, europeans, americans... people from all over.  Among them, a lot of sierra leonians who migrated to flee the war, got a life, jobs and family in europe or the states and dropped everything to come back in SL to help. Always in the worst places, at the worst of time that you meet people carrying humanity with a smile.